To the speech first. Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, was in hot water a few days ago once again for claiming that the reason some people struggled in life was because of their low IQs. We will not even go into the IQ test that Mr Johnson failed publicly on a radio phone-in less than a week later after his speech. Suffice to say that the person who runs one of the most important cities in the world does not know the price of a one-way ticket between Angel and London Bridge. Scrape the surface of his address, though, and you will find Boris’s comments very dangerous, which is usually the case with the “blond menace”. Behind his bonhomie and (faux) gaiety hides a ruthless and ambitious politician. On picking on minimum-wage workers, Boris replayed a theory espoused by a new current of scientists and specialists. The one that aims to convince policy-makers, educators and politicians that genes contribute significantly to a person’s academic achievement and later success in life. Moreover, supporters of this proposition suggest creating special classes of schools for gifted and talented children.
|What will determine his future: nature or nurture?|
Both Boris and Jill ignore many factors in a child’s life, especially during her/his early years: they barely mentioned parents or carers and their influence. Environment was brought up by Jill, but as a passing comment, when it is actually one of the most important elements in a child’s education. The role that domestic finances play in a family’s aspirations was conspicuous by its absence.
The danger of brushing aside all these aspects is that we enter an either/or territory. We begin to see our offspring as, either the sporty type, or the arty type, the studious type or the naughty type, instead of seeing their personality as free-flowing, open-ended and adaptable. Another negative consequence is that focusing on genes gives parents (ironically, those responsible for children’s genes) an easy cop-out. The knock-on effect is that schools, then, have to fill up the gap where at-home learning should go.
However, whilst it is hard to find a redeeming feature in Boris Johnson’s speech, Jill Boucher’s article, by contrast, finishes with a very good reflection and one which I would like to share with you today, regardless of whether you decide to click on the link I provided above and which takes you straight to her essay. Jill criticises the language used when politicians talk about social mobility. It is always “up”, she states. And working class people are forever aspiring to become middle-class ones and moving “up” the ladder. I agree with her that the value system we currently have in our society places too much emphasis on wealth and social status. Not everyone wants to be a banker, doctor, engineer, teacher or lawyer. Some people are happy being football coaches, youth workers or road-sweepers. They, too, deserve our respect and admiration. Regardless of their genetic make-up.
Next Post: “Pieces of Me, Pieces of Havana”, to be published on Wednesday 11th December at 11:59pm (GMT)