PHILOSOPHY f o r EDUCATION, the challenge of our times: NEWS about the PER Group founded in 1993 to re-analyse education

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STOP PRESS: We held our 25-year Conference at Conway Hall WC1R 4RL on 8th December. A lively day with lots of important, stimulating ideas. More about it below.

The PER Group is a relatively small voluntary group of people which has been meeting for twenty-fve years. Its basic premiss was in 1993 and still is today that the UK (and similar) secondary education systems are h o p e l e s s. They are not fit for purpose. They mislead parents into thinking that their children will be "educated". All they do is ---keep the children off the streets during middleday hours and try to t r a i n them like performing seals. Most of this 'training' is getting pupils to memorise facts and processes held together by the sketchiest of connections. Once the exam is over the point of this training has been achieved, so, being human beings, they realise they don't need it any more. The sketchy connections vanish. Various research studies have shown that r e c a l l of items memorised in this way fades within days and almost disappears within a month. What kind of 'education system' is this? Worse than useless, because it is wasting the best learning years of the youthful generation. It has succeeded in turning learning into a c h o r e and putting most of the youthful generation o f f education.
Yet governments such as the UK government constantly praise themselves highly on behalf of their education systems, which are supposed to be "better than ever before" and "much better than they used to be". This is an intolerable situation. The Official Story is that the education system is a modern triumph. The evidence all around us is that it is a disaster, actively the destroying the good name of 'education' which used to be a holy grail.
The PER Group's main conclusions, which will be posted and discussed, fall under four headings:
1 Hopefulness ---the essential basis for getting through to youth
2 The need to try to rebuild the Moral Zeitgeist ---the non-negotiable status of basic accountability. This is the only rock on which the enduring classless culture of the UK can rest. It, too, needs to be re-built. Without this there is no legitimacy.
3 Understanding ---a concept rubbished by Bloom's Taxonomy--- which must be the central aim of teaching. We must teach for understanding (full inner digestion of meaning, meaning to last a lifetime).
4 Imagination/envisioning ---this is the main capability which is both urgently needed by everyone in the modern ever-changing world, and is also being lost as a result of media overload.
We aim to spend an hour debating each heading.
SPEAKERS: These include Prof. Richard Pring (Oxford University), Denise Keir (Vice-Chair of PER) and Chris Ormell (Secretary of PER), Prof. Evan Parker, Dr Sean Vertigan, Neville Grant, Craig Ross.
ATTENDEES will receive a copy of the PER 2015 Report: also a sandwich + soft drink for lunch. Coffee available at Conway Hall Bar.

The HOPEFULNESS theme is paramount. The present paradigm for schooling is based on Bloom's Taxonomy (1956) which made a stir when it rubbished understanding and claimed that the job of schools was to alter students' behaviour. The PER Group's aim is simply to c l a r i f y the meaning of basic concepts which have been interpreted mistakenly in today's pressured, fevered, behaviourist schools. We have no ideological, religious, political, ethnic or partisan axe to grind. Education is a mainstream activity and what is taught must satisfy the democratic majority.
WHAT WENT WRONG? BLOOM's TAXONOMY offers six levels of cognitive behaviour which are all crammable. This is an extremely crude, invalid attempt to describe u n d e r s t a n d i n g. To use it to assess children is like using a system based on painting-by-numbers to assess paintings for an Art Gallery. Bloom's Taxonomy is treated as a Bible by the examination Boards. Unfortunately they actually determine what happens in schools because teachers want to get their students the best possible results. This is a narrow, targetted, selective u n e d u c a t i o n a l form of training.


PER NEWS 95 This includes items on maths education, comments on the Times obituaries for Richard Peters and Fred Naylor and a report on Eric Blaire's talk to the group on February 11th. Status: posted to members.
PER NEWS 96 A comment on two anti-managerialism news items. Published in May.
PER NEWS 97 Comments on the talk by Dr Matthew Wilkinson to the PER group at Conway Hall in May.
PER NEWS 98 (September) A Report on Prof. Margaret Brown's 2012 P E R Lecture.

Back copies are available from: Ingleside-Ashby, P.O. Box 16916, Blackheath, London SE3 7WS price £5 plus postage EU £1 extra, Rest of world £2 extra.

Prospero 17-4 was published in December 2011. It contains articles by Prof. Patrick Keeney (3), David Aldridge, David Suttle and Chris Ormell (the 11th instalment of his Re-theorising Education series.). There is also a 4th Anthropic Ontology Annexe which looks at stochastic spin as a way to pick out bodylike bundles of UEs..

Prospero 18-1 was published in March 2012. It contains a Report on Prof. Raymond Tallis' talk to the P E R Group at Swedenborg House, an article by Mary Midgley, a Review by Prof. Patrick Keeney, a Note on Freewill by John Lucas, the final instalment of the Editor's Re-theorising Education series and another Anthropic Ontology Annex.

Prospero 18-2 was published at the end of June. It contains a report on Patricia White's 2011 P E R Lecture, an article by Dr Eric Blaire on Academies, an article by Prof. Michael Langford on freewill and consciousness, a review by Robert Gomme of Martha Nussbaum's defence of the humanities, and an article by Chris Ormell on the nature of philosophy.

Prospero 18-3 will be published in October 2012.

HOPEFUNESS We want students to have "taken in" the things they have learnt so deeply that it n a t u r a l l y affects their behaviour ---over a wide range of circumstances. Bloom-based schooling goes directly for inculcating b i t s of artificial behaviour (recall on c u e of a word or phrase or process step). This is not what 'education' means. But we have, up to now had no affordable way of checking for understanding and hence accountability. (The Bloom approach does check for useless bits of recall behaviour.) The only wellknown way to check for understanding is viva voce ---cross examiation. Now AI has come along and it will offer an affordable way for teachers to cross examine for understanding. (CONTINUED on Current Comment.)
Other sources of hopefulness:
1 A new paradigm in maths: Maths is essentially a source of analogies for real things.It is transparent 100% lucid, 100% rational. We can use it to explore the logical implications of all kinds of exciting future projects.
2 An internet ID for all children. This would allow all unsuitable, disorienting content to be put off-bounds.
3 Recent advances in medicne.
3 Unfortunately the companion philosophy for mathematics website:
has been hacked by wreckers, who don't want anyone to know that the logic of mathematics is in disarray. [The most basic mistake was treating sets as the fundamental objects of mathematics. They can't be, because mathematics is a pure symbolic system and its lexicon makes no reference to the real world. It has massive u s e s because we can form analogies for real world situations with it, but they are certainly n o t part of the lexicon.]The website was about the philosophical incoherence which has beset mathematics since the early 20th century.There are 4 unacknowledged mistakes in basic set theory: (1) above, (2) restrictive set theory is not a 'solution' to Russell's Paradox, it simply posits rules to ban it, (3) The total universe of discourse available to mathematics is no larger than ordinary infinity, because it is confined to all permutations of about sixty symbols. Thus transfinite theory is a fantasy. (4) sets as mathematical objects must have elements which are mathematical objects. So one cannot define a set (as mathematical object) until one knows what a mathematical object is. So sets cannot be the 'ultimate objects' in mathematics. See the Note at the bottom of the Concept/Methods page here.

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