Brain Gym – Name & Shame

March 18th, 2006 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, brain gym | 297 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Saturday March 18, 2006
The Guardian

While all the proper grown up public intellectuals like Rod Liddle were getting a bee in their bonnet about Creationism being taught in a handful of British schools, I’ve accidentally stumbled upon a vast empire of pseudoscience being peddled in hundreds of everyday state schools up and down the country.

I’ll lower you in gently. It’s called Brain Gym, and it’s a string of very complicated exercises for kids to do which “enhance the experience of whole brain learning. Firstly, they’re very keen on water. Drink a glass of water before Brain Gym activities. As it is a major component of blood, water is vital for transporting oxygen to the brain.” Heaven forbid that your blood should dry out.

Is there anything else I can do to make blood and oxygen get to my brain better? Yes, an exercise called “Brain Buttons”: “Make a ‘C’ shape with your thumb and forefinger and place on either side of the breast bone just below the collar bone. Gently rub for 20 or 30 seconds whilst placing your other hand over your navel. Change hands and repeat. This exercise stimulates the flow of oxygen carrying blood through the carotid arteries to the brain to awaken it and increase concentration and relaxation.” Why? “Brain buttons lie directly over and stimulate the carotid arteries.”

Now, I’m waiting to be impressed by any kid who can stimulate his carotid arteries inside his ribcage, but it’s going to involve dissection with the sharp scissors that only mummy can use. And until that messy day, someone very mischievous and anonymous has kindly sent in the “Brain Gym Teachers Edition” to keep me entertained. This seems to be the master document behind the whole operation.

“Processed foods” they announce: “do not contain water.” This has to be the most readily falsifiable statement I’ve seen all week. Any water in soup? No: “All other liquids are processed in the body as food, and do not serve the body’s water needs.” It goes on. “Water is best absorbed by the body, when provided in frequent small amounts.” And if I drink too much in one go, will it leak out of my anus instead?

But this nonsense must all be some teeny, peripheral act of madness by a few isolated schools, surely? No. Many hundreds of UK state schools, at least. So many I couldn’t name them all in a month of columns. So many, I’ve posted a list on www.badscience.net, so you can check your child is safe.

Because telling stories about fairies and monsters is fine, but lying to children about science is wrong. Children are predisposed to learn about the world from adults, and especially from teachers. Children listen to what you tell them: that’s the point of being a child, that’s the reason why you don’t come out fully-formed speaking English with a favourite album.

With Brain Gym, the same teacher who tells children that blood is pumped around the lungs and then the body by the heart, is also telling them that when they do “The Energizer” exercise (far too complicated to describe) then “this back and forward movement of the head increases the circulation to the frontal lobe for greater comprehension and rational thinking.”

This is not cute. If anyone fed the hypothetical child I have just invented for myself, in the name of righteous indignation, one sentence of this kind of rubbish, I would coldly and rapidly remove them from our lives.

So let’s pause. I’ve just kicked the Brain Gym Teacher’s Edition around the room for two minutes and I’m feeling minty fresh. Taking a break and doing some exercise is obviously great for improving performance. Is that all you get with Brain Gym in schools, or does it really come parcelled up with the bullshit? I’ve seen the books. I’ve seen the 12,000 google hits for Brain Gym on UK government web pages. Now I need field reports. Are you a cheeky kid? Would you like to see your teacher in print? Email me.

· Please send your bad science to bad.science@guardian.co.uk

The Brain Gym Schools List is here. At the moment it’s just a list of all the schools websites (all websites ending in .sch.uk) that have “Brain Gym” in them. I started copying them out into a separate list but it would take far too long because there are just SO many.

All the google hits for Brain Gym on UK government websites are here.

Andy Brown, a psychologist from Sheffield, has an excellent Powerpoint presentation on Brain Gym pseudoscience here, and it has also been previously discussed here.

Just to reiterate, my problem is not with stopping class to do a bit of exercise: my problem is with bonkers made up pseudoscience being peddled to children. If you are a teacher who manages to do the exercises without the pseudoscience, then well done to you (although I’m puzzled as to why you’d bother with Brain Gym instead of any other kind of exercise break).


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297 Responses



  1. stever said,

    March 18, 2006 at 12:30 am

    excellent work ben. BRAVO!

    *goes to bed*

  2. stever said,

    March 18, 2006 at 12:50 am

    GODDAMN! youve been edited to hell, AGAIN!

    youve gonna have to have words

  3. Marc Draco said,

    March 18, 2006 at 1:24 am

    Oh god, not again. I want to move planets.

  4. pseudomonas said,

    March 18, 2006 at 8:36 am

    In the online version at any rate they’ve mangled your url.

  5. Kess said,

    March 18, 2006 at 9:42 am

    Worryingly, the official Ofsted report for a school in my county specifically praises the use of “brain gym” as one example of the school’s “healthy practises”.

    www.ofsted.gov.uk/reports/115/s5_115645_20051018.htm

  6. John R said,

    March 18, 2006 at 10:13 am

    Save us, Ben! There is a wave of this Californian-style pseudy mumbo-jumbo claptrap washing over us and our kids.

    I’d be intrigued to know what [if anything] this bunch of PhDs would have to say in brain gym’s defence: see page 20 of
    www.braingym.org/BG_Research.pdf
    They seem to have been involved both in producing validating research and as paid instructors [possible conflict of interest there?]

    Perhaps Mr Goldcare would contact them with some hard questions? [Not too hard for a PhD, surely!]

  7. profnick said,

    March 18, 2006 at 11:37 am

    Maybe a quiet word in Ofsted’s ear would be in order?

  8. carlo jacobs said,

    March 18, 2006 at 11:39 am

    I am shortly helping at Meadlands Primary School as a reading assistant and wish to discover of they are also ‘infected’ by this brain gym rubbish

  9. Andrew Ross said,

    March 18, 2006 at 11:52 am

    Interesting comments made, but as a teacher I have to say that in practise using Brain Gym exercises / activities in class makes a difference to the children’s concentration and performance. It’s a fun, social break from work and it helps them to focus on what’s coming next. I agree that some of the ‘activities’ are a little silly in name and idea but they are well received by the children. I’ve created a Brain Break menu which is available on my website if you want to see some of the Brain Gym that I do with my children. (www.primary-teacher-uk.co.uk/2006/03/brain_gym_a_pil.html)

    There was a lot of discussion around the time of the Learning Brain Europe Conference (www.salt.cheshire.gov.uk/video/lbc/brain.htm) which I was luckly enough to go to.

  10. Andrew Ross said,

    March 18, 2006 at 12:07 pm

    Sorry for the double post!

  11. Chris said,

    March 18, 2006 at 12:24 pm

    I’m a secondary teacher, and some teachers use it in my school, although it’s not school policy. There is a great deal of pseudoscience sloshing around in the education system. Brain Gym is one example; another is Brain-Based Learning, which is based around unsubstantiated notions of hemispheric lateralisation. Linked to this is the idea that children have a preferred style of learning which is either “visual”, “auditory”, or “kinaesthetic”, and that teachers should adapt their lessons to take these into account. Each month, we receive a “Learning Bulletin” with tips, lesson ideas, and inspirational quotes, all of which clearly has its origins in the three philosophies above. Some of the web-links provided are truly astounding, one example being www.seal.org.uk – take a look and you’ll see what I mean.
    Most teachers are no different from everyone else, and have limited critical thinking skills. As a result, these ideas take hold very easily in an environment where people are constantly looking for new ways to help people learn. What has always annoyed me is how pseudoscience spreads amongst science teachers, whom one would think would know better.

  12. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 18, 2006 at 12:24 pm

    just got this over email

    Hi
    I’m a teacher in a primary school. A couple of years ago we had a deputy
    head that introduced every trendy new initative going. One of these was
    brain gym. Much of it seemed to involve exercises on the “rub your tummy,
    pat your head” idea. We were told that these can increase the childrens
    capicity to learn??
    The thing that I most remember though, is being told that children (and
    presumably adults) must drink water throughout the day or “their brain
    dehydrates. It will shrink and they won’t learn as well”. This was actually
    illustrated by a powerpoint slide of a childs head with a shrinking brain
    inside.
    Like all teaching initatives this nonsense was first ridicled, then ignored
    by all us teachers. The frightening thing is, there must be children
    somewhere eagerly sipping water in a desperate effort to stop their brain
    shrinking.

  13. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 18, 2006 at 12:26 pm

    blimey, people are bcc blind copying me in on the concerned emails theyre sending to their kids’ schools. i had no idea parents could email schools these days. isnt technology amazing?

  14. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 18, 2006 at 12:28 pm

    another goody from the postman’s bulging sack:

    thanks for the article this week ( Brain Gym) I shall be posting it in many pigeon holes on monday at my school ( which is probably on your list) the people who run these sessions get paid quite a lot of money ( hundreds for a morning) and no-one questions them – It must be funny for students to see their teachers making fools of themselves and therefore is seen as valid by them!

  15. paul trimble said,

    March 18, 2006 at 12:46 pm

    I commision brain gym type exercises for inner city kids in year 9 on visits to their local university. The kids absolutlely love it – we consistently get superb feedback from them.

    As with many things Californian, there will always be some jerk trying to make money out of giving some very basic advice. Avoiding deyhdration while studying isnt a bad message to give kids who will naturally chose to drink fizzy drinks, and the same with telling them that movement can aid learning. This is the sum of what brain gym teaches, and with nowt but an O level in biology, I’m perfectly happy to defend those two propositions.

    But the point is that it’s great fun. Have you visited schools recently? How often do you think that kids actually get to enjoy themselves in the New Labour target driven punishment camps that pass for schools these days? Party pooper.

    Anyway, I promote it because the guy who takes the sessions is brilliant at connecting with the kids, he’s local, black and working class like them. It fuses an association of ‘university’ with a positive experience and is a rather sneakily clever way (in my humble opinion) to break down the beliefs that exist in the kids’ minds around whether setting foot in a university is OK for people like them.

    It might be bad science in your opinion, but psychology is a science too and on that score it counts very highly.

  16. BenRoome said,

    March 18, 2006 at 1:02 pm

    Paul – The point is that there can be a place for these fun, brain-gym exercises in school, but wrapping them up in pseudoscience isn’t one of them.
    By making specific, eroneous, scientific sounding statements, Brain Gym is lying to teachers and pupils about what its exercises do. The very fact that it makes these strong claims, sows a seed of: “There is scientific backing to this” in the minds of practitioners giving it an extra weight and belief in its benefits that it would otherwise have. Very similar to the placebo effect in fact.

  17. MsH said,

    March 18, 2006 at 1:13 pm

    paul: if getting somebody in to lie to your pupils about biology is the only way you can find to make them feel like they might be able to go to university, then they really are fucked.

  18. paul trimble said,

    March 18, 2006 at 1:14 pm

    I agree absolutely that making claims that particular exercises stimulate a particular artery are ridiculous, and I should point out that I said that the guy I work with does ‘brain gym type’ exercises – he certainly doesnt peddle some off-the-shelf psuedo scientific theory. I still say though that associating learning with fun is a positive aim – which is particularly useful in the current climate.

