Michael Gove and facts, facts, facts

According to this morning’s Guardian, Michael Gove is to make a speech claiming that rote learning is the key to success in education:

Competitive, difficult exams for which pupils must prepare by memorising large amounts of facts and concepts will promote motivation, solidify knowledge and guarantee standards.

Now, you could reach for the Dickens and quote Gradgrind to discuss this.  Or you can go a bit further back in time and let William Hazlitt debunk it for you:

William Hazlitt self portrait 1802

“The things which a boy is set to learn at school and on which his success depends are things which do not require the exercise either of the highest or the most useful faculties of mind.  Memory … is the faculty chiefly called into play, in conning over and over repeated lessons by rote… A lad with a sickly constitution and no very active mind who can just retain what is pointed out to him will generally be at the head of the form. ” (From  On the Ignorance of the Learned, 1820-ish)

And given the subject of the feature article in G2 on Eton and the old boy network, it’s worth remembering that Hazlitt also pointed this out – almost 200 years ago:

 It should not be forgotten that the least respectable character among modern politicians was the cleverest boy at Eton

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