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How racist are Britain’s schools? The Guardian's use of data is dangerously unhelpful

Credit: Gideon Mendel/Corbis via Getty

Credit: Gideon Mendel/Corbis via Getty


April 1, 2021   7 mins

Are you a scout or a soldier? Are you trying to find things out or defend a position? It’s a metaphor that the author and rationalist Julia Galef uses. If you’re in a soldier mindset, you’ll treat your opponents’ arguments as enemy soldiers. Some pieces of information are useful to your enemy’s argument, and need to be shot down. Some of them are useful to yours, and need to be bolstered.

But if you’re a scout, you’re trying to find out what’s really there. You might hope that there is a conveniently placed bridge across a river, or that your enemy’s supply lines are vulnerable; but your job is to establish whether that’s true or not. When you look at purported facts, you want to determine how true they are, not simply how useful. 

I was thinking about this when I read a story in the Guardian last week saying that British schools are “institutionally racist”, based on their own examination of the data around exclusions. The story said that the fixed-term exclusion rate for black Caribbean pupils — that is, the rate at which they are kept off school for a given period — was five times higher than that of white children in some areas. Roma Gypsy and Irish Traveller pupils were excluded at an even higher rate.

An accompanying analysis linked this to “racial micro-aggressions” and “racial micro-invalidation”, such as young black people being censured for wearing “inappropriate” haircuts; the implication being that the problem was that teachers were racist, intentionally or otherwise, towards their pupils.

This is a fraught topic. It is obviously deeply worrying if black Caribbean pupils are being excluded at high rates. But I am extremely hesitant about assuming this is an uncomplicated story of racist teachers (or institutionally racist schools), because I think there has to be a lot more going on here. I think this is a case of looking for arguments that support your position, not one of going out and trying to find out the actual facts as objectively as possible. I can understand why the Guardian might do this, because racism really is terrible, and calling attention to it feels sensible. But they’ve flattened a complex problem into a simplistic narrative.

Here’s what I mean. First: the Guardian has been really shoddy in its reporting of the data. 

For instance, they say that the exclusion rates for black Caribbean boys “are up to six times higher than those of their white peers in some local authorities”. Which is true. But there are 343 local authorities in England. They will have very different ethnic breakdowns and will vary in all sorts of ways just by chance. The Guardian story sort of acknowledges this – Cambridgeshire, the worst-affected area, has “a relatively small number” of Caribbean students, they say, so the data isn’t trustworthy. 

But even if black and white children were excluded at exactly the same rate nationally, you might expect to see some quite large differentials at local level, just by chance. Cherry-picking the worst areas, unless you have some underlying reason to think that they really do have a worse-than-average problem with racism, is bad practice.

If you look at England as a whole (the data is here), the problem doesn’t go away, but it does become  much smaller – there are about 10 exclusions per 100 black Caribbean children per year, as opposed to about six for white British children. (Note that that’s not quite the same as saying “About 10% of black Caribbean children are excluded”, because some children are excluded more than once.) Still, you might say, that’s hardly a negligible problem, if black Caribbean kids are excluded 60% more often than white ones. But the data is not the only issue with the reporting. 

The story makes, as far as I can see, absolutely no effort to check whether there might be any confounding variables. It sees that black Caribbean children are excluded at higher rates, and assumes that the one causes the other directly. By analogy: famously, ice-cream sales and drownings tend to go up and down on the same days. Do ice creams make you drown? Probably not — more likely, it’s that hot weather makes people buy ice creams, and also makes them go swimming (and then drown). The weather is a confounding variable which influences both ice-cream sales and drownings, and makes them look as though they are connected. But when you control for the weather, they’re not.

Is there any possible factor that might be connected to both school exclusions and ethnicity, and which might make them look as though they are more correlated than they are? An obvious one might be poverty: it could easily be that poorer children are more likely to be excluded, for any number of reasons, and that black and ethnic minority children are more likely to be poor.

You could, for instance, look at how many children in each ethnic group are eligible for free school meals (FSMs), and see whether, when you control for that, you still see the link between ethnicity and exclusions. 

Annoyingly, the Department for Education’s website doesn’t let you break the data down by ethnic group and FSM eligibility1. But the sainted Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of statistics at the Open University, helped me find a rough-and-ready workaround. We found an FOI release of data showing free school meals by ethnicity at each educational key stage — from 2017, which isn’t ideal since the DfE data is 2018/19, but hopefully it’s close enough. We took a crude average across the stages for each ethnic group.

Then we looked at exclusions by FSM eligibility for English pupils as a whole. The exclusion rate for children on FSMs is a little under 14%, and for those not on FSMs it’s a little under 4%. 

This is a non-trivial piece of work which we shouldn’t have had to do. The Guardian should have. It is the most basic and obvious piece of data-checking imaginable, and the fact that they didn’t do it makes me think that they settled on their chosen explanation long before the facts came in.

As it happens when you control for FSMs, it doesn’t make all that much difference. But they were only right by accident.

On this chart, the rate of fixed-term exclusions is on the X (horizontal) axis, and the rate of exclusions after controlling for FSM eligibility is on the Y (vertical) axis. If a point falls below the diagonal line, it means that poverty is “causing” some of the link between that ethnicity and exclusions, and controlling for it makes it go away somewhat. If a point falls above the line, then that suggests that the ethnic group is actually doing worse, by comparison to its poverty level, than its headline numbers.

Most of the dots are pretty close to the line, suggesting that the overall picture is not all that different from the one painted by the Guardian’s data:

But this is important. I read that Guardian story and thought “hang on: they haven’t controlled for poverty. Might that be what’s going on here?” And then I checked, and it doesn’t look like it is, so I’ve included it. I tested my own theory and showed the results. If you’re actually trying to work out why something is happening, that’s what you need to do, not just say “Look, A and B are correlated! Therefore A causes B, no further questions. Ice cream definitely causes drownings.”

It’s also worth having a closer look at that graph. As the Guardian said, black Caribbean children are excluded at a higher rate than white children, and Roma and Irish Traveller children at an even higher one. (In the case of Irish Travellers, that seems to be related to poverty, but the numbers of Traveller children are tiny, so we can’t have much confidence in it.)

There’s something worth noting, though. The hard blue lines are the national average. Black Caribbean children are well above it. But black African children are somewhat below, and Indian, Chinese, Bangladeshi, Pakistani children are hugely below. If British schools are institutionally racist, then it’s a really laser-targeted racism, which discriminates against the kids of Trinidadian descent but actively encourages the ones of Ghanaian heritage. 

Also, white children are excluded at above the national average – a white child is about 50% more likely to be excluded than a child of black African heritage, and about three times as likely as one of Indian heritage – and they do worse than their poverty levels would predict. When you look at overall educational performance, you see a similar pattern: white and black Caribbean children do badly, when you control for FSM eligibility. Black African children, and Asian children, consistently do better than average.

No doubt there are many problems with racism in British schools. But I don’t buy the idea that the differences in exclusion are driven by it; either that racism is bizarrely specific, or whatever is behind this problem is upstream of schooling. 

You could easily come up with some alternative hypotheses. For instance, someone pointed out to me by email that Roma and Irish Traveller children have by far the highest rate of absenteeism, more than double the next highest group, perhaps because their tight-knit communities do not place very high value on school-learning provided by the state. You could also tell a plausible story about black Caribbeans feeling that the British state has not traditionally been on their side, and that making them place less value on state institutions such as schools.

I don’t know how it fits with the problem with white British children, or why Asians and black Africans have such a different response, but each group has very different histories and therefore different cultures and attitudes.

But if you want to say that schools are institutionally racist – that there is something, whether explicit racial attitudes among teachers or some structural problem with the education system that harms black Caribbean children – then you have to do a better job than simply pointing to some data that on the surface tells a convenient story, not interrogating it at all, and moving on. It’s not as if there aren’t much more clear-cut examples of racism in the world; you shouldn’t need to point to ambiguous-at-best situations like this and call them racism to bolster your argument.

