Gove's claims of teenagers' ignorance harpooned by retired teacher

James Ball,, May 13, 2013
Commentary by Stephen Downes

This is the sort of thing we face in education. The British education secretary, Michael Gove, said in a Mail on Sunday article in March: "Survey after survey has revealed disturbing historical ignorance, with one teenager in five believing Winston Churchill was a fictional character while 58% think Sherlock Holmes was real." It turns out that the source he used was PR-commissioned opinion polls originating from Premier Inn and UKTV Gold press releases. His fallacious claim was exposed by Janet Downs, who filed a Freedom of Information request to obtain the information. The problem isn't so much that Michael Gove said a silly thing, it's that this is the sort of data relied upon by authorities and managers in general to make education policy.

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