John Walker's Electronic House

Brain Gym: Flipping Out

by on Apr.03, 2008, under Rants

Ben Goldacre points out a wonderful moment in last night’s Newsnight, where Paxman introduces a clip about “Brain Gym“. This is some utter bilge being taught in primary schools where children are encouraged to wave their arms around in such a way that the electrical circuits in their bodies connect balancing the left and right halves of their brains… Oh good grief.

You can watch the clip by following this link, which you really ought to. It starts about 21.30, unless you’re Stuart Campbell, and then it starts last Tuesday.

What I most want to share is the interview with the inventor of Brain Gym after the report, in which Paxman is at his sneery best.

Paxman: You say in your teachers’ manual here when you talk about hook-ups that they connect the electrical circuits in the body. What exactly are these electrical circuits please?

Paul Dennison: Well it’s my opinion that we are electrical, that we do have circuits and connections, and when we bring our energy to the midline, to the central point, we are breaking out of the reflex to go from one side or the other to bring things back to the centre where we can be calm and relaxed.

Pax: You say that it’s your opinion that we are electrical, Mr Denison. Are you medically qualified?

PD: No, I’m not medically qualified. I’m an educator. But I study and read and uh. The uh. There are studies to show that we do have electrical… acupuncture and other procedures are based on the fact that there are electrical circuits in the body. And we are building on the shoulders of these people who have been doing these things for thousands of years.

Pax: Is the fact that you’re not medically qualified explanation enough for statements in this teachers’ manual of the kind that “processed foods do not contain water”, which you know is apparent nonsense.

PD: Uh… So the… We’re interested in helping children and these things work and we explain them the best we can and we are going to edit the manual and rewrite it and we appreciate your help and helping us point these things out. [obscured by Paxman] to the best of my ability to help children and help teachers have a context to why they are doing the movements.

Pax: But if your manual can contain idiotic statements like that, is there any reason to believe anything else in it?

PD: I do believe those statements are true and I will prove…

Pax: You believe processed food contains no water do you?

PD: I had a context for that statement meaning that pure water is more immediately active and available to the brain and that I’m not attached to either, but that was the explanation I had at the time.

Glad that’s being taught in schools then!

9 Comments for this entry

  • Lu-Tze

    The kids at the end of that piece genuinely worried me, with their 100% buy-in to what they were being told. You could argue that there is some mental placebo effect, that because the kids believe they are going to learn better they actually end up learning better, and that the exercises are mostly just some kind of kids Tai Chi, calming them the hell down from all the sugar and running around. However, the indoctrination of the success of this kind of technique is going to mean that in 11 years time they are going to be walking into their A-Levels pinching their earlobes whilst rubbing their navel.

  • botherer

    I’m fairly certain, as one of the educated commentators said, that doing calming exercises is excellent for maintaining concentration at school. But I agree – it was terrifying when the kids were spouting the crap they’d been taught by the teachers.

  • Masked Dave

    How dare they! Don’t they know teachers are to be ignored at all costs?

  • El Pud

    At 21:30 in that video it’s just a red screen saying that they are unable to show this repot, newsnight will resume shortly :(

  • Iain "DDude" Dawson

    I love the smart discussions on this blog. I always get tingly when I can nod intelligently and discuss the placebo effect. I really hope I am missing something and that this is not being introduced to the majority of schools, for as you say, it is crazy.

    I do love the way that Paul Dennison seems to have had no idea that he was going to be interviewed.

  • Hugh Walker

    Are you sure this isn’t one for the penguins?
    I really hope it is … good grief … please let it be

  • botherer

    El Pud, your player is all broken. That doesn’t happen until about 35 mins into the episode.

  • sinister agent

    I’m very grateful for your posting this. It’s restored some of my hope for education in the UK. Also, Paxman is possibly my favourite televised bastard.

  • Richard

    being dyslexic i thought the bunny had made a come back and decided to go to the gym- disappointed am I to find no fitness related cartoon!

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