  19. BenRoome said,

    March 18, 2006 at 1:26 pm

    Paul – I think we’re agreed. As to your point about psychology, check out the Sheffield psychologist Andy Brown’s reasoned analysis of Brain Gym in the PowerPoint presentation.

  20. Gordon Southgate said,

    March 18, 2006 at 1:39 pm

    I wish I had brean gim when I woz at skool

  21. imagineyoung said,

    March 18, 2006 at 2:49 pm

    Might there not be a danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater here?

    I came across Brain Gym 10 years or more ago in various seminars I was attending in the States. Definitely helped adult students’ concentration and would be surprised if the schools in UK carried on using it if it did not show some reasonably beneficial effects. That’s worth investigating, even if the effect hasn’t yet been double blinded etc.

    The explanations are bullshit, and anybody teaching them as fact is in need of severe remedial intervention.

    Any form of fun regular whole body exercise combined with a drink of water would probably have the same effect. If Brain Gym can help to prove or encourage this, then it would be a great chance to introduce a series of isometric (?) or other body-weight exercises, sequenced and fun, that would also have the added benefit of building core muscles. And for the teachers’ sake, they would prefer to have these exercises given to them already developed.

    Condemn Brain Gym for its bullshit, but schools might well be using it for its real effects – and they would be a pity to lose.

    Anybody out there with a non-bs substitute?

  22. Julian Heaton said,

    March 18, 2006 at 5:23 pm

    Your article said that a list of schools is on the Website. Where? I ask, because I have just been to a Governor Training and this “science” was celebrated by the Governor Trainer.

  23. Stephen said,

    March 18, 2006 at 5:43 pm

    Any form of fun regular whole body exercise combined with a drink of water would probably have the same effect

    Anybody out there with a non-bs substitute?

    Hmmm… I seem to remember something like that in my school —oh yeah that was it: school milk and P.E. Of course that would probably be a lot cheaper than Brain Gym.

    Anyway, I promote it because the guy who takes the sessions is brilliant at connecting with the kids, he’s local, black and working class like them.

    Uhu.. maybe this bloke could do something equally useful then like help with PE or reading. I think they’re called teaching assistants.

    It fuses an association of ‘university’ with a positive experience and is a rather sneakily clever way (in my humble opinion) to break down the beliefs that exist in the kids’ minds around whether setting foot in a university is OK for people like them.

    I don’t see what BG has to do with promoting university– Do you have to teach them bollocks to make them want to go?

  24. Poppy said,

    March 18, 2006 at 6:01 pm

    I am 7 and at Morley Primary School in Cambridge (my mum is typing this for me). One of our teachers teaches us some brain gym. She does brain buttons and unrolling ears, and we have a sequence we do, and we do things with our fingers. It’s meant to get us listening for the day and working, really. I think it works. It’s fun. You’re wrong!

  25. Nic said,

    March 18, 2006 at 6:05 pm

    Have absolutely no idea of the science behind this at all – the names are pants, I will admit – but my class of 6 yr olds do benefit from standing up in the middle of a teaching session to do some of the exercises – what’s worse, standing up and rubbing the cartlidge around your ears and the space just above your clavicles for 20-30 sections to take a break or sitting for 30 minutes on the carpet as the Literacy Strategy suggests? 30 minutes? for 6 year olds???!!!

  26. Stephen said,

    March 18, 2006 at 6:10 pm

    I am 7 and at Morley Primary School in Cambridge

    Wow Poppy. You’ve managed to read that whole article and all these comments. Brain Gym must be reall y working for you. Well done. Does your mommy teach Brain Gym or own shares in the company?

  27. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 18, 2006 at 6:21 pm

    Somebody’s already got an email back from their kids headteacher:

    Dear XXXXXXXXXXX

    I have now read the Ben Goldacre article. Guardian articles on education are normally better informed and written in a more articulate manner than this one [oooooOOOOOoooooohhhhhh!]. I can confirm that we do not teach the bad science of brain gym. We do teach some parts of some lessons in a kinaesthetic form, this is not brain gym. We do advocate the drinking of water throughout the day and we have created a timetable which allows the children to go from Maths to Drama to Science to PE so that they are not sat behind a desk all day. The curriculum here, as you know has both breadth and depth, it does not have brain gym.

    Many thanks for your email

    just to make it even clearer: stopping and doing some exercise is good, lying to children about it with bonkers pseudoscientific explanations is bad. brain gym is certainly sold on the bonkers pseudoscientific explanations, but i want to know if that is what is peddled to children in schools. it seems to be a mix so far…

    incidentally, the list of schools giving brain gym is linked above and here: it’s only a list of google hits for the phrase “brain gym” in uk school websites (websites that end in .sch.uk). i started to copy the names out from there to make a separate list, but it would take hours because there are SO many.

    www.google.co.uk/search?q=inurl%3Asch.uk+%22brain+gym%22&start=0&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official

  28. ACH said,

    March 18, 2006 at 6:22 pm

    Poppy,

    No, Dr Goldacre isn’t wrong. His statement that the pseudoscience these people are teaching you is absolutely correct. He has not said that a drink of water and maybe running around, getting a bit of exercise and then concentrating on your work is not good for you – it is. So is having fun, and there’s no reason why you can’t do that as you learn.

    BUT, the education system has a limited amount of money to spend, and rather than giving it to the charlatans (ask mummy what that word means) who are making a profit peddling (**rude word a 7-year old shouldn’t be taught yet**) rather than spending it on science books which might actually teach you some REAL biology is not a good way to spend their budget. I am a taxpayer and a scientist and I object strongly to the money being wasted like that.

  29. Jim said,

    March 18, 2006 at 6:38 pm

    The situation is rather similar to that of the poo lady. Most of her general recommendations (eat plenty of fresh vegetables, takes some exercise) are very sensible. For some reason she feels the need to wrap this up in layer upon layer of bullshit.

    Equally breaks for a bit of exercise and a drink of water are great ideas, but people seem to prefer it if this sound advice is given some bizarre rationale.

  30. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 18, 2006 at 6:45 pm

    Jim, you’re absolutely bang on with the poo lady parallel. I think people feel the need to dress up everyday sensible advice in pseudoscience because that means they can both look like experts and become wealthy proprietors of a special “new” type of advice.

  31. pseudomonas said,

    March 18, 2006 at 6:51 pm

    Ben: Whilst I’m sure that commercial factors have some bearing on it, I think there’s more to it than that. It’s another example of the placebo effect. Something that’s (hopefully) sensible is puffed up as some magic that will work wonders in some field where this is likely to have an effect. People report wonderful results from a combination of the underlying sensibleness of the procedure, the novelty of it all, and the expectation that they have been confidently promises. They tell all their friends and the Daily Mail and the procedure acquires even more of an aura of efficacy as it becomes ‘common knowledge’ that it works.

  32. Robert (Jamie) Munro said,

    March 18, 2006 at 7:22 pm

    I had a quick look at limiting the search to Oxfordshire, where I live, by searching google for inurl:oxon.sch.uk “brain gym”. This brought the results down to 5, which included 2 from the same school, and one that was a maths quiz that a teacher called brain gym that had nothing to do with the “Brain Gym” we are arguing against here, so the problem might not be as bad as you say.

    Of course, on the other hand, many schools don’t have web sites, and even those that do are not likely to write about brain gym on them.

  33. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 18, 2006 at 7:37 pm

    i don’t know what proportion of state schools have websites, but neither of the two that i went to in oxford have managed to sort out an online presence.

  34. Pierre said,

    March 18, 2006 at 8:27 pm

    Perhaps you can combine this subject and the placebo subject, by making up some exercises of your own, and also provide some pseudoscience explanation. For example, touch your right foot with your left hand while scratching the back of your neck with your other hand because this will stimulate the seratonin levels in your brain and thus improve your memory. And then ask kids if this is just as helpful as a brain gym exercise.

  35. Henry Walpole said,

    March 18, 2006 at 8:30 pm

    Unfortunately since New Labour came to power more and more of the pseudo-scientific twaddle has entered our schools.

    Many people seem to think it is “harmless” but (a) it is just plain quackery of the type peddled by every self-appointed “expert” who regularly makes me want to kick in my TV screen and (b) it is a shocking waste of money.

    Last year the government spent £2.5 billion a year on management consultants (a rise of 42% over last year). A fair proportion of it was pissed up against the wall on this type of nonsense whilst schools struggle to maintain buildings, resources and staff.

    You will be pleased to hear that just last week I went to a headteachers’ meeting and watched a presentation on something called “Activate” which largely involved classes in group sessions of what looked like mass synchronised robotic dancing to Art of Noise b-sides. I then listened to somebody explain how all the exercises were about “crossing the brain’s midline” (apologies those of you with biology degrees who feel I’m getting a bit too technical here), which would help improve co-ordination and Literacy skills. Five headteachers piped up at the end to say that they had already bought it (folder, dvd, posters and training sessions from “qualified Activate trainers”).

    Buying text books, reading books and extra teacher contact time…so very last millenium….

  36. Peter Thomson said,

    March 18, 2006 at 8:55 pm

    I spent part of last week failing to find funding to pay a team of youthworkers involved with young people identified as at particular risk of school exclusion. One funder (a housing association) suggested that a scheme to put water bottles in schools would be more likely to attract funding.

  37. Don said,

    March 18, 2006 at 9:21 pm

    We had a Brain Gym intro session at our school a while back, but thanks to this site and a couple of others I was able to put together a brief memo to pass to selected colleagues, with key phrases to watch out for. It was delightful to watch the trainer’s increasingly puzzled expression as a sizable group of teachers eagerly ticked a sheet every time she said ‘chakra points’ or ‘western science’ or ‘brain hemispheres’ . I only wish I’d had the time to come up with ‘Brain Gym Bingo’.

    To be fair, the boss did make a sort of apology for wasting our time during the following day’s morning briefing.

    By the way, I work in special needs, so small classes. We have no problem with supplying water bottles and a ‘help yourself’ fruit bowl. As for exercise, we work that into the teaching. I can see that might be a problem in mainstream secondary, but there are ways round it that fit the specific needs of the school.

  38. S said,

    March 19, 2006 at 10:53 am

    Hello

    Its easy to laugh at Brain Gym but have you seen the stuff that human resources are pushing at universities?

    Check out
    www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/sdtu/programme/personaldevelopment.php

    Then click on the links for

    MIND MAPPING

    or check
    www.mind-map.com/EN/
    for more info.

  39. Margaret Evans said,

    March 19, 2006 at 12:12 pm

    I’m high school teacher. Most of the “educational theory” that I have come across in the last 10 years is absolute rubbish. I pretend to go along with it like everyone else because I am lazy. However, my basic (secret) learning philosophy, whilst those around me are doing the happy-clappy-touchy-feely new-fangled stuff is “sit down, shut up and do this”. Guess what? It works.

