Academically selective education. Good or Bad?

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Mikah
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04 Sep 2021, 8:30 am

The Left of Britain hate grammar schools and academic selection for some strange reason. I'm not sure why. The only thing that makes sense to me is if they believe intelligence is a social construct or some vague anti-elitism. I would be interested to know if there are similar debates elsewhere in the world. The question: Is Academic Selection a good thing?

Academic selection in this context is where you test children for their academic ability at some age and send them off to a separate school for a more rigourous and demanding education. This is not the same as streaming, where you send the smart kids off to separate classes within a larger school.

I think it is a good thing and I enclose a few articles from an author on this side of the debate.

For non-UK readers:
- A grammar school is/was (most are gone now) a state run free (as in no fees) school that selects pupils on academic merit/potential.
- A "secondary modern" was a free state run school (in the time of the grammars) that did not select and took everyone else.
- A "comprehensive" is a free state run school that (in theory) does not select on academic merit or by any other method. It was supposed to provide "grammar school" education for everybody.
- A public school aka private school is a fee-paying (often boarding) school run by private organisations/individuals.
- A "direct grant school" was a fee-paying school where some pupils' fees (those with academic promise, but from a poorer background) were paid partially or in whole by the government in order to give them an education their families would not otherwise have been able to afford.

https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/the ... ar-schools

What you really need to beat this argument is the buried history of the day before yesterday, the story nobody now knows about the great storming success of state grammar schools and their vanished allies, the direct grant schools of England and the grant-aided schools of Scotland. These rather wonderful places nurtured talents as diverse as Alan Bennett, the late Alan Rickman and Admiral Lord West. They conquered Oxbridge and the professions, and were on the verge of elbowing aside the great public schools when, in a few brief years of destruction, they were wiped from the map.

Grammar schools were creating a new elite, more open to all the talents than before. Their standards were higher than those of any British secondary schools today, private or state: the whole examination system had to be devalued to cope with their disappearance. This was the forgotten age of the ‘brain drain’, when the USA sought British scientists, educated to a higher level than its own comprehensive high schools could attain, and when a set of English A-levels was widely believed to be the equal of an American college degree.


More from the same author, on the same topic:
https://thecritic.co.uk/issues/may-2021 ... -omelette/

In 1954 when the system was still functioning roughly as it was meant to, almost 65 per cent of grammar school pupils came from working class homes. Almost 44 per cent of grammar school sixth formers had fathers in working class occupations. If the Tory governments of the 1950s and early 1960s had encouraged local authorities to build new grammar and technical schools to cope with this demographic surge, middle class support for comprehensive reform would have been far weaker. But the grammars were caught between Tory indifference and growing Labour egalitarianism, and so they died.

https://www.civitas.org.uk/pdf/theselectiondebate (page 167 by printed numbering or page 187 of the digital document)

While the wreckers have more or less succeeded in destroying selection by ability in the UK, what has replaced it is not the shining "democratic" future that was promised, but instead selection by wealth so brutal it makes the feudal days of serfdom look almost egalitarian.

Most towns and cities in England have secondary schools that are known by the well-informed to be the best. Many are former grammar schools and quite a few are single-sex. The easiest way to get your children into them is to live close to them, and estate agents will tell you that such schools can add an average of £54,000 to the price of a house, in the capital. In some cases it is more like £200,000. London left-wing parents are particularly good at this Game of Homes.

For those who prefer video:
https://youtu.be/tbxQIi2W5UA?t=1017


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firemonkey
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04 Sep 2021, 4:17 pm

My father was from a lower middle class background. His father was a higher clerical officer. My father went to King Edward's Birmingham on a scholarship. He's proud he went there, but has acknowledged that those bright children from lower middle class or poor backgrounds who were not bright enough to get a scholarship were basically thrown on the scrapheap education wise.


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shlaifu
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04 Sep 2021, 9:26 pm

I went through the German education system (and finally some British... postgraduate...).
They are doing tge same early sorting into three categories: those who are going to get their university access at age 18, those who are going to get an intermediary degree at 16, which gives them a hist of further options of school, including acquiring limited university access at 18 and finally, the third kind, who are expected to learn some trade after finishing school at 16.

I do think this early sorting is a good idea for a bunch of reasons - one being that the smart kids in a school of smart kids don't get bullied much. Nothing like what you see in American high schools.
Plus, this early sorting is more or less a sorting by IQ, rather than academic ability.

