It’s obviously over for the Left’s Blank Slate theory of Man. The media is already starting to lay the foundation for denying that anyone on the Left could possibly have believed in such obviously unscientific nonsense, let alone considered it to be infallible scientific fact:
The appointment – followed, eight days later, by the resignation – of Toby Young to the board of the government’s new Office for Students in January was only the latest in a series of controversial interventions in education for the self-styled Toadmeister (Young’s Twitter handle). Having established his media profile on a platform of comments guaranteed to rile the “politically correct” (sexism, homophobia, that sort of thing), he began to reinvent himself as an educationalist through his initiatives on free schools – and he has been raising hackles in that sphere too. Things came to a head late last year when an article that Young wrote for the charity Teach First on intelligence and genetics was withdrawn from the organisation’s website on the grounds that it was “against what we believe is true and against our values and vision”. Young’s article summarised – rather accurately – the current view on how genes affect children’s IQ and academic attainment, and concluded that there is really not much that schools can do at present to alter these seemingly innate differences.
That affair is now coloured by the disclosure that Young had advocated “progressive eugenics” as a way to boost intelligence in a 2015 article in the Australian magazine Quadrant. The flames were fanned by Private Eye’s account of how Young attended what was widely labelled a “secret eugenics conference” at University College London that featured speakers with extremist views.
All this is viewed with dismay by scientists who are researching the role of genes in intelligence and considering the implications for education. They are already labouring under a cloud of suspicion, if not outright contempt, from some educationalists, and interventions by grandstanders such as Young will do nothing to soften the tenor of the debate. Such polarisation and conflict should trouble us all, though. Because, like it or not, genetics is going to enter the educational arena, and we need to have a sober, informed discussion about it.
Researchers are now becoming confident enough to claim that the information available from sequencing a person’s genome – the instructions encoded in our DNA that influence our physical and behavioural traits – can be used to make predictions about their potential to achieve academic success. “The speed of this research has surprised me,” says the psychologist Kathryn Asbury of the University of York, “and I think that it is probable that pretty soon someone – probably a commercial company – will start to try to sell it in some way.” Asbury believes “it is vital that we have regulations in place for the use of genetic information in education and that we prepare legal, social and ethical cases for how it could and should be used.”
This is an interesting behavioral pattern of the Left that is a useful way of tracking what they currently believe, which is the memory-holing of their previous dogma. Most Leftists still strongly believe in Blank Slate theory, but it is apparent that their intellectual school of fish is about to make one of its sudden right turns.