  40. Paul said,

    March 19, 2006 at 12:18 pm

    Andrew Ross and Poppy’s Mum are two perfect examples of how the peddlars of pseudoscience get away with what they do. They’ve raised objections to the demolition of Brain Gym which have been perfectly adequately dealt with in the last paragraph of the original article. They are so desperate for a scientific explanation of why BG (what a coincidental pair of initials!) “works” that they conveniently ignore this.
    By the way, have a look at this, perhaps the future for genuine scientific thought in school is not so bleak…
    www.planet-science.com/sciteach/index.html?page=/sciteach/badscience/

  41. Michael Harman said,

    March 19, 2006 at 12:24 pm

    Human Resources – isn’t that what Personnel departments started calling themselves when they stopped being able to spell personnel?

  42. Josie said,

    March 19, 2006 at 12:50 pm

    Funny how the ‘scientific’ world always assume their science is good and anything that doesn’t fit in with their current views is ‘bad’.
    Maybe… just maybe, we don’t actually know everything there is to know. Maybe… just maybe, Western science / thought / philosophy does not have a monopoly on being right.

    Or perhaps the earth is flat, a bumble bee cannot fly and an elephant really can hang from a cliff by its tail – or at least that’s what science has claimed at some point!

  43. Paul said,

    March 19, 2006 at 12:54 pm

    Or maybe the scientists know that we don’t know everything there is to know but like to base our ideas on evidence whereas other people are happy to accept any old rubbish even if it’s demonstrably untrue.

  44. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 19, 2006 at 1:32 pm

    josie:

    yes, perhaps we dont know everything there is to know.

    perhaps there is no water in processed food.

  45. Don said,

    March 19, 2006 at 1:56 pm

    josie,

    Scientists never thought the earth was flat and nor have any educated people since the time of Pliny the Elder – about two thousand years ago. The popular misconception arose through Washington Irving’s book on Columbus and was bizzarely included in some US high school text books.

    The bumble bee story is an urban myth which may have originated in an after-dinner discussion between a entomologist and an engineer and is occasionally referred to to illustrate that there is a difference between a “thing” and a mathematical model of the “thing.”

    The elephant hanging by it’s tail is similarly a metaphor ( which, as far as I know, originated with Oliver Stone’s JFK,) about the dangers of making assumptions.

    But you are, of course, right that all scientist consider themselves omniscient. All that ‘research’ they pretend to do is just to keep the grants coming.

  46. ACH said,

    March 19, 2006 at 2:06 pm

    Josie, please use some common sense. Of course we (scientists) don’t know everything there is to know. It’s just that we like to find things out by observation, experiment and data, rather than just assuming that the fairies make it like that.

    Scientists are usually very happy to see new evidence, even if it refutes theories they already hold. It’s called objective peer review, experimentation and progress. No scientist ever claimed a bee couldn’t fly – it patently could, by observation. They said they thought it was theoretically impossible, so spent years studying the aerodynamics until they understood the mechanism. Galileo was imprisoned for his “heretical” views.

    Are you happy to see children taught blatant rubbish in other subjects? Can they be lied to about history? For instance, the holocaust never happened (a popular alternative theory with some extremist groups). Would you be happy to see them told that Charles Dickens wrote Jayne Eyre? Well, it’s an author and a book, so why let facts get in the way.

    No? Well then, why is it OK to tell them lies about pysiology and biochemistry?

  47. BSM said,

    March 19, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    “josie:

    yes, perhaps we dont know everything there is to know.

    perhaps there is no water in processed food. ”

    I thought my Pot Noodle tasted a bit powdery…..

    Hang on…

    “Just add water”

    Oops! I see where I’ve been going wrong.

    Should I use Penta Water?

  48. Jim said,

    March 19, 2006 at 3:52 pm

    Yes science may be, and frequently is, wrong to a greater or lesser extent. Many scientific explanations are approximations or incomplete.

    Even still, shall we abandon a system and knowledge base that has allowed us to put man on the moon and cure countless diseases at the cost of millions of lifetimes of blood sweat and tears? And do you want to replace it with the aphorisms of a charlatan?

  49. Edie said,

    March 19, 2006 at 4:00 pm

    Josie,

    No-one is disputing that 15 minutes out of lessons in which the children move around, drink water and have a bit of fun is beneficial and improves concentration in subsequent lessons. This is easily demonstrable with any activity. Hanging from a climbing frame, skipping, clapping games etc. all do the same thing.

    What we are disputing are the explanations given for these demonstrable effects.

    We are also concerned about taxpayers’ money funding this misinformation. I could devise a 10 minute session right now which would have the same effects as Brain Gym, and so could you. Maybe I’m int he wrong profession….

    Oh and while we’re on Bad Things – how about some Bad English from a head teacher:

    :…we have created a timetable which allows the children to go from Maths to Drama to Science to PE so that they are not sat behind a desk all day.”

    “..are not seated…” or “…do not sit..” perhaps, but never “…are not sat….” . Sheesh!

  50. raygirvan said,

    March 19, 2006 at 4:24 pm

    Sheesh!

    Quite. And there were two comma splices. I wouldn’t normally stoop to grammar flames, but when criticising others’ writing, it’s important not to shoot yourself in the foot.

  51. pv said,

    March 19, 2006 at 4:57 pm

    Josie, science has never claimed the world was flat.The word wasn’t even invented. People just waasumed the earth was flat in the absence of any evidence to the contrary. By the same token the moon was made of green cheese, or any other material you wished to claim.
    You make another much more fundamental error though. You are asuming science to be something it isn’t. It is an activity (or group of activities), not a thing. It is neither right nor wrong – merely wrong to ascribe those qualities to science. The activity(ies) is/are basically observing, recording and analysing. Science most certainly is not making unsubstantiated statements and then saying, by way of defense

  52. pv said,

    March 19, 2006 at 5:04 pm

    For some reason only part of my comment has been posted. So here goes again.
    Josie, science has never claimed the world was flat.The word wasn’t even invented. People just assumed the earth was flat in the absence of any evidence to the contrary. By the same token the moon was made of green cheese, or any other material you wished to claim.
    You make another much more fundamental error though. You are assuming science to be something it isn’t. It is an activity (or group of activities), not a thing. It is neither right nor wrong – merely wrong to ascribe those qualities to science. The activity(ies) is/are basically observing, recording and analysing. Science most certainly is not making unsubstantiated statements and then saying, by way of defence, “science doesn’t know everything”.
    By your logic and terminological inexactitude I could say that “not science” is always wrong and eternally ignorant.

  53. ACH said,

    March 19, 2006 at 5:15 pm

    Ray said:
    “Quite. And there were two comma splices. I wouldn’t normally stoop to grammar flames, but when criticising others’ writing, it’s important not to shoot yourself in the foot. ”

    Because then you’d have to put a magnetic bandage on it.

  54. ACH said,

    March 19, 2006 at 5:22 pm

    speaking of grammatical errors, apologies for “Jayne” Eyre. I have a friend of that name, and have got used to typing the name with a “y” in it! Anyway, I’m just an “illiterate scientist”, as my school English teacher used to say.

  55. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 19, 2006 at 6:26 pm

    just got this excellent email. i’m really blown away by how people cannot separate out the issue of doing a bit of exercise for their kids on the one hand, and peddling nonsense at them on the other. mind you, this teacher sounds so unhinged she probably teaches the science behind brain gym too..

    I am utterly disgusted at the article that was so sarcastically written and allowed to be printed from one Ben Goldacre regarding Brain Gym exercises that happen in our school classrooms. I am a primary school teacher myself who encourages and motivates 30 children within a variety of different subjects daily. I regularly see the varied attiudes and enjoyment levels that stem from lessons. Believe it or not within our schools we have children who are high achievers and can focus themselves on tasks, but we also have children who can be disruptive and find it difficult to settle down to work. These Brain Gym activities as you so freely ‘slated’ in your article are a ‘way in’ for these children, a way of burning off nervous energy and tense feelings and a time to be calm and try to focus. I am sure Mr. Goldacre has those days at work when he finds it hard to produce anything of substance (maybe the day he produced this article) and trying a few Brain Gym activities himself might just be the ticket.So before writing his next damning article, I would encourage him to take the time to think a little about the feelings and beliefs of those on the receiving end, especially when this is to do with their day to day functioning.

  56. Henry Walpole said,

    March 19, 2006 at 7:26 pm

    I think some people find the idea of “doing a bit of exrecise with kids” far to easy. Much better that there is some complicated and new-agey reasons for doing it and preferably a great deal of expense as well……

    www.valsabinpublications.com/activate/index.htm

    “Activate moves whole classes of children through a comprehensive 3-dimensional movement “.

    Any teachers out there teaching in some stange world where we move 2-dimensionally..?A classroom full of paper cut out kids perhaps?

  57. Kess said,

    March 19, 2006 at 7:30 pm

    “I would encourage him to take the time to think a little about the feelings and beliefs of those on the receiving end”

    Eh? What have beliefs got to do with it – or is Brain Gym now a religious movement too?!

  58. Lindsey’s Stuff » Blog Archive » Brain Gym said,

    March 19, 2006 at 8:15 pm

    [...] Read an article about Brain Gym in schools in Saturday’s Guardian. The writer, Ben Goldman has a blog badscience.net that has the article and 57 comments. Interesting stuff. [...]

  59. BSM said,

    March 19, 2006 at 8:27 pm

    “I am utterly disgusted at the article that was so sarcastically written etc. etc.”

    I’m sure you sent back an appropriately conciliatory reply, possibly including the adage: Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.

    I’m sure that will be helpful.

    Of, course there is a new final corollary to that joke: Those who can’t teach, flog Brain Gym to teachers.

  60. le canard noir said,

    March 19, 2006 at 9:08 pm

    I feel like really putting the cat amongst the pigeons. It occurs to me that we are worried about trivialities. Why get concerned that schools waste hundreds of pounds on hiring a few Californian loons to teach kids that water is absorbed through the roof of their mouth into their brains when half the University education budget is spent on teaching utter guff to humanities students for three years – the sort of teaching that allows ‘educated’ people to make comments like that posted in #42.

    Stop English literature students believing that science is just another text to be deconstructed and Brain Gym will have to find new suckers elsewhere, e.g. France.

  61. teacher said,

    March 19, 2006 at 9:15 pm

    feel I must write in as a teacher who has been to INSET days on ‘Brain Gym’. Firstly I am very pleased to see that there is another common sense human out there who also thinks that some of the “Brain Buttons” “science” is nonsense !
    I am a primary school teacher with a good psychology degree ,and when I was being peddled the “facts” on ‘Brain Buttons’, I repeatedly asked for evidence or research that backed up the so called procedures children should carry out but was given very vague replies. I also voiced my concerns to colleagues but they all thought it was a fantastic idea and were going to implement it in their classrooms immediately.
    I was in fact saddened by the inclusion of “Brain Buttons” on Brain Gym training as I had some years previously been on a course that included Brain Gym type activities that were purely aimed at getting children to move around in between lessons and drink more water in general (especially during summer months) and had been successfully putting these into practise in my lessons. Even now nothing can beat the breaking up of a two hour afternoon lesson with junior children ,than getting them to jump around in weird ways ! This first course on with similarities to Brain Gym happily giving my psychologist side of me plenty of research papers and references that I read before putting them into practise in my own classroom. You may find that some of the schools listed that use Brain Gym could be using this far more scientifically based programme than what you described as pseudo science and “Brain Button” nonsense.
    Finally as a post note and I feel more worrying still ,is that on a course this year run by LEA and health providers for teachers ,I saw “Brain Gym” down as a voluntary activity between sessions. I chose not to go and instead enjoy a longer coffee break… but the 10 or so colleagues who chose this course of action were frowned upon, it appears the session wasn’t as voluntary the schedule had suggested ! This course in addition failed to offer caffeine drinks on arrival and instead gave us ice cold water which as an adult with a freedom of choice I objected to ! Perhaps since water ‘ is a major component of blood….. vital for transporting oxygen to the brain’ if I had drunk more rather than enjoying my Coffe I would have been persuaded of Brain Gym/Buttons scientific basis and become a convert !

