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Prisoners of The Blob: Why most education experts are wrong about nearly everything

Toby Young, April 2014

What is “The Blob” and what has a 1950s sci-fi movie got to do with education policy? In this hard-hitting pamphlet, the journalist and free school founder Toby Young explains how the education establishment has been sucked into a thoughtworld which will not permit reasonable discussion of the best ways to school our children.

The adherence of teaching unions, local education authorities and academic “experts” to so-called progressive ideas is so fanatical that they ignore a huge body of empirical evidence and the findings of cognitive scientists that point to the need for a more structured, teacher-led and knowledge-rich approach.

Attempts by governments of all political persuasions to raise educational standards have been repeatedly frustrated by the total domination of the debate by those who think that all teaching should be child-centred and that subject knowledge is a distraction from critical thinking and problem-solving.
As Toby Young ably demonstrates, however, such nostrums are misguided and have let down millions of children who are increasingly trailing their international counterparts. Research shows, for example, that subject knowledge is essential to developing critical thinking – not a challenge to it.

The tragedy is that those who have most to lose from “progressive” teaching methods are the under-privileged, who are being condemned to failure by a culture of low expectations.

“Excellent… What Young shows is that for decades the people in the educational establishment – professors, school inspectors, teachers – who were supposed to be guarding our children’s academic interests have instead betrayed them horribly by insisting that schools use ‘teaching’ methods that don’t actually work”
James Delingpole

About the Author

Toby Young is the co-founder of the West London Free School, the first free school to sign a funding agreement with Michael Gove. He is the author of three books, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (2001), The Sound of No Hands Clapping (2006) and How to Set Up a Free School (2011), and an associate editor of The Spectator. His teaching experience includes working as a teaching fellow at Harvard and a teaching assistant at Cambridge. He is currently a visiting fellow at the University of Buckingham and a Fulbright Commissioner.

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