This isn’t the only example in recent days. Another Guardian story found that 60,000 “racist incidents” were recorded in UK schools in the last five years, but made no effort to help us understand if that was a big number or not; how many schools are there? How many pupils? (There are about 24,000 schools in the UK, teaching about nine million pupils; that doesn’t make the numbers OK, but it’s vital context.) The New Statesman ran a piece about excess deaths going up in the UK even before the pandemic, blaming it on austerity; but forgot to control for the growing and ageing population, which muddied the story somewhat.

This all makes sense if you see the public sphere as a battleground, if you see debate as war and arguments as soldiers: and perhaps that is a sensible attitude to have. Perhaps if you want to get things done, to defeat racism or win elections or any such goal, perhaps you need to have the mindset that sees inconvenient complexity as something to be destroyed.

But I would rather people tried to think a bit more like scouts, to ask where data comes from and whether it means what you think it means. And if you do find out what’s really true — where that bridge is, how the enemy’s troops are arrayed — you can fight against it all the more effectively.

FOOTNOTES
  1.  I’ve emailed them asking for it broken down like that, and they say they can provide it, but only if I submit an FOI request and wait for four weeks! Which is really very annoying. I’ll do it anyway and then update this piece if it changes anything.

Tom Chivers is a science writer. His second book, How to Read Numbers, is out now.

TomChivers

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Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
3 years ago

During the Obama administration, it was discovered that black pupils were excluded disproportionate to their demographic numbers and this, it was decided, had to stop.

The problem was that black students were disproportionately disruptive which left teachers having to either judge white and Hispanic children far more harshly and punish where it wasn’t really warranted, or go light on the black kids and accept greater disruptions, violence and mayhem. They generally went with the latter option. It didn’t turn out well.

It’s not racist to suspend or expel those who attack others or prevent their classrooms from functioning.

Richard E
Richard E
3 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

I’ve noticed this.
A black writer, somewhere – i forget – but in one of the papers recently, was talking about how as a black man he wasn’t allowed to display his character and was accused of being intimidating, loud, whenever he spoke up.
So in effect, he is saying if he is prevented from being intimidating it is racist.

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard E

Yeah – my mother spent a fair bit of time preventing me from being a selfish, entitled, show off and nuisance when I was small. I think she devoted about fifteen years to the job. I had never realised before that she was stopping me expressing my true nature…..

The true nature of the male h0m0 sapiens, left unsocialised is to be a pathological killer, a s3xual predator and a savage. Watch what happens in areas of Africa where militia armies are running riot. That’s what we are if left ‘unsuppressed’.

Last edited 3 years ago by Tom Fox
Steve Wesley
Steve Wesley
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard E

It might have been a BBC programme or article which was entitled ‘Me and my hoodie’ or something to that effect which I read about a year ago. The writer had a professional qualification but liked to wear a hoodie. I recall that the jist was something along the lines that because he was black and wore a hoodie, white people assumed he was intimidating and their assumption was therefore racist. The fact that a shaven headed white bloke in a hoodie was probably just as intimidating wasn’t mentioned. I seem to recall that David Lammy MP was pictured in a hoodie. The never ending search for victim confirmation continues.

David Morley
David Morley
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard E

My god – next thing he won’t be allowed to sit with his legs apart on the tube!

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

School is NOT about massaging your misplaced confidence, it is about socialising pupils so that they can learn about the world and how to fit into it. Bing a loud mouthed @rse and a boorish s3x pest which many of these kids are is REALLy not to be encouraged. The Guardian is no doubt this day majoring on the s. assault claims about private schools. This will tickle the fancy of the Guardian writers and readers very much, but not so the well known and monstrous levels of s3xual predation and abuse from a proportion of London’s black pupils which has been an issue for years.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

black pupils were excluded disproportionate to their demographic numbers 

Those sort of statistics are bemusing only if you start by insisting on the view that there should be no disproportion. If you discard that ex ante prejudice and instead draw conclusions empirically based ex post on the data, there’s no disproportion at all.
The dataset suggests that children from fatherless families who are undisciplined and unruly, or those from criminal families who have no regard for authority and who will undermine that of teachers, will take these attitudes to school. And will then get expelled. This is why ‘black’ is not a good proxy for predicting who’ll get excluded from school, but ‘Caribbean’ or ‘Irish traveller’ are very good proxies indeed.

Last edited 3 years ago by Jon Redman
kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

The trouble is that educators ( that is those who formulate education ) have an agenda and this does not seem to involve teaching children the basic 3 R’s and then progressing onwards. For example nurseries are now supposed to tell children about their white privilege. Maybe this might be an interesting discussion at A level-what do you think this means? Do you agree? , but teaching this subject at this younger age is surely just indoctrination.

Jim le Messurier
Jim le Messurier
3 years ago

‘You could, for instance, look at how many children in each ethnic group are eligible for free school meals (FSMs), and see whether, when you control for that, you still see the link between ethnicity and exclusions.’
You might also look at how many of the excluded kids came from fatherless homes. But that would be seen as an attack on single motherhood, so that statistic would never get anywhere near a mention in the Guardian. Traditional family values as evidenced among Ghanaians and Indians and the relative unlikelihood of kids from those backgrounds being excluded should be indicative of the possiblity that this problem is more to do with culture than racism. But, again, this is the Guardian. Everything must be about racism.

James Rowlands
James Rowlands
3 years ago

That I suspect is the crux of it. I bet the “ Blob” suspect it also, therefore the data will never be collected………

Aidan Collingwood
Aidan Collingwood
3 years ago

One could also ask why rates of fatherlesness are higher amongst certain ethnic or cultural groups than amongst others. It might be considered to be racist – by some people – to ask if black children are more disruptive because they’re black, but is it also racist to ask why black children are more likely to originate from fatherless households?

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago

It was a truism about Parent’s Evening that the parents we should be seeing aren’t the ones that turn up.

Tami Misledus
Tami Misledus
3 years ago

To racists, everything is about racism.

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
3 years ago

”Millions rely on the Guardian for independent journalism that stands for truth and integrity”.
”We will continue to provide high-impact reporting that can counter misinformation and offer an authoritative, trustworthy source of news for everyone”.
”We set our own agenda and provide truth-seeking journalism that’s free from commercial and political influence”.
“Journalism” = managing the narrative

David Brown
David Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Raiment

“Millions…”
Who are they kidding?

Steve Heath
Steve Heath
3 years ago
Reply to  David Brown

It is millions.

The Guardian sets the narrative. BBC and C4 news then spreads it to millions.

Tami Misledus
Tami Misledus
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Raiment

Managing the narrative = rewriting history a la 1984 …

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago

Would it be terribly controversial to suggest that the children with the worst behaviour are the ones most likely to be excluded..? And that this split is also along racial lines? And that the true conclusion to draw is that carribean kids behave worse than white kids, and African and Indian kids don’t misbehave nearly as much as either of these groups because they still have discipline at home? Or is that just racist?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Indeed so, drilling down is the key to enlightenment.
As all parents know, a child will generate more insight than the Guardian ever does, by using their simple (and infuriating) “5 Why’s” technique.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Barton
Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

The Guardian is ‘dangerously unhelpful’ full stop and should not be trusted on any subject. Most of us gave up on it some years ago. And the fact is that in order to be excluded the kids in question probably have to behave twice as badly as white or Asian kids do in order to be excluded.

Last edited 3 years ago by Fraser Bailey
George Bruce
George Bruce
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Or, to state it another way, if the teachers and schools want to preserve their warped concept of fairness, oh, the joy when a white child – particularly a well-brought-up one – misbehaves enough to be excluded.

Mark H
Mark H
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Every now and then a really good article slips through the Guardian’s editorial net, which just reminds one how far that paper has fallen.

Jonathan da Silva
Jonathan da Silva
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Any evidence for that soldier?