    A teacher (of 7 year experience) who would like to remain fairly anonymous !

  62. WhyDontYou said,

    March 19, 2006 at 9:46 pm

    It is interesting that all of the defences of this brain gym travesty are based on phrases such as “The kids absolutlely love it – we consistently get superb feedback from them.” (in post 15).

    The way I read the article was that doing exercises and drinking water is good and should be done. But teaching the children the WRONG things is bad. Not one defence of BG has addressed that.

    Why on Earth do people feel the need to drape this in all manner of made up science? Are the teachers who support this idea so genuinely addled that they cant see the faults (Although I am not a teacher, I come from a family of teachers and my friends are teachers – all, fortunately say this is madness and they would never entertain the idea).

    Has our society gone so far down the lines of 1984′s thinking that the slightest bit of doublespeak has people jumping through hoops to obey?

  63. Jonno said,

    March 19, 2006 at 9:56 pm

    Fact – drinking water will maintain your levels of hydration
    Fact – Remaining hydrated maintains optimum levels of concentration
    Fact – Dehydration causes fatigue and lack of concentration
    Fact – Techniques that help develop breathing can improve concentration
    Lets not forget respiration requires oxygen!
    Fact – techniques that stimulate more regions of the brain help us to remember information more readily; e.g. using sight, sound, movement, smell, humour, emotions etc.
    Why are so many people afraid of “new” ideas? Why do they search out for a poorly informed explanation of the so called science to use as their reasons to diss the ideas?
    I utilise many different techniques in my teaching. The kids have fun and do very well.
    If you are going to make comments then please first do the research. Go find out about the latest developments about how the brain works – that’s been done by scientists as well as psychologists!
    I look forward to reading (laughing at) the cynical replies!!!
    TTFN

  64. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 19, 2006 at 10:04 pm

    this is really starting to freak me out.

    are the nation’s teachers so thick they cannot disentangle an attack on the teaching of brain gym pseudoscience from an attack on the notion of exercises in class?

    this is properly extraordinary to me, our schools are in much bigger trouble than i thought.

    here’s another jaw dropping failure to distinguish the two from the bad science mailbag. i don’t know why i’m blanking out the names on these to be honest, i must be nicer than i thought. i wasn’t that bothered until i started getting these, but to me, this stupidity among teachers is a matter of national crisis.

    Dear Sir,

    It was with great distress, and increasing anger, that I read your ill-informed and clearly poorly researched article on Saturday the 18th March in the Guardian titled: “Bad science:brain gym exercises do no favours”.

    From what I can gather you have visited no classrooms, interviewed no teachers nor questioned any children let alone had a conversation with any of a number of specialists in this field? Instead you based your article on “Teachers Notes on Brain Gym” sent to you anonymously.

    Is this how you go about writing all of your articles?

    I would not be so upset had I not then gone on to read how you feel that this practise is “madness”. How many lessons have you seen? Reviewed? Compared and contrasted before supposedly “naming and shaming” the schools involved?

    Brain Gym is used to great affect in a number of the schools I am currently supporting. It is a fabulous way of getting children focused, energised and back on task during a long day of studying in a class room – something you clearly need support with judging by your depth of research! I have used it very successfully while teaching adults and children alike and feel that you have gone a long way to ridicule something based only on one piece of literature and no actual observation.

    Like many professionals we as teachers read some information with our tongues in our cheeks. I am not sure what it is that you read – especially as it was anonymously sent – but I can assure you, where I work, Brain Gym is one of a large number of useful resources that a teacher can draw upon to encourage engagement, concentration, coordination and revitalisation …….whatever the science behind it is. I have a number of testimonials from adults and children alike stating that Brain Gym has benefited them. How many to the contrary do you have in reply?

    Do some more research before you attempt to turn yet more parents against the hard working teachers of this country!

    Regards

  65. Jonno said,

    March 19, 2006 at 10:08 pm

    How would you know? How many schools have you visited recently? Are you an eduction expert as well as an expert on everything else? Oh to have your knowledge? How does it feel to be so right so often? Sorry, I meant to say all the time!

  66. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 19, 2006 at 10:10 pm

    jonno: i don’t need to go to a school to know that there is water in processed food. the science of brain gym is a tissue of rubbish. whether it works is an entirely separate question, but if teachers are taken in by the stupid explanations behind it then we are in trouble, and if they are teaching those pseudoscientific explanations to children – in fact, if YOU are teaching those pseudoscientific explanations to children – then i honestly hope you are found and sacked.

  67. WhyDontYou said,

    March 19, 2006 at 10:17 pm

    Ben – Jonno is trolling. Ignore his posts. Almost all my friends are teachers – both sciences and humanities – and all think this is nonsense.

    It is scary that some of the teachers dont seem to have been able to identify the difference between the bad science and the exercise though…. I wonder if they teach that Shakespear was born in London in 1949?

  68. Jonno said,

    March 19, 2006 at 10:21 pm

    Found and sacked! I was found and promoted – twice! Evidence and results… isn’t that what science is based on? I teach science for a career and consequently always check out what I am told or what I read. Subsequently I try it out for myself and if it works…
    Research – plan – carry out – record results – analyse – evaluate – then move forward!
    Science in Action from an AST.
    Cheers for now.
    Must get my sleep it helps improve concentration you know!
    ZZZZzzzzz…..

  69. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 19, 2006 at 10:25 pm

    no wonder british science is in crisis.

  70. le canard noir said,

    March 19, 2006 at 10:32 pm

    I’ll take back by comment in post 60. Its not just the teaching of humanities at fault here. If you can get a science degree and not spot basic pseudoscience or follow an argument then we are all wasting our time.

    What do they teach them these days?

  71. WhyDontYou said,

    March 19, 2006 at 10:36 pm

    Jonno obviously thinks the plural of anecdote is data.

  72. Michael Harman said,

    March 19, 2006 at 11:30 pm

    Jonno:
    “Fact – drinking water will maintain your levels of hydration
    Fact – Remaining hydrated maintains optimum levels of concentration
    Fact – Dehydration causes fatigue and lack of concentration”.

    Fact – drinking too much water can kill you.

    Query – where is the evidence (yes, peer-reviewed evidence) for what the optimum level of hydration is, how that level is related to water intake, how it is correlated with level of mental concentration, and how it is correlated with fatigue.

    General background question: figures are widely quoted for the minimum desirable intake of water – so many litres per day. What is the scientific basis, if any, for this figure?

    I’ll leave the other “facts” for now.

  73. Don said,

    March 19, 2006 at 11:59 pm

    Jonno,

    ‘Fact – drinking water will maintain your levels of hydration
    Fact – Remaining hydrated maintains optimum levels of concentration
    Fact – Dehydration causes fatigue and lack of concentration
    Fact – Techniques that help develop breathing can improve concentration
    Lets not forget respiration requires oxygen!
    Fact – techniques that stimulate more regions of the brain help us to remember information more readily; e.g. using sight, sound, movement, smell, humour, emotions etc’

    Fact- we knew that. We didn’t need some snake-oil salesman to give it a gloss and sell it to us with a load of insulting bullshit..

    If you really are a teacher, which I pray is not the case, your students are seriously disadvantaged.

  74. Jim said,

    March 20, 2006 at 12:08 am

    Jonno,

    pick up an object, nothing too delicate. Done that? Good.

    Drop it.

    The object fell, didn’t it? No one is arguing with that. When you drop an object it falls.

    But why does it fall? Hmmm, tricky one. Most people think that there is a force called gravity. It pulls objects with mass together. There is a great deal of fascinating research in the area, over several hundred years. Still, we don’t quite know why or how gravity exists.

    Wait! Who are these people? They are the scientists from GravityGym (TM). They know exactly why an object falls. It is because invisible pixies pull it down. For a very reasonable price they can tell you all about it and then you can go off and tell your pupils.

  75. Peter said,

    March 20, 2006 at 12:34 am

    Naughty Ben… your facts are hurting people’s feelings, you fiend.

    If not enough water makes the brain shrink then a surfit will cause it to swell?

  76. imagineyoung said,

    March 20, 2006 at 12:35 am

    But it’s not gravity as we know it, Jim.

  77. Stumo said,

    March 20, 2006 at 1:53 am

    Ben – I think the problem is that your article (or at least the online version, I haven’t seen the printed one) didn’t make it clear that you were specifically criticising the science not the events; this might be something you want to make clear in future articles. I’m fully with you on the science being rubbish – but when you say

    Drink a glass of water before Brain Gym activities. As it is a major component of blood, water is vital for transporting oxygen to the brain.” Heaven forbid that your blood should dry out.

    Actually, I have noticed that letting myself get dehydrated does affect my concentration a lot; my initial reaction was “actually that’s not bad advice”.

    A (Scuba diving instruction) training course I went on stressed that if someone gets it wrong, it’s because you haven’t explained it well enough. Although that’s not always the case, I think here it does apply. Possibly you didn’t make it clear enough that you were after the explanation rather than the exercise (which, like I say, seems quite reasonable)

  78. Filias Cupio said,

    March 20, 2006 at 2:15 am

    Peter:

    Yes, a surfit of water will swell your brain, sufficient surfit will swell it fatally.
    (Not that this has anything to do with the effectiveness or correctness of “Brain Gym”.)

    I’d heard about this as an urban legend (teetotaller student in a drinking game drinks water instead of beer, then dies.) Being a scientist, I sought reliable data – I asked a GP friend. She said yes, it could happen, but you really have to work at it. (I’m not certain it swelled the brain, but I think that was the case.) The mechanism (again, if I recall correctly) required nearly pure water – sugars and/or salts found in soft drinks, sports drinks, beer etc. prevent this.

    Ben, can you confirm?

  79. AitchJay said,

    March 20, 2006 at 6:12 am

    I heard a slightly different urban legend —
    A (new) ecstasy user was told that it was important not to dehydrate from the drug (true), so went on to drink eight litres over the course of the night. Died too.
    Ah, the power of suggestion..

  80. Mark said,

    March 20, 2006 at 6:48 am

    Some further “illumination” on the subject….. hmmmmm
    www.dest.gov.au/NR/rdonlyres/3E6FD74E-5F8A-4543-88D2-4A5EB5237F27/5676/Sub_188_Brain_Gym_Web.pdf

  81. Andrew Clegg said,

    March 20, 2006 at 7:51 am

    AitchJay — that sounds like Leah Betts who was a real person and not an urban legend. And she wasn’t a new user, she’d taken it before (without so much water) and not died.