Because sorting by academic ability is a problem - mainly because of what's considered academic ability! - the education system I enjoyed, and which since hasn't changed one iota, is one of repetition and rote learning. It's boring and abstract and does it's best to create well educated people who understand nothing. - youtube now does a better job at teaching than schools do.
(I mean it. I haven't been great at maths, just good enough. I needed some concepts that I think I never even learned in school recently for work, and watched youtube lectures of varying difficulty and by far the most intuitive was by a swedish trans girl with plush cat ears who explained her math while programming stuff in unity shaders to visualize it. Only after her course, I actually understood what the stuff meant and what it could do - while the others, given by college professors, hinted at these things, and gave me the formulas, but I never really understood what we were calculating and why. - only that formula A gives result B).

so, I am highly sceptical of academic merit.

that said, I teach at college, and in recent years, the kids who are getting university access are ... not fit for college.
But I can't tell whether it's them or the way they have been taught - however, they expect me to give them a precise problem, and a precise way to solve it, so they can solve it in precisely the right way and be done with it.
Usually, I don't know the best solution to a problem off hand either - and it seems to really confuse the kuds that I hadn't given them a well prepared problem from a textbook but, you know, a messy, convoluted real world problem.


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firemonkey
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05 Sep 2021, 5:22 am

A sorting by IQ sounds OK, but could result in a lot of people with spiky cognitive profiles being wrongly assigned. That would be the danger of a 'one size fits all' IQ assessment.

Then there's 'academic ability' vs 'academic performance' They don't always dovetail neatly together. Then there's this-

Quote:
The average of all scores stayed the same across the years, but individual IQ scores rose or fell by as many as 21 points, a substantial difference – enough to take a person of "average" intelligence to "gifted" status, or vice versa. "On average it all washes out, but there are fluctuations from individual to individual," said Prof Cathy Price, who led the study.


https://www.theguardian.com/science/201 ... dolescence


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Nades
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05 Sep 2021, 6:34 am

firemonkey wrote:
A sorting by IQ sounds OK, but could result in a lot of people with spiky cognitive profiles being wrongly assigned. That would be the danger of a 'one size fits all' IQ assessment.

Then there's 'academic ability' vs 'academic performance' They don't always dovetail neatly together. Then there's this-

Quote:
The average of all scores stayed the same across the years, but individual IQ scores rose or fell by as many as 21 points, a substantial difference – enough to take a person of "average" intelligence to "gifted" status, or vice versa. "On average it all washes out, but there are fluctuations from individual to individual," said Prof Cathy Price, who led the study.


https://www.theguardian.com/science/201 ... dolescence



I had a very spiky IQ test done years ago. I had the mental arithmetic age of an 8 year old, the literacy age of a 12 year old (or something similar) yet an IQ of 107 and a GAD IQ of 117. It was a very messy test but basically meant I needed more time than others but if given enough, could outperform them. I had a full set of GCSE's and by the time I got to university I noticed serious problems. My speed was obviously slow and I I think I have undiagnosed ADHD which made it a lot worse along with mood problems.

Sadly selective education almost always considers speed as equally important as intelligence so I would be stuffed.



firemonkey
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05 Sep 2021, 9:08 am

My high range IQ test results give the following

Verbal 152 152 mean median
Numerical 135 135 mean median
Non verbal 121 121 mean median

Best verbal 168
Best numerical 146
Best non verbal 143

Trying various scoring methods


Best results from each type(V/N/S) -1SD = 147-148
Highest high range score - 1SD = 153
Average of best 3 -1SD = 146
Mean all 0.6/correlation =145
Median all 0.6/correlation = 144
Mean all /6/rarity value= 147
Median all/6/rarity value= 148
Untimed all 0.6/correlation= 145
Untimed all/6/rarity value= 148

My pre teen IQ = 147 according to my father.

Processing speed is an odd one for me.

I do badly at digit symbol substitution which is a measure of processing speed. That's not unusual for a person with schizophrenia.

On the other hand with those Wonderlic type tests, which require quick processing, I score 46/50 without age related addition( It's recommended to add 5 to the raw score if 60+. I'm 64) . The average person would get about 20/50 on such tests.

I was quite intelligent as a pre school child. As my brother recently said-

Quote:
You were reading encyclopaedia’s when you were very young mum always said that to me about you .


