# Michael Gove’s Kafkaesque logic

Michael Gove, our education secretary, doesn't appear to understand what an average is.

Michael Gove, our education secretary, doesn’t appear to understand what an average is.

This is how Gove responded when asked last year, during a question and answer session with the Education Committee, to explain his Kafkaesque logic as to what makes a good school good.
(Transcript here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmeduc/uc1786-i/uc178601.htm)

### 11 Responses to “Michael Gove’s Kafkaesque logic”

2. #### Chris Kitcher

It just shows what a moron Gove is. Unfortunately he is in charge of education no wonder we are so far down the world rankings.

3. #### George Hallam

It is mathematically possible.

It’s all about the distribution of scores, not the level of scores.

For more and more schools to be above he average all that is requires is for the distribution to be highly sued rather than being symmetrical distributed about the a mean. To achieve this a few brave individual schools must try hard to perform increasing badly. Their low scores will lower the average, so enabling more schools to be above the average.

This will only work if all the other schools stop trying to improve their scores.

4. #### wasateacher

It depends on whether Gove is referring to the mean, median or mode. The median is the middle one when all are rank ordered – this would mean that you would always have the same number above the average as below the average. The mode is that result which occurs most often. This could go up or down whilst, in general, results were overall showing improvement. The mean is the sum of the results divided by the number of results. – this is as open to political abuse as any other statistics. The argument about the mean doesn’t really work in practice because the scores are limited to the range of 0 to 100 and, although there are schools on 100%, the only ones on 0% seem to be special schools or those which do the IBacc.

The whole response, particularly on failing schools, demonstrates Gove’s arrogance. What will he do about all the “failing” academies? He has again ducked questions on that.

5. #### swatnan

The more I look at Gove the more I do believe he is metamorphising into an unpleasant insect.
We should never have brought League Tables in; they’ve just undermined the State Education System.

6. #### Ian Scottt

“…and if ALL schools must be good”

So, no, it’s not mathematically possible. Of course more than half of schools can be of above-mean performance. But ALL schools cannot be above-average.

7. #### GW74

It’s perfectly logical if the requirement is to exceed LAST YEAR’S average, which is clearly what Gove means by getting better all the time.

8. #### GW74

you’re overthinking it. Gove just means you have to exceed the previous year’s average and so the average improves each year, which is what he means by “getting better all the time”.

9. #### Andy Buckley

The idea that all schools should be better than the previous year’s average (of any kind) every year, is also nuts. From the comedy transcript I get the impression that he really just doesn’t know what he’s talking about, other than the blind truism that everything should always get better.

10. #### Andy Buckley

But is totally unrealistic.

11. #### Pierre Bernardi

George Hallam, it is not possible for everyone to be better than average. Not mathematically possible. It is possible, and even trivial, for a majority to be better than average. That is why there is a second measure, the median, which relates to distribution of the population. By definition, 50% of a population exceeds the median. That is what median means. It is not possible for 100% of a population to exceed the median. It is not possible for anything other than 50% of a population to exceed the median, by definition.

Here’s an example: If in a class of ten children, 9 score 11 at a test, and 1 scores 1, then the average score at the test is exactly 10, which 90% of the population exceeded.