    I think the too-much-water thing is a bit of a diversion from the Brain Gym question though, as I doubt that a few cups over the course of a day (given that kids are often pretty sweaty creatures) is in the same ballpark.

    Andrew.

  82. Pedantica said,

    March 20, 2006 at 8:41 am

    Many of the responses here suggest that what we need in schools more than fun exercises and cups of water are some critical thinking lessons … and bananas.

    Lesson 1: Straw man fallacy

    This is an extremely common form of fallacy used in rhetorical debate where one party misrepresents an argument, refutes their misrepresentation, and then pretends that they have refuted the original argument.

    Now everyone eat a banana and we can all reflect on what we learned here today using the mystical learning power of bananas.

  83. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 20, 2006 at 8:59 am

    Ben – I think the problem is that your article (or at least the online version, I haven’t seen the printed one) didn’t make it clear that you were specifically criticising the science not the events

    we’re talking about an article that says:

    “I’ve just kicked the Brain Gym Teacher’s Edition around the room for two minutes and I’m feeling minty fresh. Taking a break and doing some exercise is obviously great for improving performance. Is that all you get with Brain Gym in schools, or does it really come parcelled up with the bullshit?”

  84. RS said,

    March 20, 2006 at 9:18 am

    I imagine it is equall galling for Ben, as it is for me, to be lectured about science and the brain by people without the first idea about it.

    I once went on some horrific training day with a bunch of psychologists where we were subjected to the MBTI

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers-Briggs_Type_Indicator

    and Belbin team roles. We were lectured for hours on the ‘science’ behind it, and curiously most people didn’t have the heart to point out to the overpaid and undereducated trainers just what a load of twaddle they were pushing. Most people, but not all.

  85. Richard Lindley said,

    March 20, 2006 at 9:27 am

    “Ben – I think the problem is that your article (or at least the online version, I haven’t seen the printed one) didn’t make it clear that you were specifically criticising the science not the events”

    Not to mention the term “Bad Science”

    Or any of Ben’s other articles

    I think this article would make an excellent written comprehension test (do they still teach that in school?)

    Q1. Is the author of the article attacking (a) the science behind Brain Gym (b) the notion that excercise and water are good for you or (c) the notion that some teachers are a bit dim and can’t understand written English

  86. superburger said,

    March 20, 2006 at 9:33 am

    The moment I read the article in Saturday’s Guardian, I knew that the responses on this forum were the ones to be expected.

    People (even if it is spelled out to them) cannot understand the basic gist of the article.

    1) Brain Gym as sold includes buckets of piss poor science that anyone with a GCSE in science (which, I believe is a prerequisite to teach in primary schools) should be able to see right through.

    2) The acitvities (ignoring the BS reasoning given for them), which boil down to having a 5 minute stretch half way through a long lesson, and drinking some water to keep hydrated are extremley sensible. So why not just spend 5 minutes at an inset day suggesting a 5min break in lessons and make it policy to have water freely available? Total cost? Sweet FA.

    What is so hard to comprehend? Nobody had disagreed that a bit of excerise keeps you sharp. (I wander around the lab when there’s thinking to be done) but this utter horse shit that it is bundled up with it is what pisses people off.

    Why does it piss people off? Firstly, it cost money. Money that would be much better spent on things like er, books. If an LEA has seen the prospectus for these courses and seen fit to send its staff on them, then that is a cause for serious concern.

    Secondly, if there are teacher out there who can listen to this crap and not question it, then go into the classroom and tell kids this pseudoscience rubbish, then they are not fit to teach.

    This inability to understand when BS science is being presented is what people find so depressing, and when it is costing the taxpayer money then it is shameful. Adults are free to be deluded if they want, but children don’t have the luxury of choice whilst at school..

  87. RS said,

    March 20, 2006 at 9:38 am

    There’s also something of a moral repulsion to the snake oil salesmen making a quick buck out of this advice, at the taxpayer’s expense, when the bit that works is just common sense, and any value added is utter bollocks.

  88. BugBoy said,

    March 20, 2006 at 10:15 am

    HAHA! Hi RS, I too have been subjected to a similar training day horror…… After completing various tests I seem to remember being told I was a purple dolphin!

  89. Hanne said,

    March 20, 2006 at 10:24 am

    Why is it so hard for people who are flogging this stuff off (in innocence or with awareness of the pseudoscience) that when they see their trigger word, in this case, Brain Gym, they fail to understand the article as a whole, because all they see is an attack and immediately go on the offensive.

    It’s depressing…

    *off to find Eeyore and sit and ponder the world*

  90. MJW said,

    March 20, 2006 at 10:55 am

    Some of the webpages that Ben Googled contain little gems of advice for teachers, such as this one at www.kirkhallam.derbyshire.sch.uk/allpages/mainpages/teaching&learning/Toptips.htm

    “Use the five-finger understanding game. Students show you a number of fingers corresponding to their understanding of a topic. Look out for two finger signs”

    Yes, indeed…

  91. MJW said,

    March 20, 2006 at 11:12 am

    OK, I’ve stopped being childish and have read it properly. That particular website just uses the name “brain gym” to explain a sort of mini-yoga-at-your-desk idea (“calm or focus students”).
    No expensive consultants and no pseudoscience evident on the website, so I suppose this is an example of one of those things we should be supporting.

    Ben, do you object to people using the name “brain gym” if they drop all the pseudoscience?

  92. Natalie said,

    March 20, 2006 at 11:14 am

    I actually laughed out loud a few times in a very quiet university computer room when i read some of the comments to this article. When did teachers suddenly get so defensive about the awful pseudoscience being peddled in Brain Gym? If any of them are actually science teachers I hope they can actually tell the difference between good and bad science, if not, god help the children they teach.

    Common sense, taking a break, moving around and keeping hydrated does increase concentration. All of our lectures seem to now realise that giving us a ten minute break in the middle of a two hour lecture does mean the majority of the lecture theatre stays awake until the end! They don’t start muttering about how drinking water will allow our bodies to carry more oxygen or any of the rubbish being peddled by Brain Gym (and if they did I think I would die of shock, doing a Biology degree you have to hope your lectures know more than you do!)

    The good idea behind Brain Gym is not being attacked, the rubbish science coating is. Really if you don’t understand that clear distinction you are not fit to teach.

  93. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 20, 2006 at 11:22 am

    MJW: i object to people teaching bogus pseudoscience to children, and i’m very worried by school teachers that can’t spot bogus pseudoscience when it’s taught to them. exercise breaks are fine, although i don’t see why you’d bother with the brain gym ones in particular, their main USP seems to be the flaky scientific explanations.

    now. how long do we think it is until another teacher without basic reading skills comes in here and starts raving about how i’m wrong and exercise breaks in class are great for improving concentration? it must be their lunch break soon… bless them…

  94. Natalie said,

    March 20, 2006 at 11:24 am

    Ben, I actually love it. These people are teaching children and yet they seem to not even have the knowledge to read and understand a newspaper column. Almost makes you weep…

  95. Delster said,

    March 20, 2006 at 11:37 am

    I’ve 2 things to say here… 1st money 2nd anecdotal “evidence”

    1. if they stopped spending money on BG then they could quite probably afford to push through Jamie Olivers school dinners reform idea’s which, much as i dislike the guy, are a good idea.

    2. when i was about 9 or 10… so over 25 years ago (sob) i went to a theatre on a school trip.
    What we saw was literally a story teller, one man sat on a chair on the stage telling a story. What this guy did was every now and then, at a dramatic part of the story, was sudenly stop and tell us to “have a wiggle”.
    This was incredibly effective, all of us were perfectly still while he was talking and totally focused on what he was saying, there was no fidgeting or talking. All it took was a 10 second “wiggle” every 10-15 minutes… not a brain button in sight!

    The point? simply that children and adults too have an attention span, so feed them the information while it lasts then give them a quick break and start over.

    I use the same technique when teaching things (not a school teacher) and it works pretty well. No mumbo jumbo just common sense

  96. Denis O'Brien said,

    March 20, 2006 at 11:39 am

    I enjoy reading your column and I agree with this one when you criticise the puesdoscience.

    But Brain Gym is a ‘technology’ not a science: it does not ‘prove’ it ‘enables’.

    Of course you are right to be sceptical about the simplistic explanations and the single source endorsement … but you have a fully formed frontal lobe and are expert in making complex decisions, concentration etc. When you have lost these things through an accident or they have not fully formed because of age, then these sorts of exercises are useful…. and I know you are not against the exercises …

    But since your radar is focussed on Brain Gym permit me a few words in it’s defence outside of ‘school’:

    I had a major Road Traffic Accident caused by a drunk driver and I had suffered with brain injury problems for 12 years before Brain Gym helped me eradicate some really ingrained inconvenient behaviours. I had been an in-patient on a Pain Management course for 4 weeks at St Thomas’s Hospital London which included a cognitive component which helped with the effects of trauma but Brain Gym has helped ( and helps) in every day living.

    Every year approximately two-hundred thousand people sustain a brain injury of some sort in the UK alone. The effects of the injuries are usually for life, therefore the number of people living with brain injury will rise year on year.

    Headway – the UK’s leading brain injury charity – provides support, services and information to brain injury survivors, their families and carers as well as professionals (health, legal etc).

    The problem is that Brain Gym has not been fully researched and is not on the syllabus for Physiotherapists so these 200,000 brain injured people get no ‘day to day’ benefit from these simple exercise!!

    Thank you for bringing Brain Gym to the attention of the public … you timing was spot on … it was Brain Injury Awareness Week from 13th – 19th March organised by Headway www.headway.org.uk

  97. RS said,

    March 20, 2006 at 12:03 pm

    “Of course you are right to be sceptical about the simplistic explanations”

    The explanations are not simplistic, they are comically wrong in almost every way. Doing these simple exercises may have well helped you, and may well help others, but just as the relaxing benefits of yoga do not support chakra, we should be promoting the benefits without the deletirous effects of teaching people something that is just plain wrong. I’m actually quite disturbed that teachers can so happily justify teaching children palpable nonsense about physiology in order to help them concentrate in class – surely it is ultimately counterproductive to send them off with their heads full of absurdities mixed with useful learning?

  98. le canard noir said,

    March 20, 2006 at 12:39 pm

    When I went to school we had things called ‘breaks’ that allowed the kids to leave the class room, pull each others hair out, stamp on each others feet, steal each others marbles, and unroll 30 feet of bog roll before returning after 15 minutes for our next lesson. Maybe we drank water if we were thirsty. This worked fine for me and I now have a PhD in Nuclear Physics.
    Just what is the evidence that these silly exercises create better learning conditions over and above old fashioned breaks? I bet it is all annecdotal. My guess is that the more BG sessions you have, the more ‘whole brain learning’ will go on in shorter and shorter lessons. This will converge on a system that will leave a nation of kids unable to read, understand history etc. but will be experts at patting their heads and rubbing their stomachs simultaneously.

    Good grief I sound old.

  99. William Ewart Gladstone said,

    March 20, 2006 at 12:45 pm

    ” I only wish I’d had the time to come up with ‘Brain Gym Bingo’.” writes Don (post 37). Well you have now Don and I am stealing the idea. I will meet my printer friend this evening and the product will be launched next week priced £19.99. Any teachers reading this who would like a copy, please email your credit card details to w_e_gladstone@uk2.net.