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roronoa79
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05 Sep 2021, 3:39 pm

This sounds more than a little sketchy to me. IQ tests, and most other standardized intelligence tests, are culturally biased and act as a one-size-fits-all--despite the fact that students learn differently and intelligence manifests in different ways--ways which cannot be exhaustively explored in any test.

This approach sounds like it would favor the neurotypical, who struggle less in academic settings. It would also favor the wealthy, as they have more resources available to them in the way of tutors and test prep courses, which many poorer students cannot afford or do not have time for.

Academic performance is also an inadequate standard for school placement, as it does not take into account the factors besides intelligence which influence performance in school. This would also include the quality of the school the student was attending before testing into another school based on "merit".

This also all sounds like it would cause a self-fulfilling prophecy, where students who get into these schools are more successful in life moreso because of the resources that are made available to them and the quality of their instructors. Students who struggle academically are going to continue to struggle if they are given second-rate instructors and resources. It's like the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, except instead of wealth it's academic performance.

Not to mention that a student who comes from a gifted school is going to have better career prospects than someone who does not go to such a school.

I'm American, and don't claim to know the finer points of the UK's education system, but this just sounds like a way of maintaining inequality through the erroneous assumption that success=merit. That, and the fact that poorer students who do not make the cut for scholarships will be stuck with a lesser education than their peers as a result of this pseudo-meritocracy.


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05 Sep 2021, 3:42 pm

"My dearest Winston received tutelage from the finest Oxford alumni. Must he really learn in the same school as those unwashed Sean's and Liam's?"


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05 Sep 2021, 3:53 pm

Tangible academic ability, while very imperfect, still is a better judge of a person’s potential than the results of IQ tests.



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05 Sep 2021, 4:26 pm

I think whatever school I would have gone to from the age of 11/13 -18 I would have been bullied. I'd have had more of a break from it if I'd gone to a day school though.

Diplomats,as my father was, send their children(boys 8 approx,girls 11 approx) to boarding school to ensure continuity of education.

Some food for thought. The author's significantly to the right of me politically .

Quote:
Bruce G Charlton

Since ‘the Laura Spence Affair’ in 2000, the UK government has spent a great deal of time and effort in asserting that universities, especially Oxford and Cambridge, are unfairly excluding people from low social class backgrounds and privileging those from higher social classes. Evidence to support the allegation of systematic unfairness has never been presented, nevertheless the accusation has been used to fuel a populist ‘class war’ agenda.

Yet in all this debate a simple and vital fact has been missed: higher social classes have a significantly higher average IQ than lower social classes.


https://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co ... s-and.html


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05 Sep 2021, 6:27 pm

firemonkey wrote:
I think whatever school I would have gone to from the age of 11/13 -18 I would have been bullied. I'd have had more of a break from it if I'd gone to a day school though.

Diplomats,as my father was, send their children(boys 8 approx,girls 11 approx) to boarding school to ensure continuity of education.

Some food for thought. The author's significantly to the right of me politically .

Quote:
Bruce G Charlton

Since ‘the Laura Spence Affair’ in 2000, the UK government has spent a great deal of time and effort in asserting that universities, especially Oxford and Cambridge, are unfairly excluding people from low social class backgrounds and privileging those from higher social classes. Evidence to support the allegation of systematic unfairness has never been presented, nevertheless the accusation has been used to fuel a populist ‘class war’ agenda.

Yet in all this debate a simple and vital fact has been missed: higher social classes have a significantly higher average IQ than lower social classes.


https://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co ... s-and.html


hahaha. "higher social classes" - well, yes, IF you're living in a meritocratic society, chances are that after a few generations of meritocracy, on average, the smart ones will have floated to the top. But "higher social classes" in the UK means offspring of inbred aristocracy. - I studied with a bunch of working class people at a fancy British tertiary education institution, and they were painfully aware of how far they could get - and where the line was for them - coming from a working class background.
I didn't notice it at the time, because I couldn't hear the sociolect, but I then was told that the professors were being quite dismissive towards them - and once I learned to hear the sociolect which identifies class heritage, I could see the different treatment by the faculty.
They seemed quite indifferent to me, the foreigner. Possibly because it was hard to tell my great-great-grandparents' social status from my accented English


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05 Sep 2021, 7:54 pm

^ I can't really disagree with you. My father's a very intelligent person from a lower middle class, Birmingham, background . He joined the Foreign office after a short spell as an army officer. There were two streams back then(1950/51), A for the 'high fliers' and B for the rest. My father had no trouble passing the written test to get in the A stream , but was rejected when it came to the oral part. Those he worked with who were in the A stream had mostly been to public school and university.They also had solid middle/upper middle class ancestry going back generations.

