Silly theories

15th November 2002 at 00:00
It is difficult to tell from last week's report of David Eastwood's speech to north-east secondary heads ("Heads warned against fads") exactly which fads he was warning against.

There was no explicit reference to school development planning, performance (quality) indicators, audits or target-setting or even to 5-14. Instead, he seemed to attack "silly theories" concerning "right brain left brain learning" and "emo-tional intelligence".

The main questions must be: when is a fad not a fad and at what point does a theory become "silly"? The fact that the originator of the right brainleft brain theory won a Nobel prize for his work suggests that it is not the theory which is silly. Daniel Goleman's book Emotional Intelligence was well-researched and has been influential.

Perhaps what we should be doing is not dismissing theories out of hand but agitating for research to be funded by the Scottish Executive Education Department on the relevance of the theories he mentions.

It is a pity when someone of David Eastwood's vast experience chooses to dismiss ideas out of hand without testing the evidence. Perhaps, when the results of the national debate are considered, we might be in a position to subject these theories to a rigorous critique and in so doing gain access to the strategies for learning and teaching which stand up to scrutiny.

Brian Boyd University of Strathclyde

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