The Rise of Karens

In episode two, Sarif and Pran invite Maire Cervenak from New Jersey (USA) to contribute on the ‘rise of ‘Karens”.

We delve into questions like:

What is a ‘Karen’? Is the term Racist? Sexist? Classist? What are ‘White Women’s Tears’? How does it relate to privilege, intersectionality and society today? And finally, as antiracists, how do we battle its impact? 

The ‘American Idol’ President

The US election has yielded some interesting results.

Should we all be celebrating?

In this episode, Pran Patel and Dr Sarif Alrai reflect on the outcome of the 2020 US Presidential elections. They talk about the nature of politics, knowledge, and populism in today’s society.

Listen below and hit the up button to like and subscribe.

www.therealtalkspodcast.com

Lord Kilclooney Thinks His Words Are Acceptable.

Referring to the Vice Present elect as ‘the indian’ is not only dismissive it upholds white supremacy.

Yes, people make mistakes, however, this was what the lord said about Leo Varadkar Ireland’s Former Taoiseach.

Any complaints alleging breaches to the House of Lords Code of Conduct can be made by following the link below.

Members of the House of Lords are subject to the Nolan Principles.

And here is harassment under the code of conduct.

The form and details are below.

uk/globalassets/documents/lords-commissioner-for-standards/complaint-to-commissioner-form.pdf

Assessment – Intelligence and IQ.

By Pran Patel with thanks to Dr Sarif Alrai

How do we assess intelligence in human beings?

The first time we encounter assessment by what it is by today’s standard could be at the introduction of the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) test. Alfred Binet initially developed this test, and it was later adapted by US psychologist Henry Herman Goddard 1908 and Lewis Terman in 1916. Terman and Goddard sought a test which measured your ‘innate abilities’ and your ‘theoretical maximum’ through an assessment against a predefined specification. As you can imagine from that day IQ tests, have been used by those seeking to maintain the societal status quo. Goddard himself later propagated the idea that the descendants of marriage produced ‘normal functioning people’ and those outside of marriage sired inferior people and criminals (Benjamin 2001).

Not surprisingly, Goddard’s work attracted interest from eugenicists, well what do we expect considering the above statements? Further to this, he thought that ‘feebleminded’ people should be isolated or sexually sterilised to stop them from passing on their genes. These narratives led to (in 1924) the US state of Virginia developing policies which allowed the forced sterilisation for people with low IQ scores (which was upheld by the US supreme court. It seems that the allies and the Nazis liked this approach equally as around this period the Nazis were using this as propaganda to authorise the murder of children with low IQ scores.

The problems with IQ tests and their like are nothing new, in 1974 Beeghley and Butler cited this factors in an argument for the abolition of their use in schools post desegregation in the USA 1) intrinsic to the tests themselves, 2) characteristics of the testing process, 3) related to the societal and educational connotations 4) the institutional racism as a consequence of their use. 

What are the issues with the tests? IQ scores are calculated relative to a similar aged population (usually with a 3-month banding); in essence, every score is a ranking with the median value being set at 100 (the scores are normalised). If your IQ score is higher than a 100, this means that you rank better than the 50% of people taking the test.

As even the premise of IQ tests and their measure of innate intelligence are relative to the population of the people taking the test, the genetic argument starts to fail. How can innate intelligence be measured against other people? The ‘Flynn effect’ is from the analysis of the (tangible) increase in IQ test scores (around 3 points per decade) this rise is too high for it be explained by evolutionary science, so, this improvement must be caused by something else. It cannot be a coincidence that these gains are occurring at the same time as access to schools is increasing. Naturally, most capitalists will tell you as demand increases so too will supply, and this ‘competition’ propels standards. Therefore, these increased scores are the result of not nature, but nurture.

The Stanford-Binet test is cited as measuring[1] 1. Fluid reasoning, 2. Knowledge 3. Quantitative reasoning, 4. Visual-spatial processing 5. Working memory. IQ tests are a measure of intelligence, just a measure of intelligence.  Like any other assessment, you can prepare for them through practice. In fact, the https://stanfordbinettest.com/all-about-stanford-binet-test/how-study-stanford-binet-test website states to practice:

Fluid Reasoning: general patterns/puzzles.

Knowledge Test: Getting into the habit of consuming informative media such as science magazines or books on history will help you excel on this section of the assessment.

Quantitative Reasoning: Focuses more on raw mathematical ability than it does on mathematical knowledge, i.e. knowing advanced calculus is not necessarily going to help you, where practising tricky calculations.