  100. lillai said,

    March 20, 2006 at 12:59 pm

    I’m going to my 2 older children’s parent/teacher evening tomorrow night & am certainly bringing BG up as I know they teach it at their school. I hadn’t really thought twice about it until I read Ben’s article in the Guardian. Straight away I questioned my kids about it & it seems that they are being peddled the wacky science behind it – I had just though that BG was all about them having access to water throughout the day & being able to have a break to stretch themselves etc. Which, if that was all it was, is fine & should be encouraged but I am really livid if they are being taught bullshit science along side it.
    One of my kid’s teacher is the Deputy head of the Primary school & I’m going to be very interested in what he says about all this. And then I’m going straight to the teacher at school who “co-ordinates” the BG with a photocopy of the orginal article …..I’ve heard her go on about it in the past & am annoyed at myself for not asking her what exactly it was.

  101. Science teacher said,

    March 20, 2006 at 1:02 pm

    As a teacher with classes that need a break but could cause 10 kinds of havoc if actually allowed out of the classroom, brain gym provides silly exercises that the students are happy to do but are safe in the context of a science lab. I have found them useful without any need for a particular science explanation. Practice not theory I’m afraid.

  102. M said,

    March 20, 2006 at 1:06 pm

    Denis – even if ‘Brain Gym’ worked, it would be Occupational Therapists who it would be of interest to, not physiotherapists. This sort of confusion does tend to piss off OTs :)
    Secondly, what sort of OT support did you get following your head injury? If you did indeed only receive physio then you probably missed out on the stuff that ‘Brain Gym’ claims to address.

    Thirdly – four weeks with a cognitive element? If you want CBT or any other sort of behaviour management to work then four weeks is almost certainly not long enough for it to work. Have you considered that the Brain Gym excercises are a form of displacement behaviour for you? It’s certainly something that children with some neurodevelopmental problems are encouraged to do – if you think you’re about to (insert behaviour here) then try (insert less distressing/noisy etc behaviour here).

    Brain Gym either:
    a) is not submitting potentially life saving treatments for proper clinical trials. If the carotid bloodlfow can really be stimulated that easily this would be of great use in various conditions (perhaps in strokes?).
    b) is useless.

    Neither are good.

  103. Alex said,

    March 20, 2006 at 1:13 pm

    “Brain Gym as sold includes buckets of piss poor science that anyone with a GCSE in science (which, I believe is a prerequisite to teach in primary schools) should be able to see right through.”

    I’m sorry to rain on the parade, but I don’t think that GCSE science is up to the task anymore. This can be evidenced by the seemingly ill informed comments made on this thread.

    Al ;-)

  104. Alex said,

    March 20, 2006 at 1:28 pm

    There are people out there that ‘belive’ this stuff and then tech it to children, who then unquestioningly accept it!?! Bad Science makes me laugh and encourages reasoned debate, but this is just too sad. Ben is absolutely right. If this is the way that science is heading in this country, then God help us all.

  105. Delster said,

    March 20, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    Science teacher,

    thats pretty much what we’ve been saying all along…. the practice (exercises) are fine but the theory (water absorbed through mouth for eg) are not.

  106. Ian said,

    March 20, 2006 at 2:00 pm

    To Ben and all… (You’re going to love this – please read more than the first line!)

    I’m a science teacher and use some of the ideas behind brain gym in my classroom. That’s to say, I try to break up the lesson with a little movement, even if it’s just getting up and moving to see a demonstration, and when we’re not doing practical work and I *know* the lab isn’t contaminated by acids/alkalis/remnants of dissected stuff I let the kids have their water bottles out.

    Like many others here (the ones who can read) I’m glad Ben has pointed out that using the techniques without the misleading ‘explanations’ can be profitable in a classroom. Buying the training/consultants/materials from BrainGym is only profitable for the company.

    Someone mentioned the visual/auditory/kinaesthetic (VAK) learning styles a while back. All this means is that lessons can be based on looking at things, listening to a teacher talk or doing something with your hands or body. e.g. I teach particle theory by having kids draw the diagrams, listen to explanations (and give their own in their own words) and model the behaviour by moving around. I’m not sure about people having a preferred method of learning, but I do know that lessons go better when you have a mix of activities, probably simply because varied explanatory methods means less boredom!

    Last of all, I’d like to object to the ‘those who can, do, those who can’t, teach” thing. Anyone who’s in my area and is interested is welcome to give me a shout, and I’ll see about getting you in to observe a lesson or two here. Teaching can be wonderful and I’m glad it’s what I do, but it’s amazing how many people who would never dream of criticising a nurse, physio, OT (or comparable medical person) thinks teachers are there to be laughed at!

    Ian

  107. Sockatume said,

    March 20, 2006 at 2:35 pm

    “I’m sorry to rain on the parade, but I don’t think that GCSE science is up to the task anymore. This can be evidenced by the seemingly ill informed comments made on this thread. ”

    Based on some of the conversations I’ve had, there’s some university level science which isn’t up to the task. I think the only time I’ve ever been explicitly taught the scientific method in an educational institution was during my optional Stats course. Scary, huh?

  108. Kate said,

    March 20, 2006 at 4:41 pm

    The article’s causing quite a lot of debate on the TES Forums too:
    www.tes.co.uk/section/staffroom/thread.aspx?story_id=2208023&path=/Opinion/&threadPage=&messagePage=1

    For the record, I agree that taking breaks, doing some exercise and making sure you drink enough water helps with concentration. I don’t agree that a company should be able to make money out of packaging up simple advice with dubious pseudoscience and selling it to the credulous to be taught to kids as fact. I think it sets a very bad precedent for children learning science if they’re given inaccurate explanations as to what Brain Gym is doing. My mother’s a university counsellor and has been advising this common-sense stuff for years – it’s called Study Skills, and her advice costs students nothing at all. Why do schools spend money on this nonsense? Wouldn’t the money be better spent by the DfES drawing up some guidance on how to do some simple exercises to aid concentration and how often breaks should be taken? Or does such guidance already exist and somehow Brain Gym is exploting a perceived lack of information?

    (My god, I’m only an inch away from the phrase “taxpayers’ money”. Stop me before I start buying the Daily Mail…)

  109. Janet W said,

    March 20, 2006 at 5:10 pm

    What’s this with the water bottles?
    I’ve heard there can be a problem with elderly people getting dehydrated, because they’re worried about getting up to go to the loo, but I didn’t realise children had a problem with dehydration?
    Or is the idea that if you suppress their thirst they drink less sweet stuff at break-time?

  110. coracle said,

    March 20, 2006 at 5:17 pm

    Kate,

    ha ha ha, that TES thread is brilliant! My absolute favourite quote:

    my year 6′s love brain gym, they often ask for it during the afternoon when we have no break…

    I couldnt use the “Banging a pan lid on their table when they’re not expecting it makes them wake up.” method since that is a form of child abuse. It will frighten some kids and causing kids into that state is a form of child neglect.

    Brilliant; halloween, alarm clocks, scary masks, going boo, all of it is child abuse. Superb!

  111. Barry Pavier said,

    March 20, 2006 at 8:01 pm

    I have used Brain Gym in my teaching in further education for two years. Whenever stduents have used it syetematically it has produced significant improvements in their performance. There are 26 specific Brain Gym movements, linked to specific learning objectives – reading, writing, etc. Whenever I have worked on these, they have produced a positive effect as well. I know of a number of other teachers in the West Yorkshire area who have used Brain Gym and experienced positive results in learning and behaviour.

    So, empirically I am convinced that it dores work for improving teaching and learning. Beacuse Brain Gym ( or Educational Kineisiology, to use the formal term) is an empircally based model, explanations are going to be provisional, and I have never heard a Brain Gym trainer claim anying else.

    A closer examination of the comments indicate that no-one who has used BG systematically, with the full range of exercises and activities, has made a critical comment – ie, no one’s said ‘I’ve tried it over a long period of time and it doesn’t work’.
    In other words, the case against is based on limited and selective quotatrion and the editing out of a range of evidence. If any of my hsitory studenmts produced an assignment constructed in such a way it would be immediately rteturned for rewriting.

    By the way, if any of the correspondents want to have me sacked please get in touch and I’ll give you my boss’s email.

  112. Tristan said,

    March 20, 2006 at 8:13 pm

    Barry Pavier,

    If the company pushing Brain Gym claimed you should use it because Queen Mary I used it to great effect training her officers when she defeated Hitler in the 3rd World War (1926-1932) and produced “research” to show this then I’m sure you, as a history teacher, would have something to say about it.

    However, if you, again as history teacher, fell for this and accepted their claims then your sense of history would certainly have cause to be doubted, as would your suitability to teach it.

  113. Tristan said,

    March 20, 2006 at 8:24 pm

    On another note, could the Hawthorne effect have any relevance to why Brain Gym “seems” to work?

    www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/history/hawthorne.html

    Of particular interest is:

    “The major finding of the study was that almost regardless of the experimental manipulation employed, the production of the workers seemed to improve. One reasonable conclusion is that the workers were pleased to receive attention from the researchers who expressed an interest in them.”

  114. David said,

    March 20, 2006 at 8:28 pm

    Ben,

    While it’s irritating to be misunderstood as egregiously as some of these teachers have misunderstood you, I wonder if it is partly because they are primed for criticism from another angle. Teachers get endless complaints (so I gather) from outraged pundits and parents who say things like “why are you wasting time making the kids do little exercises when they could be doing something useful like memorising kings of England”.

    My bet is that they automatically assume that all their critics are concerned about things like that, and they don’t realise that people might object to the fake science underlying it, which at least half of them won’t have noticed themselves in the first place.

  115. David said,

    March 20, 2006 at 8:45 pm

    … On the other hand, I have no sympathy at all for people like Barry Pavier, who has made a “closer examination” of all the comments (or claims to have done so), and STILL fails to get the point that the objection is to the pseudo-science, not the technique per se.

    I was particularly amused by his reference to “provisional” explanations – we are, after all, talking about people who claim that processed foods contain no water. The idea that this could even be a “provisional” explanation for something is hilarious.

  116. le canard noir said,

    March 20, 2006 at 8:50 pm

    Barry

    A closer examination of the comments indicate that no-one who has used BG systematically, with the full range of exercises and activities, has made a critical comment, ie, no one’s said ‘I’ve tried it over a long period of time and it doesn’t work’.

    This is a rather self-selecting group of people who probably failed to spot the guff in the first place and therefore are very unlikey to chirp up with any criticism anyway. Given that this forum is not disputing that little breaks, excercise and a drink will help kids concentrate, your experience counts for little.

    Once gain, let’s learn by rote – classroom breaks good – pseudoscience sackable. Repeat.