I can see things being even worse for the people you've mentioned.


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05 Sep 2021, 8:09 pm

I grew up in a somewhat socialist society and they didn't offer such schools (because "that's elitist"). If you were academically precocious you could skip one or max two grades but that was about it. I met lots of people younger than me supposedly at the same academic level when I entered university. Upon graduation they didn't fare better than us regulars in terms of employment and success.

I remember one guy in high school who was one year our junior who ended up depressed and dropped out of med school after 2 terms. So being "pushed ahead" didn't seem to have much benefit to him. (He's a psychologist now.)


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06 Sep 2021, 1:42 pm

shlaifu wrote:
youtube now does a better job at teaching than schools do.

I agree.

I think we need radical education reforms that would render this entire controversy about "Academically selective education" obsolete.

However, to avoid derailing this thread, I've created a separate new thread Radical education reform -- needed and possible.


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07 Sep 2021, 10:52 am

I think American education would benefit from a little bit of that. I think there should be aptitude testing and giving parents the OPTION of putting their kids in, say, gifted programs or standard programs. On the "lower" end with special needs kids they cannot be allowed in a special needs program without diagnosing special needs and testing to show that a student should be in that program, but also have the OPTION of staying in a standard or even gifted program. The hope is that anyone in a standard or advanced program has the opportunity to achieve but will weed themselves out if they are overwhelmed.

At the risk of sounding ableist, as a teacher it has always been frustrating for me every time I've encountered parents who blindly insist on keeping students in my classes without any regard for how frustrating an intense music program can be for kids who lag behind academically to begin with. I had a clarinet student who could play three notes on the instrument, much less comprehend WHEN to play, and the little bit he DID do he pretty much drooled into his clarinet. I moved him to percussion, and he couldn't even comprehend playing the triangle. I was spending entirely too much class time with this guy and the rest of the class suffered...but if I DIDN'T work with him, then I'd hear about it from the parent and ultimately the principal. But when I DID work with him, I'd get complaints from principals about how classroom discipline was suffering along with the quality of sound. There was no winning because the parent was unwilling to let me work with him before or after school, there was no reinforcement or practice at home, and just no effort to actually follow my recommendations. I finally did get through to a principal and got him removed from my class, but not before weeks of daily documenting every single detail of class and the brick wall I hit on day one. The final nail in the coffin was that he stopped showing up for class because he'd gotten in the habit of hiding in the bathroom for most of the day. All I had to do was point out that it was a safety issue and I wasn't going to be responsible for what happened to him when he disappeared in the middle of an activity.

My previous school had an incredibly supportive resource program that sent me a child with Down's syndrome. The girl also had a shadow who could work with her and help me communicate with the parents. That way, I wasn't stuck holding up class for a single special needs student, and I had a better time actually meeting the needs of the student. Now, truthfully, I wasn't excited about the prospect of having her back because her parents told me she was excited about switching instruments. I don't normally allow that as it is, and I knew it would be more of the same. I ended up taking another job and it became a moot point, anyway, but within that environment I could have managed much more easily than my previous gig.

At the same school, otoh, I had another special needs student who was legally blind and had severe anxiety. She did extremely well in my class, and her parents were ADAMANT about making her repeat my class even though everyone else had to rotate out. That's the thing about being a teacher, you don't exactly get to pick your students. That's ok, though. I signed up for this job.

But I do think students perform better when they are placed where their needs are going to be met the best. I think making classrooms available to all students is a positive thing as long as parents are being honest with themselves and have reasonable expectations. I think it's up to teachers to set the tone for their classroom and make instructional decisions without parents and admins breathing down our necks. If you're going to insist on special needs kids in the same classrooms as gifted or even "normies" then parents have to be responsible for doing all they can to make sure their children have successful outcomes...and by that I mean specifically NOT making the teacher fearful of the classroom when the child shows up.



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07 Sep 2021, 11:53 am

A good teacher should be one that's capable of making a good assessment of a students ability, and able to see why a student might be underperforming.

I was described as 'not particularly intelligent', by my prep school headmaster, at a time (pre teen) when my IQ had been measured as being 147!!


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