Working Memory: Learning memory methods used by memory champions such as memorising 500 number sequence in 5 minutes will drastically improve in this section

Visual Spacing: Although more complicated, there are a wealth of practice tests available.

The idea of measuring innate intelligence has long gone with the concept of practice and development before we get into the history of testing and race. What does the Stanford Binet IQ test measure? Are we actually measuring ‘intelligence’? Are we just measuring against how the broader populations perform in these five discrete areas? Who has decided that these are the areas where the metrics of intelligence lie? Each time we use this, or any similar, test we validate them. That is, by using these assessments we are buying into their definition of intelligence. Given the discussion in this chapter, it is clear that there are flaws to this position. These IQ assessments have evolved to become what they are. Any system whose roots are so deeply entangled with racism and prejudice cannot evolve to a better place – a ground up re-think and re-design is required. IQ tests and the global standard in tests such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) and Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) have a reliance on reading and writing in English, equally are ethnocentric and are widely based on western (the global north) standards of ‘intelligence’, that’s the thing with assessments they measure what you want them to. It is also worth noting that the company who publishes the WAIS and the WISC assessments, Pearson Inc., is currently worth around about $4.39 billion.

Who decides what is essential? And different cultures will have various factors which impact upon cognitive functions, neural functions and neuronal structure (Fasfous et al., 2013).

The way people look at, process and the way their brains are structured is impacted on by the culture in which they grew up.  Fasfous et al., 2013 from the University of Granada investigated at Moroccan immigrants to Spain and a group of Spaniards. Researchers accounted for language (non-verbal testing), socio-economic, education level, age and sex in their sample. They found that the immigrant group were more likely to depend on different neuropsychological components (working memory, shifting, attention and decision-making) to native Spanish group (motor coordination and verbal memory) in their overall score.

A person’s culture impacts on way their brain processes information and even in this group where education and monthly income were similar using this as a measure of homogeneity the Moroccan participants and their culture were assessed to be lower. These patterns are equally seen in South African research, where the evidence points towards the growing body of literature that the majority of subtests in the WAIS-III hold cross-cultural biases (Cockcroft et al., 2015). I conclude that not only is intelligence testing tiered through biased assessments methods (verbal and non-verbal) but based on one’s proximity to the dominant culture.

Acculturation is dependent on factors such as the length of time a person is within the dominant culture, socio-economic status, level and quality of educations, home environments, language preference, etc. have all been shown to impact on scores, test-wiseness (“test-taking skill, motivation, and perceptions of test face validity” (Kennepohl et al., 2004; Shuttleworth-Edwards et al., 2004; Perry et al., 2008) Harris et al. (2003), Manly et al., 1998), Nell, 2000, p. 133 in Cockcroft et al., 2015.).

The more westernised or white, your culture is and has become, the higher the likelihood of higher IQ test scores.

Is it that cultures from the global south are inferior to Eurocentric cultures? Or is that the test measures an intelligence based on and designed within that context? This thinking leads to the assertions that ethnocentric traits influence the way we measure intelligence and subsequently, success.

If this is how the system is tiered, is then everything that flows from is the fruit of the poisonous tree? Yes, I am now asking is the whole education system flawed and tiered towards a white European culture?

It is vital to consider the following questions: How valid is our currently accepted definition of intelligence? What are we actually measuring? Why do we measure intelligence? About the tests, how do we use these test scores? And what impact do they have on the lives of people they have been performed upon?

[1]The Stanford-Binet test defined intelligence into these categories. As such, if it cannot be measured/captured by one of these five – the Standford-Binet test does not recognise it as ‘intelligence’. Different IQ tests will conceptualise intelligence in their own way, but overwhelmingly, they all measure something similar to each other.  

References and Further Reading


Benjamin, L. T. J. (2008, January). The birth of American intelligence testing. Monitor on Psychology40(1). http://www.apa.org/monitor/2009/01/assessment

Cockcroft, K., Alloway, T., Copello, E. and Milligan, R., 2015. A cross-cultural comparison between South African and British students on the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scales Third Edition (WAIS-III). Frontiers in Psychology, 6.

Fasfous, A., Hidalgo-Ruzzante, N., Vilar-Lopez, R., Catena-Martinez, A. and Perez-Garcia, M., 2013. Cultural Differences in Neuropsychological Abilities Required to Perform Intelligence Tasks. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 28(8), pp.784-790.

What is Assessment?

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

-Shakespeare; As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII

This piece is written by Decolonise the Curriculum Associate and Educational Pyschologist, Dr Sarif Alrai.