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

The irony for the Guardian is that on planet internet…where all journalism must now live as planet print is still dying.. the climate doesn’t encourage pluralism and tends to favour monopoly, and the environment doesn’t include geographic borders.
And on that planet the New York Times is even more barmy, woke (meaning ‘biased’) and downright crazier than the Guardian, and so is probably, eventually, going to be it’s downfall.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

Calling something racist has become cliche. It is the single most vapid, and predictable, reason that comes whenever some statistical measure shows a gap between or among groups. The issue never has to do with those in the lagging group; it’s always some outside malevolent force that’s keeping them down. This is not going to end, at least it’s not going to end well.
When any statistical measure is negatively weighted toward some group, a rational question is – what’s happening in that group? What within that group or its culture contributes to this outcome? No one in the US bats an eye about professional sports being majority black, but show people numbers of homicide and all of a sudden, someone’s “racist.”
The word has been diluted to the point of having no value. It’s like a conversation punctuated with various iterations of the f-word. Eventually, it has all the gravity of saying ‘green,’ its impact eroded by overuse. When everything is deemed racist, then nothing is racist, which would be nice because we might then regain our sanity and move on. But race is part of the grievance industry, and I do mean industry, so it will never go away because too many livelihoods and too much political power depend on its perpetuation.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

It is also a ‘when did you stop beating your wife’ type phrase as its taken ( as in that interview) that any accusations must be true-so we just need to find the culprit. Years ago I did the RGN course and was surprised to find that different staff nurses ( but all of caribbean origin) on different wards would tell certain patients ‘I don’t do white people’ if they didn’t want to help the ( usually old and frail) person. As the entire ward was full of patients of that hue I always wondered what they meant and that their problem was impossible to resolve other than asking the porters to go out and run over a few appropriate people to even up the patient quota

Tami Misledus
Tami Misledus
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Even viruses are racist these days. I know that it’s true because someone who believes they suffer from racism said so. And only those who suffer from racism have the true perspective on racism.

Richard E
Richard E
3 years ago

Most of the media in the UK and US is out to misreport (underreport – overreport – hide – highlight etc) numerous stories to stoke racial tensions.
They’re currently doing this with with Asians in the US.And make Asians another victim group that can join their alliance.
They also do the same with any stories involving women.
Totally dishonest reporting on a daily basis.
They’ll highlight ethnic minority victims of any crime or injustice, hide the white ethnicity of victims, hide the ethnic minority identification of perpetrators of crime and always try and pin things on the white police, unless it happens to be an ethnic minority policeman and then they’ll hide his ethnicity so people assume the policeman is white.
Also they’ll bias the weight of reporting. A white man killed by a black man. They’ll very likely give it minimal reporting and hide the racial characteristics.
A black victim of a white man, and they’ll report, report, report and have pictures, identify everyone, over and over and over, discuss and discuss and discuss. As the average person never looks beyond the headlines, pictures and key discussion points, they end up with a very warped impression of what is happening.
It’s another example of the left and their policy of divide and rule.

Last edited 3 years ago by Richard E
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard E

You can see the same pattern with the BBC. If the suspects happen to be white it is front and centre. If they happen to be non-white there is no mention.
This has been going on for years. Back in 2005/6 the BBC, in preference to reporting the verdict in the racist murder of Kriss Donald, found the time to report the opening of a new arts centre in Gateshead in its running order.
I wonder why

Robert Forde
Robert Forde
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard E

How do you actually KNOW any of this?

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
3 years ago
Reply to  Robert Forde

Read a lot from a variety of sources! Examples A & B: recent mass shooting in Atlanta widely reported as white man attacks asian women reported as possible hate crime! (it was not), while crazy black islamist kills white capital police officer (race and religion ignored at first)

Colin Macdonald
Colin Macdonald
3 years ago

The Graun genuinely believes it goes with the facts, while the rest of us are directed by inchoate prejudice. They think they’re the clever ones, in fact they’re incredibly simplistic, choosing not to fully understand the evidence because to do so might contradict the “narrative”.

William Gladstone
William Gladstone
3 years ago

This all makes sense if you see the public sphere as a battleground, if you see debate as war and arguments as soldiers: and perhaps that is a sensible attitude to have. Perhaps if you want to get things done, to defeat racism or win elections or any such goal, perhaps you need to have the mindset that sees inconvenient complexity as something to be destroyed.

But if you think about that for one second no it doesn’t because all you do is create grievance. Treating debate as war only makes sense if you are an extremist. Unfortunately the time when moderates using reason and data and believing different things when the FACTS change are long gone.
I find it weird you expected nuance or actual journalism from the Guardian or the New Statesman. Activists not journalists.
Also bear this in mind who benefits from constantly claiming society is racist? The super rich on the left that deflect from the unfairness inherent in their inconveniently hypocritical piles of cash by effectively saying “don’t look there deal with this greater evil I invented instead”

Jonathan da Silva
Jonathan da Silva
3 years ago

Love the wild conclusion…. Super rich on the left… Like who? Albeit left now seems to mean anyone who is a bank/corporate monopoly lover which I hate to break it to anyone is by definition right even if they are stateist.

Iliya Kuryakin
Iliya Kuryakin
3 years ago

The vast majority of excluded pupils are male but The Guardian doesn’t cry ‘institutional sexism’. It’s as if they have a political agenda….

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago

Scrapping the term BAME in government reporting is going to be hugely traumatic for lazy “narrative pedlars” like the Guardian, Runnymede Trust etc.
I look forward intently to their discomfort.

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago

It is the most basic and obvious piece of data-checking imaginable, and the fact that they didn’t do it makes me think that they settled on their chosen explanation long before the facts came in.”

Well that’s about right for the Guardian. But on the main topic here, the fact that only one particular group of ethnic minority kids is more likely to be excluded while others, including black Africans are less likely than whites to suffer the same fate, pretty much stuffs the Guardian’s argument, doesn’t it. The whiter than white Irish travellers being excluded more than anyone else also suggests that the issue, as it should be, is the intolerable behaviour of some individuals. IT IS THE CULTURE of some groups. In the case of the travellers, it is about violence and horrible attitudes. No group more esteems violence as a way of getting what you want more than the Irish Travellers do, and I’d say that many of the west Indian lads do the same. WE already know this if we have had our eyes open and are not going about in a frenzy of left wing virtue signalling. Just look at the mugging rates for ethnic groups. Of course you can’t say that any more, but it is true nonetheless.

Tami Misledus
Tami Misledus
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Fox

Oh no, not those those Irish Travellers and their white privilege.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

British schools are probably the least racist schools in the world so this is just more garbage from the Guardian. If the Guardian feels so strongly about these excluded children they could offer them all internships. One or two of them would probably turn out to be quite good journalists as they would at least have some understanding of the more brutal areas of society. And the rest of them might enjoy ordering Afua’s daily portion of shoulder chips.

Last edited 3 years ago by Fraser Bailey
John Standing
John Standing
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

You seem to think that racism is wrong, as if the last 200,00 years of human evolution never happened,

Last edited 3 years ago by John Standing
Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  John Standing

I certainly do think that racism is wrong. In fact, the only march or protest I have ever attended was an anti-apartheid march in the 1980s.

Andy Paul
Andy Paul
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Well if we are to believe David Lammy the idea of an English ethnicity is a “myth”, which in effect means he is denying the existence of the English.

James Rowlands
James Rowlands
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Then presumably you are as surprised as I am that the left are busy trying to recreate Apartheid in all but name. This time in reverse and for the benefit of a tiny minority of blacks with let’s say an alternative non conservative lifestyle.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Can you translate this please?

Robert Forde
Robert Forde
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

“British schools are probably the least racist schools in the world”. Really? How do you know this?

Weyland Smith
Weyland Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Robert Forde

“study of 80 countries over three decades found Western countries were most accepting of other cultures with Britain, the U.S., Canada and Australia more tolerant than anywhere else.”

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Robert Forde

From the same source that says Carlsberg is probably the best lager in the world.

