Her son is “an excellent scientist” who got “straight As” on his other science papers, but he is also “very knowledgeable about climate change and very sceptical about man-made global warming”. His questioning of the sources earned an “E”, the lowest possible score. His mother then paid £60 for his paper to be re-marked. It was judged to be “articulate, well-structured” and clearly well-informed, but again he was marked down with “E” for fail.
I realise that the ideal to which educationalists ought, in an ideal world, to aspire to is to measure how well a student understands and can explicate a particular body of alleged knowledge, rather than merely noting whether he agrees with that alleged knowledge. But this is a lot to expect. I have always regarded exams as measuring not so much actual rightness about things, as the ability to find out what the examiners want to be told, and to put that as fluently and ingratiatingly as possible. Exams have always been about identifying articulate yes-men. It’s just that what examinees have to say yes to changes from decade to decade.
But maybe this will change with the arrival of the internet, now that anyone who gets failed for saying “no”, fluently and persuasively, can now, as in this case, expose the inevitable biases of the education system to outside scrutiny and derision.
I look forward to learning who this young man is, what he actually wrote in his exam, and more about exactly who the examiners were who failed him. If he displayed a real knowledge of official opinion about climate change, before then explaining why he did not share this opinion, he might yet come out of this spat very well, better than if he had merely got straight As.
He might, for instance, get himself a job as a scientific journalist.