Ask any psychologist, and the first thing you’ll hear is something about assessment being a process. In all my time working with schools, the narrative around assessments has been a ‘timestamp[1]’; on the 35th of Nevurary, Kanye scored in the 3rd percentile and had an age-equivalent score of 7 years three months – aged 14 years seven months. The problem that occurs when you try to marry the idea of assessment being a process with the concept of a quantifiable ‘ability’, is you lose the essence of the process. In that sense, assessments are a lot like plays, and when we focus on punchy quotes and ‘take-home messages’ such as ‘ability’ scores, we forget the nuanced elements of the scene. Many of you will have seen the quote by Shakespeare and not needed the citation to know who wrote the line; some may have even been able to recall the play. How many of you, be honest, even care about the rest of this scene?

So, we agree, assessment is a process – but what does that mean? In short, assessment is the systemic approach of recording data about an individual or object to determine change over time. Many of you will agree about change over time, but how many of you stopped to ask yourself about whose data? What data? How valid or reliable is that data?

When Assessment Goes Wrong

Ask any psychologist, and the first thing you’ll hear is something about assessment being a process. In all my time working with schools, the narrative around assessments has been a ‘timestamp[1]’; on the 35th of Nevurary, Kanye scored in the 3rd percentile and had an age-equivalent score of 7 years three months – aged 14 years seven months. The problem that occurs when you try to marry the idea of assessment being a process with the concept of a quantifiable ‘ability’, is you lose the essence of the process. In that sense, assessments are a lot like plays, and when we focus on punchy quotes and ‘take-home messages’ such as ‘ability’ scores, we forget the nuanced elements of the scene. Many of you will have seen the quote by Shakespeare and not needed the citation to know who wrote the line; some may have even been able to recall the play. How many of you, be honest, even care about the rest of this scene?

So, we agree, assessment is a process – but what does that mean? In short, assessment is the systemic approach of recording data about an individual or object to determine change over time. Many of you will agree about change over time, but how many of you stopped to ask yourself about whose data? What data? How valid or reliable is that data?

The first assessment that is recognisable as what we would today describe as an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) test was designed around the early 1900s in France by Alfred Binet. Binet’s goal was to identify ‘slow’ children so that they could be placed in special education schools[2]. This test was then picked up by Stanford University, adapted, and published as the Stanford-Binet Test (1916). The test was riddled with flaws and biases. But this served as useful to the nefarious purposes of the assessors whose goal it was to identify IQ as a genetic trait; leading to the field of eugenics—file eugenics under reprehensible and immoral right alongside phrenology[3] (eugenics’ older cousin). Eugenics was serious business and was championed by institutions who in today’s world are considered standard-bearers; Sir Francis Galton, University of Cambridge, Trinity College, and one of my alma maters King’s College London. These early IQ tests, being as invalid as they were, were able to ‘prove’ the genetic traits of intelligence which allowed the worthless conclusions of the superiority of Whites over Blacks – leading to the justification of Black people being enslaved—sentiments and statements still prevalent in far-right ideology today.

But surely, I hear you sigh under your heavy and now furrowed brow that was over a century ago – we’ve learned lots since then. Well, less than 50 years ago…

Before and after school desegregation, black, chicano (gendered in original), and poor children are more likely to be labelled as mentally retarded and be placed in programs for the educable retarded than are anglo or upper status children. Similarly, black, chicano, and poor children are less likely to be seen as physically handicapped. These findings are a result of the use of intelligence tests as the means by which children are labelled mentally retarded. IQ tests ought to be eliminated from the schools because of factors 1) intrinsic to the tests themselves, 2) characteristic of the testing process, 3) related to the societal and educational connotations that the test has, and 4), as seen data reported, the “institutional racism” which is a consequence of their use.

-Beeghley and Butler, 1974

Mani, Mullainathan, Shafir, & Zhao, (2013) showed that there was a direct impact of poverty on IQ scores – an average of 13 points. For reference, the ‘average’ IQ is 90-110. Other factors known to impact assessments of this nature are; mental health of the individual, mental health of the assessor, the assessor’s understanding of the assessment tool, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), family circumstances, an individual’s relationship with school, an individual’s relationship with their teacher, an individual’s relationship with the assessor, school attendance, language skills, cultural differences between assessor and the individual being assessed, testing environment, fatigue, hunger, day-to-day stressors (such as an argument or altercation), self-esteem (Pearson, 2019). I stopped for brevity; the list continues! You may wish to ask the question, why bother at all? Take a few moments to think on the answer to that question before continuing – it will help with the next section.