Weyland Smith
Weyland Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

See the Race Equalities Report, out today, or any other survey done in recent years, or watch the endless stream of people trying to gain entry to this racist snake pit.

Aaron Kevali
Aaron Kevali
3 years ago
Reply to  Weyland Smith

Right? If we were literally seething bigots, why on earth would hundreds of thousands come every year?

Tami Misledus
Tami Misledus
3 years ago
Reply to  Aaron Kevali

To give us the benefit of their superior cultures?

George Stone
George Stone
2 years ago
Reply to  Robert Forde

Perhaps fraser lives in this society.

George Bruce
George Bruce
3 years ago

When it comes to race, the Guardian is about as unbiased as Der Sturmer probably was. The Guardian version also has a favoured minority taking the part of the beautiful Aryans.
It is just relentless propaganda.
It is worth looking at their photos too. They do not get in the paper by chance.
One a day or two ago impressed me. Four children are in a playground. A black boy and girl, a white boy and girl. Three are swinging happily together on a suspended tyre in the foreground. One is unsmiling at the back and off to the side, antisocially looking away from the children and even wearing a helmet.
You know which one without me telling you.
Just to repeat – do not tell me this just happened that way.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  George Bruce

I hadn’t heard that quote before, but it hits the nail right on the head

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago

Here is the inside story from someone (I know) who works with children at school from low income (USA), which also happens to fallow race somewhat in this instance. The students who are bad all the time are no longer punished Unless they do something really, really, bad. (there is zero tolerance for violence pretty much though, they do not put up with bullying much either, but everything else, disruption, attitude, damaging stuff, hostility/rudeness, and so on is not very controllable in the bad kids)

The thing is they do not respond to punishment, their parents either do not care, or more likely, will harass school officials instead of their child if they misbehave and are called on it.

The other thing is nothing short of kicking them out of school will work because they ignore punishment, and excluding is not an option really, as the law requires the children go to school, SO the School has to use its funding to send the child to ‘Bad Children School’, a special school with very few students per adult, a long way off as it serves a large area, and requires the school transport the child there and back every day. The School has to pay for this Very expensive school by the day per student they send, and so has to pay with money they want to spend on Sports and day trips and so on.

So to exclude the bad kid means sending them to a very expensive school, so cannot fund the quality programs they wish to.

So if you are badly behaved all the time it just is tolerated. Good kids get punished though, because they and their parents respond to punishment – but the bad kids are just let run wild to much.

Do not believe the statistics as they are not reported fairly. The bad kids do not get reported much (although they commit most of the offenses) and the good ones do – but they commit few offenses. This is what happens as the children have learned to run the system, and the adults are too afraid to control them. Good kids respond to punishment so stay good. Bad kids do not respond to punishment, so get away with it and get worse. But to be fair, back in the 1970’s I was one of those bad kids they gave up on and just left alone, so I guess it was kind of like that then too, but not nearly as much.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

In the U.K. we have Pupil Referral Units where disruptive schoolchildren are sent when their behaviour can no longer be tolerated in school. These PRU’s are vastly oversubscribed, waiting lists are used but schools have to just deal with the problem until a place becomes free.

James Rowlands
James Rowlands
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

That is why education should be an opportunity not an entitlement.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  James Rowlands

I agree. The trouble is, what to do with all the useless ones.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

National Service.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

I understand the services do not want them! A “professional “ army only want feral youth in wartime.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

I’m afraid that other end destinations are court, prison and more statistics.

David Fitzsimons
David Fitzsimons
3 years ago

Parenting and respect for authority – fit a measure of these into your model and I predict that > 95% of the variation will be explained.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago

The Guardian is a cesspit. I wouldn’t insult my back side by using it for all its worth.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago

The Guardian is a cesspit. I wouldn’t insult my back side by using it for all its worth.

Last edited 3 years ago by Andrew Thompson
Diana Durham
Diana Durham
3 years ago

Britain isn’t racist. It’s not a fraught subject. There has just been a hysteria conjured by manipulative people and followed by thoughtless herd-like people.

Mark Preston
Mark Preston
3 years ago

I wonder if anyone would have the guts to work out if there’s any correlation between exclusions and IQ because if you’re finding date that suggests a link between exclusion and poverty you’re simply using poverty as a proxy for IQ.

John Standing
John Standing
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Preston

Notwithstanding the efforts of the modern egalitarians, we still have a merit principle in society; and intelligence is heritable.

Mark Preston
Mark Preston
3 years ago
Reply to  John Standing

we still have a merit principle in society” – it’s being eroded in front of your very eyes with ‘affirmative action’ programs.

Mark H
Mark H
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Preston

I don’t think so… a while back I helped out with a little charity that aims to prevent exclusions from school. Very often the underlying cause for disruptive behaviour is a lack of structure, either in the home environment or in the child’s own ability to structure their life. So they work with both parents and kids depending on the case.
A lot of the work with kids is in making ways for them to channel their energy externally, e.g. in outdoor activities and using those activities to tech them how to work with others.
Since these interventions are effective in getting kids off the downward spiral to exclusion I don’t think it is related to an innate characteristic like IQ.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark H

It’s not clear that IQ as measured is an ‘innate characteristic’, either though. At any rate, about 30 years ago, I was part of a group that was testing whether the problem with disruptive kids was that they needed plenty more physical exercise than we were giving them. So instead of being sent home, or sent to study hall, or detained after school — or whatever, we gave them more gym class.
It worked, too. (Aside from a certain problem where children would misbehave on purpose because they liked gym, and found listening to teachers yap at them intolerably boring.) But among the things that improved was IQ scores. And things went along well along those lines until somebody decided that the thing to do was to declare that these students were suffering from attention deficit disorder, and what they needed was drugs not more exercise.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago

I know of some schools where that approach to managing what’s been labelled as ADHD is still being followed and to a degree working. Much better than excluding the students.

Mark Preston
Mark Preston
3 years ago

But among the things that improved was IQ scores” – I’d love to hear much more about this please.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Preston

Some other part of the education system, at the same time as the ‘more gym’ intervention was being done by my mother and the rest of the teachers at a very large school, was giving the students IQ tests every 4 years, as well as testing ability in arithmetic and reading. Their conclusion, when certain students had greatly improved scores after 4 years of schooling, was that the IQ tests at the time often did not measure an inflexible innate ability, but rather an ability that was being trained in school. (And, given the number of immigrants, reading comprehension was a good bet for one of the factors involved.) This is good news about the value of schooling, but bad news if you want to find a fair way to determine which students should be sent to special enriched programs. (And in my mother’s school there were enough students in every grade level to fill 5 or 6 classes, so there was some attempt to put the best students together in the top class. But how do you fairly decide who belongs in the top class?)
In the light of much finger pointing about IQ tests and fairness, the notion that ‘how much physical activity is optimal for adolescents needs to be revisited’ didn’t receive much attention. But many of the students who had the most dramatic improvement in IQ and test scores were the ones who were getting ‘double gym’.
In the school for 14-18 year olds, a few blocks away the normal amount of gym class for students was *none*, which was also normal for all the schools at the time. Gym was not considered a part of education, and exercise was a leisure activity. But when they put a mandatory gym class in, they found it helped learning, though I forget now whether they had any way to quantify this, or whether it was all the judgements of individual teachers. This, too, was not something the Ministry wanted to explore in more settings.

Last edited 3 years ago by Laura Creighton
Mark H
Mark H
3 years ago

Laura, that’s very interesting. Personally I regard IQ as a measure of ability to do well in IQ tests, and nothing more.
I’m quite academic and it’s clear that most teachers (other than in PE!) have similar personalities to my own, and I’ve often wondered whether that’s why I did well at school.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark H

My mother thought that one of the reasons why the Ministry was uninterested in finding out if ‘more gym’ had a good effect on students in general, and not just on disruptive ones, was that the Ministry was full of people who detested gym class and thought that extra gym could only be seen as a punishment. They didn’t want to waste the students time with such non-academic stuff. Given that they worked to get rid of shop and home economics, at about the same time, I think she may have been right about that.

