Thursday, 15 August 2013

What's wrong with Sociology?

You would have thought the government would go out of its way to congratulate all A-levels students today. It’s bad enough having to sit exams without politicians of all colours using their grades as political ammunition for one cause or another.

But no, as ever, coalition ministers – as Labour’s did before them – can’t resist using results day as an easy opportunity to claim their policies are working. This is year, admittedly, is somewhat unusual as today’s line appears to be ‘hey look, aren’t we doing our job well? A-level grades are going down. For the second year running. And about time too. No more dumbing down. Harrumph!’

And, while they may have a point about grade inflation, it’s not really what students want to hear, today of all days. I struggle to understand why politicians never appreciate this.

More egregious are the various messages and press releases zipping around, proclaiming how great it is more pupils are taking maths and sciences. Indeed it is, especially as England risks a real shortage of science and maths teachers. But it's possible to celebrate this rise without implicitly telling students of other subjects - humanity students, social scientists and those focusing on more vocational topics - they are somehow inadequate.

This is what the Conservative Party Press Office tweeted earlier today:

Of course, universities value Chemistry, Physics, Maths and Further Maths, as they always have done but it must be a little dispiriting for any students opening their results for their English, history, music, art, geography, divinity exams etc. Universities value such subjects enormously. Chemistry is surprisingly useless as a basis of studying history or music at university.

Similarly, the @toryeducation twitter feed, which appears to be Michael Gove's rogue pet Rottweiler used exclusively to attack former children's minister Tim Loughton and anyone actually involved in education, tweeted this last night:

How nice. And, what's wrong with sociology anyway?

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