What Can We Do About This?

How many of the listed factors above are within the control of an individual? Now ask yourself, of the individuals you assess which learners most readily come to mind when you think about these statements? As you progress through the list, notice how many of the learners who come to mind are Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic. It is important to remember; this is not your fault! This is the result of a system that is at best poorly designed and at worse racist. The odds are stacked against particular cohorts. You have an opportunity to do something different.

First and foremost, ask yourself these two questions; what is the purpose of this assessment process? And what is my role in this process? All good assessment is conducted in the same way as all good research – so I encourage to use the mantra ‘what is my assessment question?’ That is, what information do you seek to understand as you go through this process. If your answer is “I want to know Kanye’s reading age”, you’ve missed the point! I appreciate that given the current climate of teachers’ workloads, it’s difficult to find the time to answer these questions. But there never were halcyon days when teachers had all the time in the world to assess children. And so, we come back to our friend Shakespeare. Using the starting point of the purpose of assessment and our role in the process, we see that shining a spotlight on Kanye as a discreet object, untouched and unfazed by the stresses and strains of growing up as a Person of Colour (PoC) in 2020. We join Kanye on stage and acknowledge the role of other players in Kanye’s world. The barriers and roadblocks ignored by the assessments. We take time to understand Kanye’s perception of his role as ‘merely’ a player.

Those who assess are in the business of relationships. The single biggest determining factor in the success of a talk-based therapy is the relationship between the therapist and the client. A phenomenon described as the Therapeutic Alliance (Martin, Garske, & Davis, 2000). It stands to reason that in the process of assessment, the alliance between assessor and the individual being assessed is equally valuable.


[1]In the interest of openness, even though psychologists espouse the notion of assessments being a process – we love a good quantifiable number ourselves. 

[2]Very different to what we would consider ‘special provision’ by today’s standards.  

[3]The practice of determining personality and character traits based on the bumps on your head.

“You Can’t be a Vet”

This is what I was told when I was a 16-year-old trying to decide what I wanted to study by my careers advisor. This was baffling as I had some experience in a small animal practice and my grades up-to this point were ok. I wanted to work with animals, but I was given no options.

Common feedback from students I talk to, from lower socio-economic backgrounds and people of colour, is that they get told that they would never get into veterinary and should consider something else. The profession is 97% white with 31.4% coming from a private school education and 28.5% from selective state schools. In the 8 veterinary schools, only 5% of the population comes from an ethnic minority with a majority coming from outside the UK.  Most students have a middle-class background. There have been huge strides in increasing the number of women entering the profession which is positive. But this mono-cultural profession lacks a huge amount of diversity which is perpetuated by barriers put in place.

Diversity is important for the profession as we treat and care for animals owned by people from a broad range of backgrounds. The sector is starting to understand that we need to be more representative of the country to better serve the animals we look after.

Children commonly start to form ideas about career aspirations at primary age. A big factor is role models. We don’t have many diverse role models and the common imagery of a vet is still a heterosexual white man such as James Herriot or Noel Fitzpatrick. As the child grows up, other barriers include a lack of access to animals, financial burdens in getting experience with vets and/or animals and little or no encouraging advice about becoming a vet from teachers or family. On top of this there is the issue of needing top grades as it is one of the toughest professions to get into due to its popularity.

Many of these barriers exist for the animal related industries in general. Agriculture and veterinary nursing are both 99% white. Having been a lecturer in an agricultural university, we did not have one British ethnic minority student in the whole university. Why was this? Why are children from marginalised backgrounds not pursuing any of these sectors?

Veterinary medicine is a very diverse sector. Most people assume someone working as a vet is either looking at a cat on a table or sticking their hand into a cow’s bottom. But this is wrong. As a vet, one can become specialized into surgery or behavior for example, can chose to work with many species of animals or pick one and can work for private practice, the army, government, research, academia or charity. So, the opportunities are huge, and the veterinary degree is a passport to the many options available.

The veterinary profession knows it needs to change. There are now access schemes and widening participation work being done. Although low in number, there are veterinary surgeons of colour from a range of backgrounds. Inner city farms and some charities can provide animal experiences for children from marginalised communities. The grades are set high but offers can be adjusted to factor in students’ circumstances such as school performance and home situation. Funding is an issue but there are small grants available.

It is important, as educators, that all children are given the opportunity to pursue their dream. I would love to see more people like me working in our profession. I never owned a pet, was brought up in towns and cities and am a person of colour, yet I sit now as a farm animal veterinary surgeon with over 10 years of experience. I am so lucky to be where I am, and it would be great if other children could follow me.