Last edited 3 years ago by Laura Creighton
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Preston

Didn’t Hans Eysenck (UCL) say all that has to be said about this years ago?

0955: BST

Last edited 3 years ago by Charles Stanhope
Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago

Was that part of his belief in astrology or in psychics?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

I thought he was scathing about Astrology?
As to Physics I have no idea, but do recall he welcomed controversy.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago

Psychics, not physics. He wrote supporting both astrology and parapsychology.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

I’ll have to go to Specsavers when they open!

David Wrathall
David Wrathall
3 years ago

If we accept that arguments on all sides are now deployed as soldiers, what publication is going to run a story saying “Caribbean students are disrupting our schools” selectively using the stats Tom has unearthed. Not even the Telegraph would dare.

The long march through the institutions has won the strategic battle. Only one side is allowed to deploy soldiers.

Aaron Kevali
Aaron Kevali
3 years ago
Reply to  David Wrathall

“Caribbean students are disrupting our schools” 
It’s true though isn’t it?
And yes, for those of IQ 85s or below, there are lovely afro-caribbean pupils all over the place and they have enriched us deeply, I too love reggae and enjoy goat curry, my best friend is black, not all Jamaicans are the same, etc etc.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
3 years ago

The Guardian doesn’t employ a single numerate person.
Even if they cared about reporting honestly, it would be beyond them.
I guess they must have an accountant.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

Their accountants are – allegedly – very good at using various offshore devices in order to minimise or eliminate the Guardian Group’s tax liability.

Saul D
Saul D
3 years ago

The data suggested that exclusions were connected with FSM (so poverty) and Special Educational Needs. Cross-checking for Special Educaional Needs in the stats, SEN is more prevalent for Travellers, Roma and Caribbean pupils suggesting the relationship might be causal as to the reason these groups are being excluded more than others.
SEN can be for emotional, behavioural or slow learning reasons. The underlying issue to address would then be why the prevalence is higher for these communities, and how aspects of mental well-being might be improved for children from a very young age in these communities.
Politicizing the issue by labelling schools as racist, and giving the impression that normal conscientious pupils are being unfairly treated as disruptive, would be completely the wrong approach, and could make things much worse, without really addressing the true underlying problem.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

Really good point. I think it’s connected to the way people react to the term ‘racism’. To say that institutional or systemic racism exists within an organisation, institution or society is not an accusation that each member of that organisation is racist, either consciously or unconsciously, but it seems people understand it that way and react accordingly. Unconscious bias – presumably an attempt to take some of the heat out of the language – doesn’t seem to have fared any better.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

My CRT professors say that systemic racism will last for as long as whiteness exists. Do you agree with that sentiment?

Mark H
Mark H
3 years ago

I work with some Guardian readers who don’t really fall into those categories – they are very bright and competent people. Maybe naive is the closest fit, because they don’t read beyond left-leaning media. But a lot could be down to the gradual polarization of the media – it’s becoming rare to find a range of opinions in one outlet, and the boundary between reporting and opinion is no longer policed. The Telegraph has exhibited the same kind of failure.

Vikram Sharma
Vikram Sharma
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark H

You colleagues may be bright and competent; they are certainly not wise if they only indulge in confirmation bias. And they are not going to learn anything new. So with respect,I would call them smug and sanctimonious. As to polarisation of the media, once you are aware of the fact, all the more reason to seek out alternative views if you are interested in a balanced view.

Mark H
Mark H
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

Sadly, smug & sanctimonious does sum up their attitude.

Vikram Sharma
Vikram Sharma
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

Where?

John Standing
John Standing
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark H

My expectation is that the left mentality is substantially due to these people (a) possessing a religious trait which is all too superficially denied, and (b) misapplying is to the notion of human sameness.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark H

I first bought the Guardian on my way to school in 1978 in the East End of London. I used to buy it (along with other papers) at least once or twice a week for decades. I stopped when the paper became available for free online. It used to be a different paper than what it has become in recent years. All the old print media is under huge pressure from the assault from fragmented online platforms – UnHerd, Substack, Medium etc, and I’m guessing the Guardian’s adopted model (free but with begging pop-ups) is driving both its readership and columnists in a particular direction.
I still go on there, especially for the tech related pieces, although much less often. There are still two or three columnists there I respect – the rest are ghastly. Plus there is only so much you can tease and troll BTL before you are repeating yourself to a whole bunch of other timewasters who are also repeating themselves. It is rare to have a constructive conversation BTL there or come across someone saying something that brings you up short and makes you think.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark H

As many teachers are politically left-wing and claim they take the Guardian newspaper , is the Guardian saying their core readership are racist?

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Indeed it is!
But to the fully converted, they will agree with that assessment as all people are racist at heart in their world view. Indeed as we know “woke” came about from people believing they had become awakened to their inbuilt prejudices.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark H

it’s a wonder how often those “bright and talented people” are among the least informed on any topic. Arguing with them is like arguing with the fundamentalist zealot preaching on the corner about the coming end of days.

Michael James
Michael James
3 years ago

Puritans in a post-religious era need racism as a substitute for sin so that they can browbeat everyone else into moral submission. Sadism parading as virtue.

Last edited 3 years ago by Michael James
Matthew Edwards
Matthew Edwards
3 years ago

Chivers’ intellectual honesty here (as elsewhere) is to be commended. He thought of an objection, tested it on the data, found it didn’t matter, and published it anyway. This is what it looks like when a debate is conducted in the pursuit of truth rather political point-scoring.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
3 years ago

Teachers have previously been accused of favouring Asian children over white children so that they could then discriminate against black children and still claim that they were not racist. That’s where the idea of the ‘model minority’ comes from – a description that is meant as an insult and not as a compliment. Now no doubt teachers will be accused of favouring black African children over black children of Caribbean heritage. All the while no survey is done to analyse the difference in the experiences of black and while teachers in dealing with troublesome students. Out of fear presumably that the survey would show that black and white teachers had problems with the same pupils.

Robert Forde
Robert Forde
3 years ago

Research in the US has shown that there is racial bias in white teachers there (I hesitate to use the term “racism”, which IMO is overdone and unclear). By “bias” I mean that the same behaviour in black kids was judged more harshly than in white kids, and consquently punished more harshly. They did assess that and measure it.
However, the same researchers showed it was possible to address this through training, so that teachers concentrated more on the actual behaviour and less on the ethnic identity of the child. When they did this, the bias disappeared.
Is it the same in the UK? Dunno, guv.
Is this the explanation for the imbalance complained of? Dunno either.
As Tom Chivers says (again) let’s have facts and rigorous research, not a bunch of assumptions masquerading as arguments.

Simon Baggley
Simon Baggley
3 years ago
Reply to  Robert Forde

USA is one thing UK another – you’re talking about unconscious bias training

Sacred Baloney
Sacred Baloney
3 years ago

Very interesting article.

Gary Cole
Gary Cole
3 years ago

Peak-Guardian Wokeism at its finest. Am I the first to say something with ‘Woke’ in it? Could be the new Godwin’s Law…

David J
David J
3 years ago

The Guardian is not the best source for anything much, let alone matters like this.

I recall thinking much the same 50 years ago, when I first starting reading the dailies in earnest.

Last edited 3 years ago by David J
mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

Is it well and good for the grauniad’s overwhelmingly white, wealthy and female acitvists to stir up race hate and try and set black against white and vice versa? I don’t think it is – i think it breaks national and international laws – but hey, why bother, that’s what BJ and his suck-ass mates do. What i do know is that ordinary people like my family, friends and neighbours, ranging widely across race and religious origins do not like racists. Grauniad, BNP, EDL, BLM etc are all the same and 99% white. Should any of these racists get near enough they will find out how much they are hated by us ordinary people.

