Okum, malarky and balderdash

May 31, 2008

A refreshing demolition of stupidity by Neuroanthropology. He is dealing with a report that Chris Parry, the new chief executive of the Independent Schools Council told the Times Educational Supplement: “It’s a very short route from wireless technology to actually getting the electrical connections in your brain to absorb that knowledge.” This makes one of the two classic mistakes of psychology in the last centrury namely the information processing model of the human brain. As Neuroanthrpology says, repeat after me the brain is not a computer.

The other classic error of 20th Century psychology is behavioralism. The downside of this is is well illustrated by Peter Wilby writing in the New Statesman on the destruction of the ethos of service in the public sector. I quote:

To use the distinction made by former Downing Street advisor Julian Le Grand, teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers and civil servants are just knaves like the rest of us, not knights motivated by public-spirited altruism. That is why we need targets, league tables, performance-related pay and all the other paraphernalia of post-Thatcher bureaucracy. It is another example of the belief that everyone’s behaviour is reducible to economic stimuli. We are all just sophisticated versions of a chimpanzee that will do whatever it takes to get a banana.

Now this is current stupidity with real consequences. Wilby reports on research which shows that public servants which estimates that the public sector in the UK gets 120 million hours per week overtime at no cost, the equivalent of 2.4% of the workforce in education, health and social care. Of course that data was from the nineties, I would anticipate that the commercialisation of the proivate sector has by now engendered commercial attitudes to service. Its less you get what you pay for, more you get what you measure and neither are what the public, or public sector employees deserve. Repeat after me Public service is not about market values.

An additional depressing fact on Chris Parry is that he is a former Rear Admiral who spent three years determining the future strategic context for the military in a senior role at the Ministry of Defense. Neuroanthropology asks an apposite question: How exactly does one get put in charge of an educational institution when one has NO CLUE how learning occurs? I am now tempted to ask the same question about the future of Britain’s once proud naval tradition. Of course virtual reality may be the only reality if you don’t have the ships on which to gain experience. I have seen more aircraft carriers laid up in San Deigo than the UK possessed in its entire history!

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