As someone passionate about encouraging diversity, I co-founded the British Veterinary Ethnicity and Diversity Society (BVEDS) where we can support and provide mentorship to teachers and students from marginalised communities who are keen to explore veterinary medicine or agriculture as an option for a career. So please feel free to get in touch.

Navaratnam Partheeban

Enfield Program for Educators

As the Black Lives Matter movement grew momentum following the death of George Floyd I knew we needed to respond with appropriate professional learning for school staff on their return to face to face post lockdown

The same day I realised this, I contacted Pran who I had been following on Twitter. I was delighted he was up for the challenge of producing and facilitating a multi-school, multi-session interactive online professional learning program. 

Together we have worked since then on crafting, designing and redesigning a program of professional learning that begins to look at the breadth of impact unconscious bias and anti-racism can have on a school community. We will be looking at culture, curriculum, behaviour, assessment, recruitment and lots more.  

Together, we have benefitted from the input of a great group of colleagues in Enfield Education, who have formed a steering group. We have taken ideas to them, and heard from their ideas, gaining from each individual’s experience. 

Our program begins this Wednesday, 30th September. Starting with an introduction to anti-racism, Pran will lead the first session which sets the tone for the rest of the program. Throughout the remaining 9 sessions, Pran will be joined by a fantastic colleague from another Local Authority in London, Orlene Badu, who is leading a session on Unconscious Bias. A wonderful teacher and author from the U.S. will be leading two sessions. I started his book during lockdown and have been enriched by reading it.  

Research based, and designed with andragogy – adult learning theory – in mind; we hope to foster a new community. We have extended the opportunity to participate in this program to schools wherever they are. All sessions are on Zoom at 4 p.m. GMT. 

Brochure with details of each session: https://tinyurl.com/UnconsciousBiasAntiRacism 

If you would like to register for the program, or for individual sessions please click here

If you would like further information, please contact us.

5 months into the role of Head of Professional Learning, I am honoured to be a part of this, our first new professional learning program. We hope to meet you online. 

Anna Vaughan

Head of Professional Learning, Enfield

Challenging Our Racism

Challenging Our Racism/Challenging Your Racism

Download this resource here.

Racism comes in the three main forms:

Structural: Policies and practices which are seen within structures of society which favour white people over those of colour. If a fairer society were a house, then structural racism would be the foundations and walls.

Institutional: Policies and practices which are seen within organisations which favour white people over those of colour. In the house analogy Institutionalised racism would a room, the contents and the rules of that room.

Individual: Personal and stems from conscious and unconscious roots. Continuing with the idea of the house, individual racism is an act which takes place in the room.

The insidious nature of racism means that our thoughts, feeling and actions can all lead to discrimination. They are all interlinked, and these may impact unconsciously in our interactions with people and systems.

The most significant step here is recognising that their actions and biases may, in fact, be racist.

Download the resource here.

 

Individual Racism

  1. Interrogate your personal conscious and unconscious bias.
  2. Think through your personal preferences and toxic associations; this is the source of all unconscious bias.
  3. Name your favourite films, books, actors, stories and ask yourself where those ‘preference’ originated.
  4. Do the same with people you do and do not appreciate.
  5. Are they any trends with those groups?

 

Feelings:

Write down, how do you feel about different groups (positive and negative)?

 

Thoughts:

What stereotypes do you hold (positive and negative)?

 

Actions:

Have you let any of the above impact on your decisions (positive and negative)?

 

Institutional Racism

  1. Who is impacted by your current organisation?
  2. In schools think about behaviour records, exclusions, outcomes, who’s head boy and girl, etc.
  3. How do the policies and procedures impact on the above groups and why?
  4. How do the above two sections leak into the everyday practices in your organisation?

 

Evaluation:

Write down all the outcomes of your organisation. Are there any cases where PoC are adversely impacted?

 

Policy and Procedures:

What are the outcomes of the policies in your school? i.e. Who is punished for by hair policies?

 

Practices:

Are there any trends that impact on PoC?

 

Structural Racism

  1. Accept we are all complicit in structural racism; all of us are responsible.
  2. What are the structures in our society?
  3. By society, I mean what is deemed as acceptable and not acceptable in society?

 

National Policies:

Which policies do you support? And how do you they impact on PoC?

 

Unwritten Societal Rules – Procedures:

What are the implicit rules you live your life by and see in society?

 

Your Reality:

How do the above two impact on PoC in your society?