Last edited 3 years ago by mike otter
Richard Turpin
Richard Turpin
3 years ago

Any article the Guardian prints is going to extraplilate information to further push the Wascism narrative and would never dare to explore any other narrative that could lead to a particular cultural group being more disruptive than others. The problem is, we will never ever have a conversation during the current political climate that would lend data to such an assumption unless of course the group was…

Simon Cooper
Simon Cooper
3 years ago

Tom, please don’t fall into the trap of letting facts get in the way of a good story.
Perhaps a more useful endeavour for your statistical skills would be a review of bias and lack of critical analysis in the mainstream media.
The Guardian would appear to be a suitable place to start, but few of the outlets ask properly critical questions except for the purpose of supporting their own agendas.

roger dog
roger dog
3 years ago

Following this article it would seem that the Guardian itself is institutionally racist.

Lydia R
Lydia R
3 years ago

Teachers and nurses are The Guardian’s favourite demographic. We constantly hear how under funded and badly treated they are and how vital their work is. Now they are saying the NHS and schools are staffed by racists. A bit puzzling.

Chris Mochan
Chris Mochan
3 years ago

It is the most basic and obvious piece of data-checking imaginable, and the fact that they didn’t do it makes me think that they settled on their chosen explanation long before the facts came in.

Gasp!

David Morley
David Morley
3 years ago

Perhaps if you want to get things done, to defeat racism or win elections or any such goal, perhaps you need to have the mindset that sees inconvenient complexity as something to be destroyed.

And you might just end up tilting at windmills.
How can you possibly produce effective policy if you don’t get the facts right.
As it’s the Guardian, I fear this was just a “see we’re right” piece rather than a serious attempt either to solve a specific issue or even to reduce racism.

Vasiliki Farmaki
Vasiliki Farmaki
3 years ago

If for example I go to Chin*, will I be able to educate myself as I wish? If I move to Ira* will I be able to walk free in the streets wearing my aerobics apparel? This article describes the so-called hybrid warfare and mislead us from the problem. The harm and conquer comes better from within using our own culture, values, and resources. It happens quietly masked as humanitarian help, equality, human rights, and by exploiting our Christian values, democracy, and freedom. People who have no whatsoever ‘rights’, ‘freedoms’, ‘education’ etc.. are migrating in the west and ta ta!.. they are asking for their rights.. I have not seen anything more absurd than a Musl*m woman in hij*b, protesting in Athens their equal rights!.. The same recipe again and again.. that somehow the white westerners have committed horrible crimes to everyone else, ..and we still have not repented -the article is an example-. However, it is a wonder why are they all want to come over here? Data, graphs.. serving one thing: hiding the truth=we are the minority. There 3 ways to see it. If I migrate to another country of course I will be minority. Globally though there are certain races who dominate and overpopulate the planet, absorbing vast resources and putting pressure to the entire ecosystem. Do I need to say who they are? And the third is, if we allow the politicians to complete their agenda of replacing the white race, in a few years we will be minorities in our countries, and then extinct species. Do you think overpopulation of certain countries is by chance? Do you think that women treated as slaves in many cultures is by chance? In combination with another fake news called climate change and that they are planning to move into the western countries millions upon millions.. What is gone happen to those enormous areas on earth? What are they planning over there? If we are looking for a chance to reduce inequalities start from overpopulation and despotic regimes… unless you believe we have space and resources for all of them..

Lydia R
Lydia R
3 years ago

We could make a start by all the diversity officers in public institutions resigning or being sacked. They are obviously not doing their job properly according to the Guardian where most of these jobs are advertised.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

‘If British schools are institutionally racist, then it’s a really laser-targeted racism, which discriminates against the kids of Trinidadian descent but actively encourages the ones of Ghanaian heritage.’

To entirely deny the existence of any racism in UK schools and society at large is a reckless lie, but to insist that UK schools and UK society are somehow irredeemably and systemically racist is a truly pernicious one propagated by self-serving, serial grievance peddlers who, in essence, only ever seek to divide, never unite.

Brian Clegg
Brian Clegg
3 years ago

It’s a real shame you didn’t have this before appearing on the Risky Talk podcast with a Guardian data journalist – would have made a great discussion!

Richard Goodall
Richard Goodall
3 years ago

To clarify the Guardian article.

Giles Sams
Giles Sams
3 years ago

Great article, more of this please 🙂

John Nicholls
John Nicholls
3 years ago

Terrific article, Tom. The Guardian’s entire article can be condensed to “in this article, we will set out to prove institutional racism extends to schools in the UK. Let’s begin with the axiom that institutional racism extends to schools in the UK; here’s some evidence. See how, if we assume our axiom, this evidence would arise?”. It’s intellectual dishonesty or incompetence to fail to examine the data from every perspective.
It’s also, whatever your disposition, not useful. You won’t convince people who disagree with you by cherry picking statistics and confusing correlation and causation unless they don’t know you’re doing either. To win an argument, you need to be as charitable as possible to your opponent as a starting point, and then still disprove their point.

Jon Walmsley
Jon Walmsley
3 years ago

“Flattened a complex problem into a simplistic narrative.” Words for our times.

Joy Bailey
Joy Bailey
3 years ago

The percentage of one parent families is also relevant. Pupils from black Caribbean families have highest percentage of single families, lowest school attainment and highest exclusions. This follows down to Indian families which is reversed. It’s a no brainer that you can’t devote as much time to your children if you’re the sole wage earner, tired and struggling.

Mark M
Mark M
3 years ago

I have always found it difficult to believe these reports of a major problem with racist teachers. Most of the teachers I have met have been very PC and ready to bend over backwards to help ethnic minority children. They are also aware that the accusation of racism, when you work for a local council, is very career-limiting and will do anything to avoid it. The argument that they are all subconsciously racist (if they are white) is entirely theoretical and I have yet to see any evidence to back it up. So there must be other reasons for the racial disparity in exclusions and academic achievement. Poverty, culture, family structure, religion and genetics are five that come to mind and should certainly all be investigated with an open mind. In addition to which we have to stop lumping all non-whites together when looking at anything to do with race – there is no such race as BAME. We need to break down the non-white communities when investigating this subject and stop treating Chinese-origin people as the same as Indian-origin people or Caribbean-origin black people as the same as African-origin black people. There are wide differences in outcomes between the various non-white subgroups and highlighting the huge differences in outcomes would completely destroy the generic ‘structural racism’ argument. The article’s comments about “laser-targeted racism” are spot-on and a proper detailed investigation would almost certainly show that for racism to be the cause of the differing outcomes, then it would have to be highly targeted and therefore clearly at the forefront of teachers’ minds – which would be quite unbelievable.

Wulvis Perveravsson
Wulvis Perveravsson
3 years ago

One of the issues with Irish traveller students is that, on the whole, their lifestyle and culture is fundamentally incompatible with the school system.

Jonathan da Silva
Jonathan da Silva
3 years ago

Quite interesting how a piece on getting to the bottom of something number wise is then filled in with comments that are un-sourced and at best anecdotes no doubt for soldiers of the other side.
It’s a shame. Not unHerd just a Herd it seems.

Richard Kenward
Richard Kenward
3 years ago

A key statistic that explains, in part at least, the higher exclusion rate of black Carribean is that two thirds of children from that community grow up without a father present.
This also correlates through to membership of black gangs and the much higher number of black male gang deaths compared to whites. As I understand it 24 black males are murdered for every one white male, and of course these are black on black murders not interracial.

Colin Sandford
Colin Sandford
3 years ago

I do not doubt the Guardian’s stats but also a significant number of white kids mostly boys get excluded.
When our grandson started secondary school I asked how he was finding it as he had gone from a small rural primary school to a large comprehensive in town.
His answer was rather surprising as he described most of the other kids as ‘no hopers’ whose only ambition was to get excluded and wear it as a badge of honour.
His opinion was most of the Asian boys were out to fight each other on religious grounds while their girls tended to be swats. Most of the black lads were into gangs and many of the white lads were either thick or weirdos.
Fortunately both him and his younger sister appear to be getting through secondary education with decent results and probably being more street wise than we were at that age.

