Making Kids Cleverer A Manifesto For Closing The Advantage Gap14.99
Review by Peter Hall
“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it”.
This quotation by Leo Tolstoy is at the start of the book and in many ways is
The book opens with a challenging chapter presenting the reality of our educational system today. There are some truths which are universally acknowledged – those children from disadvantaged backgrounds are disproportionately more likely to struggle at school. The national performance gap is not closing at all quickly. By the end of secondary school, the gap is about 19 months and has closed by only three months in the past decade. Despite large amounts of money, there are few obvious paths to success. And so the author takes us on a journey through a structured discussion to help us understand why the gap exists and to point us towards some solutions. The book gathers pace.
To begin with, the chapters are more theoretical and research-based. Didau explains clearly, but there is such a lot to explain that the chapters need length and detail to fully do their job. As the book progresses the theory turns into suggestions and ideas for practice, culminating in a call for action and an enthusiastic and motivating conclusion.
Stepping back a little then, chapter 2 is a discussion of the way our brains work, and how we can learn things.
Chapter 3 unpicks many issues about intelligence and what it means to be clever. There are many myths to be dismantled and debunked to enable the truths to shine through.
Chapter 4 explains very powerfully the difference between inheritance and heritability. Since we can’t change our children’s genes we can focus on the changes we can make in their environment. Didau suggests that we may be able to “shift the whole curve upwards” and increase the intelligence of all children.
Chapter 5 deals with solutions – and before tacking the recent drive towards increased knowledge, other ideas are explained and evaluated.
Chapter 6 explains ideas and research around memory. What we can do in the classroom to help students improve and develop their memory (and more crucially, what we should stop doing that hinders them.)
Chapter 7, a little contentiously, suggests that improving knowledge should lie at the heart of our solution. Didau asserts that we can’t think about something we don’t know, and so we need a wider knowledge base before we can improve our thinking. And then the final three chapters are less theoretical and more practical, offering and proposing solutions.
Chapter 8 discusses what knowledge we think children ought to have. This is a very timely chapter and would be worth reading on its own, especially now as many of us are in schools discussing our curriculum and trying to refocus our efforts and redesign much of what we teach.
Chapter 9 tackles the myth that practice makes perfect, and reminds us that practice actually makes permanence. So we teachers need to know what sort of practice is effective and helpful, and what is mere “work” and time-filling activity.
Chapter 10 tackles the day-to-day challenge of how we teach, how we can be sure the children are actually learning, and not just compliantly looking competent in lessons.
In the final
Schools can mitigate against asymmetric environmental influences by teaching children powerful, culturally rich knowledge in a way they are most likely to remember and be able to apply to the circumstances of their lives. We cannot all be geniuses, but we can all get cleverer.