Neither am I - even so, I was tempted at first to get irate about Rod Liddle's contemptuous dismissal of bloggers. But then, on further reflection, that would surely be demonstrating exactly the same readiness to take offence that many of us satirize on a regular basis.
Which is a long-winded way of saying this post is bound to offend some people, but only if they allow it to. With the start of the new term, matters academic are permeating the blogosphere once again, and I feel there's something that needs to be said.
It's a tale of two schools, set a few streets apart in an industrial town somewhere in Britain. Highlands is the local flagship with a very large sixth form; A level results regularly appear near the top of league tables and a high proportion of pupils go on to good universities.
Lowlands has no sixth form - like many local authorities, this one has gone down the route of making most schools 11-16 and concentrating the sixth form provision on one site - at Highlands - or in technical colleges.
All pupils in the area have the right to attend the school of their choice and to go on to the sixth form at Highlands. Why, then, do all the other schools in the area have below-average GCSE results, while Highlands hovers near the top of the tables?
The contrast is even more striking in the shared catchment area of our two schools - Lowlands appears in the bottom 50 schools nationally for GCSE results, despite taking pupils from the same area as its league-topping rival.
There are some obvious conclusions to draw; parents of clever children will obviously aim for Highlands so the school is vastly over-subscribed (though selection isn't officially allowed, this will increase the chances pupils are bright) and house prices near Highlands have rocketed, pricing out 'disadvantaged' children.
And there are also some very large elephants in the classroom. For years I've been waiting for at least one of them to be noticed in the endless results coverage but so far they remain unobserved, unmentionable pachyderms uncomfortably squashed between the lab benches and the computer desks.
Elephant One is heredity. Current orthodoxy is that all 'learners'* are born equal, with the same capacity for achievement, and subsequent differentials are the result of environmental factors or a 'specific learning difficulty'. And it's wrong - heredity says the children of the successful professionals in their expensive houses might well get top results regardless of environment.
Elephant Two is discipline. As it becomes increasingly difficult to exclude disruptive pupils - and Heads who do so are soundly castigated by a certain sector of the press - teachers are struggling to do their job and keep control with almost no sanctions available to them - even sarcasm is banned these days.
The higher the proportion of these pupils, the less the others will learn, however bright and well-motivated they are. In Lowlands, there is also the question of critical mass; one unruly pupil may be over-ruled by the rest - half a dozen will make life very difficult indeed for their hard-working classmates.
And Elephant Three, perhaps the most contentious of the lot, is teaching**. Teachers choose to work in 11-16 schools for a variety of reasons - location, of course, and the availability of jobs - but those who want to teach sixth formers will move on as soon as they can.
The others remain for a variety of reasons, ranging from the laudable (they feel they can make a difference where they are) and the mundane (they can't or don't want to move house) to the disappointing (the ones who aren't up to sixth form work academically) and the downright reprehensible (no A-level essays, so plenty of time for militant union activities).
So Lowlands has some wonderful inspirational teachers, but it also has far more than its fair share of those struggling with the demands of their subject, the terminally disenchanted and strident union activists - NUT membership is well over three times that at Highlands, where most staff belong to less confrontational unions.
And there you have it - three elephants whose existence governs the academic achievement of hundreds of 16-year-olds every year. And until someone points them out, there will continue to be much hand-wringing and lamentation over the inexplicable failure of Lowlands pupils and the social deprivation that must be the cause.
*Current edu-speak for the young person in the classroom. In the most nauseating example, teachers are also required to designate themselves 'facilitators and learners', and school heads to adopt the title 'Head Learner'.
**A representative example from a 2005 study of physics teaching by the University of Buckingham:
- Pupils’ opportunity to participate in physics and be taught by teachers well-qualified in the subject is reduced if they attend an 11-16 school.
- Nearly a quarter (23.5%) of 11-16 schools had no teacher at all who had studied physics to any level at university.
- Teachers’ expertise in physics as measured by qualification is the second most powerful predictor of pupil achievement in GCSE and A-level physics after pupil ability.