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago

David Lammy should be made to learn this article by heart and then go around form city to city repeating it.

Richard E
Richard E
3 years ago

I have noticed though that when you read comments in the Independent – another left wing paper – the comments are much more challenging the left wing, and many of the comments are from the right side of the political spectrum.

Robert Forde
Robert Forde
3 years ago

I wonder how many of those proffering an opinion here have set foot in a school recently, let alone taught in one.

Richard Goodall
Richard Goodall
3 years ago

Two words crossed my mind thinking about the article. One was disingenuous. The other was propaganda. I can’t think why.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago

That’s a quote that Twain attributed to Disraeli, but probably originated with Arthur Balfour.

Bulent Acar
Bulent Acar
3 years ago

Fake news?

Colin Colquhoun
Colin Colquhoun
3 years ago

I like this Tom, do more of this. I work as a scientist and this does hit the spot. I don’t really want to read people’s opinions on what is going on as much as I do, I’d like to read research. It takes longer to produce of course. You’re right about the guardian. But it’s hard to hold this particular problem against them actually. We’re all in a bubble to some degree until our work is actually reviewed by someone from outside. But yes, clearly some groups suffer from this problem much more than others.
Do more of this. It’s compelling.

Graeme Laws
Graeme Laws
3 years ago

Elegant destruction of typical Grauniad journalism. We pretty much know what line they will peddle, so it is no surprise that they cherry pick odds and ends to support their prejudice.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago

It is ironic that a major target of ‘institutional racism’ happens to be an area predominantly manned by people who in other contexts seem above average in being actively ‘progressive’, or Guardian readers.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
3 years ago

An excellent analysis.
“I think this is a case of looking for arguments that support your position,…”.
I think what Tom’s analysis has also shown is that analysis occurs downstream of a frame of reference, as he points out at the beginning of the article. Hence the frame of reference, in this case intentionally or unintentionally, produces reasoning utilising confirmation bias and the common cause fallacy.
“I can understand why the Guardian might do this, because racism really is terrible, and calling attention to it feels sensible.”
By definition this describes an argument from Pathos. I think this uses the affective fallacy such that the felt emotion produced by a phenomenon is conflated with a cognitive-linguistic analysis (interpretation) of the phenomenon such that it then becomes confused with a valid interpretation?
“This all makes sense if you see the public sphere as a battleground, if you see debate as war and arguments as soldiers: and perhaps that is a sensible attitude to have 
 Perhaps if you want to get things done, to defeat racism or win elections or any such goal, perhaps you need to have the mindset that sees inconvenient complexity as something to be destroyed.”
It doesn’t make obvious sense to me. I want to know what is the driving motivator of the “mindset”. What are the constituent elements in their ontology that provides an epistemological justification for confirmation bias and common cause reasoning to name but a few.

Last edited 3 years ago by michael stanwick
Bill Blake
Bill Blake
3 years ago

It appears certain sections of the media are being disengenuous. Not for the first time.

Jeff Carr
Jeff Carr
3 years ago

Excellent piece. It is this sort of rigour that has been applied in the Sewell Report.
It highlights the superficial nature of journalism which is probably based on someone else’s press release. It also reflects the lack of intellectual rigour and willingness to accept what you want to hear.
Very few journalists have done STEM subjects let alone statistical analysis.

Last edited 3 years ago by Jeff Carr
John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago

The Gaurdian employs confirmation bias almost as a journalistic policy- the opposite of actual journalism.

Currently it is running a story questioning why there are so few black scientists in the UK. The problem is that although the story gives the percentages of blacks, Asians and whites who are scientists, it fails to include the percentages of those groups in the general population. When commenters on the article began to point out that omission, commenting abruptly closed. As soon as the Guardian’s rather transparent manipulation of data was revealed, they shut down the “discussion”.

Once any media outlet shifts from the old-fashioned role of objective journalism to social-justice activism, it become problematic. Perhaps it’s time to cancel the Guardian.

mark taha
mark taha
3 years ago

Pupils should not be excluded because of their appearance However some children are daughter than others.

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago

Um — except the fact that these groups are ALSO overrepresented among the poor isn’t doing your argument any favours where UK racial stratification is concerned. It might just mean that you people are as terribly consistent as you are consistently terrible …

John Standing
John Standing
3 years ago

Why are other races in the home of the native British, when the native British have never even been asked whether we want them here?

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago

A very interesting article and good points around seeking other explanations for correlations in data than the obvious, or the one that supports your own view.
It wouldn’t be surprising if there was a correlation between Free School Meals and exclusions – just as there is a correlation between ethnicity and FSMs.
The Guardian coverage of this topic started with the data analysis, referenced other data sources/reports highlighting the same thing and then used first hand accounts from pupils, teachers and an educational psychologist to provide a possible narrative explanation for the data. As such, that is a level of investigative journalism you don’t see much of elsewhere in the press. Whether or not you agree with the conclusions. I read the Telegraph and I’ve not ever seen it there.
The idea that because Ghanaian and Pakistani heritage students are excluded less often black Caribbean heritage students then the problem cannot be one of racism is mistaken. For example, it may be that if you are brought up in a family and culture where you are encouraged to stand up to illegitimate authority, assert your independence and resist what you consider to be unfair you are likely to be subject to more disciplinary action. The point of institutional racism is that organisational culture and systems have developed that reward certain characteristics and penalise others. In this case it could be that the system is set up to penalise some characteristics of black Caribbean culture that are, in other contexts, beneficial and rewarded. If that is the case you can approach it in different ways. You could say that’s the way it is and those black Caribbean behaviours need to change to adapt to the system or you could say how do we work to understand what it is about our systems that could be adapted to better educate students from different backgrounds. Where you stand on that debate is where most readers here will probably differ from most Guardian readers.
As Tom points out – white and black Caribbean students both do badly when it comes to educational attainment compared to other groups but it is black Caribbean students who are more likely to be excluded. That sounds as though the system is to some degree failing to engage fully with both white and black groups and either the response from the system is that more black students are excluded as a result or the response from the black students is behaviour that leads to more exclusions. Either way, it’s something that should be looked at in the context of helping both groups.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

‘That sounds as though the system is to some degree failing to engage fully with both white and black groups…’
The job of the sodding system is not to ‘engage’ with particular groups. It is to teach them to read, write and instil at least some degree of basic mathematical knowledge. Anything else, given our hopelessly dumbed down education system, is a bonus.

Last edited 3 years ago by Fraser Bailey
Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

It’s probably inevitable that the education system is dumbed down when it has to act as a social care system for the many students from broken homes.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

The system instead, at least in the US, teaches them to hate themselves and each other, that math is racist, and that there are women with penises.
A family member teaches English to Chinese children. They’re learning about past participles and gerunds, some are fluent at seven years of age. Our kids, meanwhile, are learning to see the past through the eyes of the present.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

I think it’s probably because I, though not a religious person, still hold on to a belief that all people are equal. I was lucky enough to be born in a prosperous place with lots of opportunity but that was just an accident and not due to any inherent merit on my part. Because of that I think it’s only fair those benefits I got by chance are shared as equally as possible with other people born in less prosperous places. Not saying I live entirely to that principle in all its aspects but it’s my starting point for thinking about how to treat other people.
Why do you think you should have a better life than others just because you were born in a particular place and time?

Richard Middleton
Richard Middleton
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

“it may be that if you are brought up in a family and culture where you are encouraged to stand up to illegitimate authority, assert your independence and resist what you consider to be unfair you are likely to be subject to more disciplinary action”. None of which applies to a school context, unless you’re saying that some families and cultures actively identify teachers as “illegitimate authorities”? In which case maybe that’s where things are going wrong?

Elaine Hunt
Elaine Hunt
3 years ago

Somali boys were being told not to pay attention to or obey female teachers, as this offended male dignity.

