Tonight I participated in BBC’s “The Moral Maze”, discussing the recent reactions to a report by Dominic Cummings, an advisor to the education secretary, that mentioned that genetic factors have a big impact on educational outcomes. This ties in with the recent book G is for Genes by Kathryn Asbury (also on the program) and Robert Plomin where they argue that children are not blank slates and that genetic information might enable personalized education. Ah, children, genetics, IQ, schools – the perfect mixture for debate!
Unfortunately for me the panel tore into my transhumanist views rather than ask me about the main topic for the evening, so I ended up debating something different. This is what I would have argued if there had been time:
An interesting article from the Guardian has been bouncing around my Facebook feed of late. The author, Damien Shannon, was offered a place to read for an MSc in economic and social history at Oxford University (St. Hugh’s College). Shannon managed to find sufficient scholarships to pay the required fees, but he was not permitted to take up his place because he only had managed to put together £9000 per annum for living expenses, less than the £12,900 required. Shannon is now suing Oxford on the grounds that the required funds are excessive and unfairly exclude students who have neither the resources nor the need for the lifestyle that £12,900 brings. Whether Shannon’s suit has legal merit is far beyond my own competence, but I believe he nevertheless has a point that the required expenses are excessive and unfair. And while this blog post will be primarily discussing the issue of Oxford graduate student living expenses, the general issues will apply to any school with a similarly inflated living expense requirement. Continue reading