  117. Jimmy said,

    March 20, 2006 at 9:28 pm

    My 8 year-old daughter has been doing brain gym at school, unbeknownst to me, and while I have no doubt that brain gym is pseudo science I don’t think it will really do the children any harm. I’ve questioned my daughter and I’m sure the teacher isn’t teaching them any of the theory. The teacher according to my daughter doesn’t think there’s much difference in the children’s concentration levels between the children doing brain gym and not doing it. So, while a great many teachers may try Brain Gym I’m sure most of them will see it for what it is and forget about it.
    Barry, I’m tempted to point out the need for double blinded placebo controlled trials but perhaps you could just look at the skeptic’s dictionary entry for the pragmatic fallacy. – skepdic.com/pragmatic.html .
    Yes, Brain Gym may work – just like homeopathy and acupuncture “work” and MMR causes autism. If I had ever produced an assignment constructed in such a way as your comment I’m sure it would have been immediately returned for rewriting, if only for all the typing errors but mainly because you demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of the scientific method; as anyone with any knowledge of statistics will tell you “correlation does not imply cause”.

  118. Barry Pavier said,

    March 20, 2006 at 9:44 pm

    what’s interesting is that my anonymous critics show almost a complete ignorance of what Brain Gym is. To summarise: it is a suite of 26 movements, which are combined in various combinations to address a range of educational goals. Not ‘ little breaks, exercise and a drink’.

    ‘le cxanard noir’ illustrates the point : ‘if you are unable to produce anyone who has tried Brain Gyn systematically and abandoned it as faikure, then your argument is serioiusly undermined. No amount of huffing and puffing about ‘pseudoscience’ can alter that. Contrary to what mnay of the rather superior correspondents tate, teachers who use BG don’t do so because they are naive semieducated fools. They do it beacuse it self-evidently helps their pupils learning.

    On another point, the definitions are all over the place as well : ‘pseduosceince’ if it means anything at all, means ssomething that is not nscience masqueradiing as science. this is not the same as making a single error , which is all that the criticisms of the Brain Gym teachers book amount to. In other words, this entire critique is based on a methodolgical error.

  119. WhyDontYou said,

    March 20, 2006 at 9:52 pm

    Barry Pavier said

    “So, empirically I am convinced that it dores work for improving teaching and learning.”

    Brilliant. This is why humanities get a bad rep from scientists.

    Again, the assumption is that the argument is against the practice not just the theory.

    Barry, have you tried this with a control group who have done the activities without the pseudo-science? Have you tried this with a control group who simply did some activities not the prescribed ones?

    Or, in fact, might this be you assuming a cause and effect chain that does not exist?

    I have no reason to want you sacked from your job as a History teacher, am I sure you know the subject inside out. However if you ever taught my children science (even as a sideline) there would be some strongly worded complaints.

  120. WhyDontYou said,

    March 20, 2006 at 9:56 pm

    Barry, no one is criticising you per se. The article that started this objected to the MULTIPLE errors (not one single error) in the science behind the practice.

    For example teaching the children to massage their carotid artery through the ribcage will cause all manner of problems when it comes to biology lessons (or first aid).

    Add in the processed foods not containing water…… and you can easily see that while the practical application may have a good result there background science is false.

  121. WhyDontYou said,

    March 20, 2006 at 9:57 pm

    Barry Pavier said,

    “‘le cxanard noir’ illustrates the point : ‘if you are unable to produce anyone who has tried Brain Gyn systematically and abandoned it as faikure, then your argument is serioiusly undermined.”

    Not true. At all.

  122. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 20, 2006 at 9:58 pm

    jesus, and that lot was just for starters, i’ve only got 600 words to play with in the column…

  123. Jimmy said,

    March 20, 2006 at 10:29 pm

    Barry – a definition of pseudoscience from the skeptic’s dictionary follows.
    I think from Andy Brown’s power point presentation and various web articles I’ve looked at (e.g. rossa.blogs.com/weblog/files/brain_break_activity_book.pdf ) I have a fair understanding of the practise of “Brain Gym”. From a practical point of view it would appear to be little different to “little breaks, exercise and a drink” but you’ve suggested a good control – could you compare the results of little breaks, exercises and drinks with a suite of 26 movements, which are combined in various combinations to address a range of educational goals . If the wrong exercises are performed does this result in diminished performance? Would the cross crawl, an exercise I’ve performed many times without realising it would make me smarter, be bad for thinking? Would gravity glider adversely affect reading?

    A pseudoscience is set of ideas based on theories put forth as scientific when they are not scientific.
    Scientific theories are characterized by such things as (a) being based upon empirical observation rather than the authority of some sacred text; (b) explaining a range of empirical phenomena; (c) being empirically tested in some meaningful way, usually involving testing specific predictions deduced from the theory; (d) being confirmed rather than falsified by empirical tests or with the discovery of new facts; (e) being impersonal and therefore testable by anyone regardless of personal religious or metaphysical beliefs; (f) being dynamic and fecund, leading investigators to new knowledge and understanding of the interrelatedness of the natural world rather than being static and stagnant leading to no research or development of a better understanding of anything in the natural world; and (g) being approached with skepticism rather than gullibility, especially regarding paranormal forces or supernatural powers, and being fallible and put forth tentatively rather than being put forth dogmatically as infallible.

    Some pseudoscientific theories are based upon an authoritative text rather than observation or empirical investigation. Creationists, for example, make observations only to confirm infallible dogmas, not to discover the truth about the natural world. Such theories are static and lead to no new scientific discoveries or enhancement of our understanding of the natural world.

    Some pseudoscientific theories explain what non-believers cannot even observe, e.g. orgone energy.

    Some can’t be tested because they are consistent with every imaginable state of affairs in the empirical world, e.g., L. Ron Hubbard’s engram theory.

    Some pseudoscientific theories can’t be tested because they are so vague and malleable that anything relevant can be shoehorned to fit the theory, e.g., the enneagram, iridology, the theory of multiple personality disorder, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, the theories behind many New Age psychotherapies, and reflexology.

    Some theories have been empirically tested and rather than being confirmed they seem either to have been falsified or to require numerous ad hoc hypotheses to sustain them, e.g., astrology, biorhythms, facilitated communication, plant perception, and ESP. Yet, despite seemingly insurmountable evidence contrary to the theories, adherents won’t give them up.

    Some pseudoscientific theories rely on ancient myths and legends rather than on physical evidence, even when their interpretations of those legends either requires a belief contrary to the known laws of nature or to established facts, e.g., Velikovsky’s, von Däniken’s, and Sitchen’s theories.

    Some pseudoscientific theories are supported mainly by selective use of anecdotes, intuition, and examples of confirming instances, e.g., anthropometry, aromatherapy, craniometry, graphology, metoposcopy, personology, and physiognomy.

    Some pseudoscientific theories confuse metaphysical claims with empirical claims, e.g., the theories of acupuncture, alchemy, cellular memory, Lysenkoism, naturopathy, reiki, rolfing, therapeutic touch, and Ayurvedic medicine.

    Some pseudoscientific theories not only confuse metaphysical claims with empirical claims, but they also maintain views that contradict known scientific laws and use ad hoc hypotheses to explain their belief, e.g., homeopathy.

    Pseudoscientists claim to base their theories on empirical evidence, and they may even use some scientific methods, though often their understanding of a controlled experiment is inadequate. Many pseudoscientists relish being able to point out the consistency of their theories with known facts or with predicted consequences, but they do not recognize that such consistency is not proof of anything. It is a necessary condition but not a sufficient condition that a good scientific theory be consistent with the facts. A theory which is contradicted by the facts is obviously not a very good scientific theory, but a theory which is consistent with the facts is not necessarily a good theory. For example, “the truth of the hypothesis that plague is due to evil spirits is not established by the correctness of the deduction that you can avoid the disease by keeping out of the reach of the evil spirits” (Beveridge 1957, 118).

  124. Rachel Dunn said,

    March 20, 2006 at 10:43 pm

    hi, i saw the article in the guardian and decided to have a look. I go to egglescliffe comprehensive and im 15 years old. in some of my lessons, we are forced to do these brain gym exercises, which are, quite frankly, rubbish.

  125. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 20, 2006 at 10:44 pm

    do they explain how it works?

  126. student said,

    March 20, 2006 at 10:48 pm

    Barry Pavier said:
    “‘le cxanard noir’ illustrates the point : ‘if you are unable to produce anyone who has tried Brain Gyn systematically and abandoned it as faikure, then your argument is serioiusly undermined.”

    Not that it’s particularly relevent (I’m sure there’s plenty of anecdotes both ways) but I tried and then abandoned brain gym exercises – taking regular breaks and moving around was good, but I found that other exercises worked just as well. Does that undermine the whole brain gym system ;) I’m also sure that, given the number of children doing these exercises at school, a lot of them will have given them up…

    As others have said, a problem with teaching students the theory behind brain gym is that – if students study biology or related subjects – there’s a good chance they’ll run into potentially confusing contradictions. If they don’t study such subjects then they could go through their life believing that this theory is correct, which would be a shame (at least to me, biology is much more interesting/aesthetically appealing than the theory behind brain gym)

    Not to mention the problems with moving from brain gym theory to practice. After all, it’s absurd to say that there’s only 26 exercises that you need to do as part of this technique – you actually need to do 27, and the 27th is the most important ;)

  127. Rachel Dunn said,

    March 20, 2006 at 10:49 pm

    cont.
    the only plus side i can see to this, as a child, is that we get the chance to not do work, and play around with our water bottles, (water fights in summer). i think its a good idea to have a break from studying, for primary school children, but as a secondary school pupil, i think we should be treat like young adults, to prepare us for further education or a career. in a year and a half, i will be looking for entry to sixth form, but i will still be doing thes brain gym exercises.
    as a “gifted and talented pupil” i get certain opportunities and one of these was to look at the “science” of brain gym. it was the most pointless waste of time i have ever been forced to go through.
    in our own experiments, we managed to prove that brain gym was less beneficial to a pupil than working in the time used in almost 80% of cases.
    should the majority have to bend to the needs of the minority?

  128. pv said,

    March 20, 2006 at 10:58 pm

    Perhaps Barry Pavier and his like minded colleagues, along with the education authorities, don’t mind the students being taught pseudo-science or voodoo. Maybe they wouldn’t mind fake history, fake languages, fake geography and fake everything else on the curriculum too. After all as long as the kids do the brain gym and the education budget gets diverted in to the brain gym coffers everything will be just fine.

    And, Barry Pavier, how is the argument that pseudo-science shouldn’t be taught actually undermined?

  129. Mrs Trellis said,

    March 20, 2006 at 11:38 pm

    Whoever asked about the basis for the eight glasses of water a day theory, I can tell him that there isn’t any. I looked into this some time ago and wrote about it here: mrstrellis.cream.org/?p=116. When I was at school we avoided drinking the school water as if it had been handled by Typhoid Mary (and if you’d met our dinner ladies, you’d have understood why). We used to have idle discussions about how litle we’d had to drink that day.

    It appears that modern children are now so feeble that they will wilt like seedlings under a hosepipe ban if they are more than a few metres away from some bottled mineral water. I think a decent diet with fewer fizzy drinks and Turkey Twizzlers will have more of an impact on children’s concentration than waving their hands about a bit and having a glass of water.

    I used to be a teacher. I wouldn’t have fancied getting my Year 7 hoodlums to sit quietly and do brain buttons for me.