So there we go ‘it’s their culture’. How long before we say BUT It’s Not Ours ( and we’re paying the for it)?

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Elaine Hunt

That’s interesting – would be good to know the source. One of the things I’ve read most about Somali families in this country is the high proportion of families headed by women (due to divorce, fathers working in Gulf State countries or men killed in war).

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago

I certainly regarded school, and some teachers, as an illegitimate authority while I was there – arbitary rules, making ‘examples’ of some students, pointless cross country runs, apparent stifling of all attempts at self expression. Luckily enough my polite middle class background meant I was able to get away with rebelling without much consequence and eventually just not going in very often. And that was long before some of the strict academies that we have now where minor breaches of uniform code or talking in the corridor can be rewarded with fixed term exclusion or ‘isolation’ within the school.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
3 years ago

In ultra-violent communities, which every race has, the only legitimate authority is that which is backed by violence and the threat of violence. This is pretty much the definition of a member of an ultra-violent community, and what distinguishes the ultra-violent from ‘people who simply live in bad neighbourhoods with plenty of crime’.
Every race has produced communities of this sort, and it is surprising how similar they all are. Warlords in Mogadishu, mafiosos, Hong Kong Tongs, Yakuza, ISIS members …. the basic rules of how to prosper in an ultra-violent community seem all to have been written by the same person. This makes me think that they are part of our human evolutionary heritage, or perhaps even primate heritage … it may be that these rules are the basis for how violent baboon social groups are organised.
At any rate, one rule for such things is: “Always disrespect those authorities (whoever, really) that you can get away with disrespecting”. Your stature rises until you come up against somebody who is willing to use violence to put you down. (Which, if you pick the wrong person, can get you killed.)

Last edited 3 years ago by Laura Creighton
Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

The difference between Afro Caribbean and Asian children is usually the number of parents. Boys with a father in the home are frequently better behaved. Male teachers are often appointed in loco parentis as such students treat the female teachers with the same disdain as they treat their mothers.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

I don’t doubt that’s a factor. The problem is not one of the children’s own making, though. So the question remains do we try and find a way of working around that issue to help the children or do we write them off?

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Efforts are always being made to help the children. Hence the in loco parentis male teachers.
it’s a sticking plaster on a gaping wound because many people in this society see nothing wrong in producing children into disastrous home situations.

Simon Cooper
Simon Cooper
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

A problem with highlighting that argument is that the concept of the nuclear family with a mum and a dad is rarely considered a beneficial unit for society. The left has successfully persuaded the majority that being married/monogamous/faithful and committed are obsolete values which hold people back rather than holding society together. The resulting chaos is then denied as the deconstructional agenda steamrolls its way through the full range of judeo-christian values.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Cooper

Agreed. From experience within the family, the children at a prep school invariably had two parents and were far less troubled. There are children in the secondary state school with two parents at home and they similarly do not have the problems seen in the various other family mutations.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

“illegitimate authority”

If it is ‘illegitimate’ it cannot be authority. Authority is by definition ‘legitimate’. ‘Standing up to’ (i.e. disobeying) any legitimate authority (i.e. a school whose pupils are treated, under law, identically) is ‘illegitimate’. Otherwise there would never be any authority at all.

Last edited 3 years ago by Arnold Grutt
Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Authority is not by definition legitimate. Authority is the ability to exercise power. Teachers in schools have the ability to exercise power and under the law that is legitimate but human beings exist within spheres of many different legitimacies. Examples: What is considered legitimate by law might be very different to what is considered legitimate by religion. What is considered legitimate by the skinhead gang an individual belongs to might be very different to what is considered legitimate by law or by the biker gang down the road.
If you live in an environment where the concept of legitimate authority, as determined by the State, is discredited by the actions of those legitimised by the state (Eg repeated failure of the Police to arrest criminals coupled with the repeated challenge by the Police of innocent individuals of a particular colour – whether that is perceived or real) then the legitimate authority of teachers, as determined by the state, is also discredited.

Weyland Smith
Weyland Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

“Teachers in schools have the ability to exercise power and under the law that is legitimate but (there are) many different legitimacies” as proved by word salad served atop a waffle.

John Nicholls
John Nicholls
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

I see what you’re saying, but what’s the proposed solution? Is a teacher to identify the culture of each and every student, minority or not, ascertain how much they respond to authority, and calibrate their approach? That kind of thing can take a long time to get right, and there’s never a guarantee they’ll get it right. Of course, a teacher COULD just look at each student and make an assumption about how they’ll need to change their approach based on past experience, but that requires past experience, and sounds an awful lot like profiling to me.
I can understand why a more authoritarian view might say that a school should set a standard and each pupil who doesn’t meet it is punished, in order to reward those that do. I can also understand what you mean, which is that every pupil will have been brought up to react differently to unnecessary exercising of authority, and we should try not to be too harsh on them as it isn’t their fault. But where is the line going to be set? It has to be somewhere, or we will simply have the debate ad nauseam.
Finally, if the failure of police is perceived and NOT real, it seems odd to me that the solution seems to be to change the real, and not to simply make note the perception is wrong.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

where you are encouraged to stand up to illegitimate authority, assert your independence and resist what you consider to be unfair

Nice, so the teachers are illegitimate authority. That would explain much of the problem.

Would you please tell me what would be a legitimate authority in a school.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago

Authority is established due to a combination of official and unofficial, formal and informal legitimisation – as is authority in all areas of life.

Simon Baggley
Simon Baggley
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

“set up to penalise some characteristics of black Caribbean culture ” – so what are these characteristics that are so different from kids who aren’t of Caribbean descent ?

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baggley

I think I gave examples of what they might be but I stress ‘might’ as I don’t have the specialist knowledge to be definitive. ‘encouraged to stand up to illegitimate authority, assert your independence and resist what you consider to be unfair’
Which could be contrasted with ‘Respect those in authority whether or not you think they are right, keep your head down and put up with unfairness’.

Chris Mochan
Chris Mochan
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

What a teenage pupil considers to be ‘unfair’ is unlikely to represent any genuine hardship most of the time. Can you imagine the utter anarchy of a school which encouraged pupils to reject the Authority of teachers and resist what they consider to be unfair?

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Mochan

It’s a balancing act, to be sure.

John Nicholls
John Nicholls
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

I think it’s a balancing act you’ll never stop making; that is to say, it’ll end up being counterproductive. It isn’t unreasonable to encourage pupils to acknowledge the “authority” isn’t there to kill them and hopes to deliver an improvement to their knowledge or life eventually. You don’t have to respect someone to learn from them, and if a teenager thinks they can judge what should and shouldn’t be learned better than the curriculum, they’re allowed to think it. But burden of proof their system is better is on them, and they’d have to convince everyone of its truth. Otherwise, how are we to know they aren’t just refusing to learn because they find it boring to do so (and we are hardly going to sit them down and explain in full detail why it’s important to be able to do basic maths).

Weyland Smith
Weyland Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Sounds more like ‘The answer is racism and here’s some vague stuff I made up as a for-instance’

Simon Baggley
Simon Baggley
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

So all people of Caribbean descent have those characteristics – do you have any statistics or do you as I suspect make this stuff up

John Nicholls
John Nicholls
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

There has to be an equilibrium point in terms of that balance between characteristics that are just inherently desirable and characteristics which might be a product of a differing culture. We can’t turn around and assume as a base point that the system is problematic because, for example, it rewards a characteristic like hard work, if some culture out there doesn’t prize it as highly.

That’s not an automatic conclusion of systematic racism, because it might be an incidental arising of something that is translatable to success in a large proportion of fields. I’d hope that while schools serve to socialise students well, they also serve to educate, and educating is made easier by conformity, acknowledging that word has some negative connotations.

Admittedly, conformity to a classroom mode is not necessarily easy for everyone, but I’d suggest it isn’t the worst idea to expect pupils to learn that it is useful to them in the long run.

Last edited 3 years ago by John Nicholls