Prisoners of the Blob

Why Most Education Experts are Wrong about Nearly Everything


By: Toby Young
October 2014
Distributed by Coronet Books
ISBN: 9781906837617
45 Pages
$8.50 Paper original


When Michael Gove characterised opponents of educational reform as The Blob, the term was dismissed as the construct of right-wing newspapers and panic-mongers. The bad news for parents, as Toby Young shows in this pamphlet, is that The Blob is real and it's coming to get your children. The Blob comprises teaching unions, local authority officials, academic experts and university education departments - in short, almost everyone who will be in a position to shape your child's education. Creatures of The Blob are united by their adherence to certain mantras: education should be child-centred, not teacher-led; problem-solving and critical thinking are more important than subject knowledge; rote-learning and regurgitating facts are bad, whereas discovery learning is good.

These doctrines can be summed up under the heading of 'progressive education'. Research has shown them to be not only ineffective but harmful, and they have damaged the life-chances of millions of children. 'Progressives' claim to be egalitarians, but the effect of their policies is to increase social inequality. Children from poor homes and ethnic minority backgrounds will not be able to compete with middle-class children for the best jobs if they don't know anything worth knowing. Attempts by governments of different political persuasions to raise educational standards have been frustrated by the total dominance of the education sector by progressives. One former minister compared education reform to trying to disperse a fog with a hand grenade: after the flash and the bang, the fog creeps back. 'If we want all children to grow to their full stature, not just those lucky enough to attend traditional schools, we need to reject the progressive snake oil being peddled by prisoners of The Blob.'