  130. WhyDontYou said,

    March 20, 2006 at 11:53 pm

    Rachel Dunn said,

    “in our own experiments, we managed to prove that brain gym was less beneficial to a pupil than working in the time used in almost 80% of cases.”

    At last! It has been experimentally falsified :-) :-)

  131. Huwmanerror said,

    March 21, 2006 at 12:59 am

    Control, control, control … I’ve never been *explicitly* taught scientific method either (2nd year biochemistry undergrad), but the thing I’ve understood longest, since at least the early years of secondary school, is how critical it is to control experiments properly.

    Yet still, down the comment list, come post after post from Brain Gym proponents, and the singular thing that all of them fail to do is demonstrate any proper control in the evidence that they’re taking as being supportive of Brain Gym.

    No, for that, we have to rely on Rachel Dunn, apparently doing extracurricular schoolwork. If you could give a quick run-down on what you did Rachel, that would be nice. Listen up at the back there, Barry Pavier. You never know, you might learn something.

    And, if you’re wondering, the second most important rule in science is to be mightily suspicious of anyone publishing “research” papers in their own journal. Especially if those journals are only available to read for a fee … another money-spinning ruse methinks…

  132. Carl said,

    March 21, 2006 at 8:07 am

    If you , sir, are a scientist then you certainly need to refresh your definition of the word! Science is about research and development (remember the old R&D) and this is just one branch of a tree growing at an exponential rate. While the theory of brain gym is very good, and the science of the exercise is almost infallible, it seems that you do not agree. Have you ever partook of a session of brain gym? If the answer to this question is no then maybe you should reserve comment on your very bias oppinions, or alternatively wear a gag!!! Such an un-educated mouth to speak such stupified words!

  133. Tristan said,

    March 21, 2006 at 8:22 am

    Carl: “Such an un-educated mouth to speak such stupified words! ”

    I know the feeling!

  134. Andrew Clegg said,

    March 21, 2006 at 8:33 am

    Carl, are you trolling?

    Telling children that water is absorbed through the roof of the mouth, or that you can stimulate an artery deep in your body cavity by putting your hand on your chest, or that processed foods contain no water (!?!) is not good theory or infallible science.

    While the exercises might very well do the children some good this is no excuse for telling them falsehoods which run counter to the things their biology and chemistry teachers are trying to teach them!

    Andrew.

  135. Jimmy said,

    March 21, 2006 at 8:39 am

    Carl,

    Personal expression of Brain Gym whether as a tutor or pupil will tell you nothing. It is essential to conduct properly designed trials. The plural of anecdote is not data.

  136. RS said,

    March 21, 2006 at 9:27 am

    I think what the whole brain gym fiasco has taught us is that there is a vocal subset of teachers that are really rather dim. Since none of the teachers know are that dim I can only assume it is quite a small minority.

  137. superburger said,

    March 21, 2006 at 9:30 am

    Barry,

    You are a qualified teacher, so if you were born before 1979 you must have needed O-level / GCSE Maths to train. If you were born after 1979 you must have GCSE Science and maths to teach.

    Ergo, you have either GCSE Maths or Science.

    Your GCSE/O-Level/Standard Grade maths should have taught you enough statistics to realise that in your analysis of the effictivness of Brain Gym your sampling scheme is fatally flawed.

    If you have GCSE science qualification then you should be able to appreciate experiments need at least one control.

    Does this affect your abillity to teach history. Well, if your understanding of science / the scientific method is that weak, then I’m not sure you’d be able to convey the majesty and power of the Enlightenment, or the scale of the techological acievments in the Industrial Revolution for a start.

    Plus, IF you try and tell any of your scientifically literate students any of the pseudoscience of Brain Gym then you’ll quckly lose their respect, I am sure. This lack of resepect could weaken your ability to teach the curriculum area in which you specialise.

    What was your bosses email again?

  138. stan said,

    March 21, 2006 at 9:37 am

    This is a money-spinning wheeze explained with the same credibility as the poo lady, cosmetic adverts etc etc etc.

    Unfortunately, people (it is not just teachers I’m afraid) are utterly gullible. They “listen” to waffle and piffle without actually thinking about what is being said.

    Teachers are in the unfortunate position of having endured the best part of 20 years of management by chaos, with a “New” idea/initiative being foisted upon them with monotonous regularity. All too often, these are accepted in the manner of the emperor’s new clothes.

    regards

    Stan

  139. superburger said,

    March 21, 2006 at 9:39 am

    The basic requirements to become a teacher

    www.tda.gov.uk/Home/Recruit/becomingateacher/basicrequirements.aspx

    As an aside it is Interesting that one is required to have a science qualification to teach these days. Quite a positive step, I think.

    I

  140. ACH said,

    March 21, 2006 at 10:17 am

    I don’t know, Superburger. If some of these teacher’s responses are from people with science qualifications, I really find it quite depressing that they are: a) unable to see through the pseudoscience and b) read plain English, in that despite numerous repetitions of the fact that it is the pseudoscience, not the displacement activity of exercise, being criticised, they are STILL not getting the point.

    Carl is either trolling, being ironic (which sadly doesn’t come across easily in this medium) or genuinely scary if he’s in a classroom anywhere.

    Three rousing cheers though for Rachel Dunn, who seems to have outstripped her teachers in her ability to read, question, design an experiment, analyse results and dismiss junk “science” for what it is. She also seems to be able to fully comprehend the original article and cut to the chase – “the only plus side i can see to this, as a child, is that we get the chance to not do work, and play around with our water bottles, (water fights in summer)”

    It’s people like her who restore my faith in the education system when a number of teachers posting here were making me grateful that I don’t have kids in school.

    And to those teachers who *are* aware of how junk this “science” is and feel they are fighting a battle against it, congratulations, and you have my sympathy!

  141. superburger said,

    March 21, 2006 at 10:33 am

    True enough ACH.

    Perhaps what is even more painful is the number of teachers who cannot read an article and understand the arguments.

    I just ran Ben’s article through the grammar check on Word:Mac 2004. He gets a Flesch-Kincaid Grade level of 7.7. My american colleague tells me that’s a reading age of a 13 to 14 year old. So the article seems pretty clear!

    Yet the spectacle of (humanities and primary) teachers who cannot critically analyse 600 words of simple English and see the arguments being presented is really, really, tragic.

    If Barry teaches (to pick an example, there are others!) teaches humanities and cannot analyse this short piece of text then I am scared for the standard of eduction his pupils receive.

    Huamanities grads love to bang on about how their degres taught them ‘critical thinking skills’ (like I’m not thinking criticaly when I trawl through a verbose aricle in Chem. Comm.) I wish some of the people on this forum could go back and apply a little critical thought to the article posted.

  142. Alex said,

    March 21, 2006 at 10:58 am

    “Three rousing cheers though for Rachel Dunn, who seems to have outstripped her teachers in her ability to read, question, design an experiment, analyse results and dismiss junk “science” for what it is. ”
    Hear, haer!
    Is there any chance that Rachel Dunn could send in her experiment to badscience. I think that Ben could put it to very good use in debunking Brain Gym. Its not as if we can trust the ‘self published’ studies that Brain Gym have produced now, is it?
    regards Alex
    ;-)

  143. Alex said,

    March 21, 2006 at 10:59 am

    Nooooo. Typo.
    “Hear, haer!”
    Should obviously read.
    Hear, hear!

  144. radar said,

    March 21, 2006 at 11:44 am

    Pardon my ignorance – is a “troll” internet speak for “wind-up merchant”? I assume so, because surely no-one (Carl) can be that obstinate in the face of such a load of rubbish. If this bloke is serious, and an educator, then we’re doomed.

    How many times must it be pointed out? Teaching our children the crap ‘science’ behind this is plain wrong, not having fun and drinking water.

    Harumph.

  145. Hanne said,

    March 21, 2006 at 11:48 am

    radar-
    Come join Eeyore and I, sitting by the river, depressively wondering at the state of the world.
    Like I said in an earlier post- it’s the trigger word. Similar to Pavlov’s dogs and the bell I suppose.

  146. Sockatume said,

    March 21, 2006 at 11:48 am

    He isn’t just convinced, he’s empirically convinced.

  147. Delster said,

    March 21, 2006 at 11:59 am

    at the end of the day i suspect the physical aspects of brain gym are largly effective by breaking up large periods of time when pupils are expected to concentrate into smaller more manageable blocks…. kind of like me breaking from work to come read this then going back and getting on with work again…. simple really

  148. stever said,

    March 21, 2006 at 12:03 pm

    radar: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_troll

  149. Alex said,

    March 21, 2006 at 12:05 pm

    “radar-
    Come join Eeyore and I, sitting by the river, depressively wondering at the state of the world.”
    Can I join you? This could become quite a crowd. :-(

  150. Hanne said,

    March 21, 2006 at 12:15 pm

    Yes, of course! The more the merrier. We may even succeed in cheering Eeyore up! He’s a miserable one that one! :-)
    Just bring some balloons! And sticks..

  151. ithaca said,

    March 21, 2006 at 12:27 pm

    Posted by Delster: “kind of like me breaking from work to come read this then going back and getting on with work again…. simple really ”

    Or in my case… breaking from reading the internet to go do some for for a few mins ;)

  152. Luvaduck said,

    March 21, 2006 at 12:41 pm

    I think one of the more revealing items I saw was one of the early “Test the Nation” events on the BBC. This had a number of professional groups in the studio, including teachers. As I remember, the mean IQ of the teacher group came out about 105 – not much more than the average man-in-the-street and we know how gullible they are when it comes to anything with a “science” label.

    I think this goes to show that there are many skills required to be a teacher (many of which I would not profess to have, which could be one of the reasons I have never wanted to teach), but a high IQ is not necessarily one of them.

  153. radar said,

    March 21, 2006 at 12:41 pm

    Hanne – I’m there!

    Alex – thanks, another mystery solved by Wikipedia, don’t know why I didn’t just look it up myself…

  154. stever said,

    March 21, 2006 at 1:36 pm

    Luvaduck – this really isnt about treachers being stupid. they clearly aren’t, and thats not a helpful or scientific comment IMHO, nor for that matter is that bollocks about ‘those who cant – teach’ . The vast majority of teachers are intelligent, committed and generally rather brilliant.

  155. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 21, 2006 at 1:50 pm

    here here. although the minority of ignorant teachers can be very destructive.

  156. superburger said,

    March 21, 2006 at 1:51 pm

    The vast majority of teacher may very well be “intelligent, committed and generally rather brilliant.”

    But the ones who have sat through the BS produced by Brain Gym, failed to question any of the drivel contained therein, then regurgitated back at their students are stupid, lazy and generally incompetent. And perhaps shouldn’t be standing at the front of a classroom.

  157. superburger said,

    March 21, 2006 at 1:54 pm

    cont. And these poor teachers are the ones which make life even more diffucult for the good teachers.

  158. aspiring pedant said,

    March 21, 2006 at 2:24 pm

    Hear, Hear to Stever’s comments; I don’t think we need to be critical of the teaching profession here. So what, if a few teachers have been conned by the Brain Gym nonsense the vast majority of teachers will recognise it as predominantly rubbish but will make use of the opportunity to allow the pupils a break during lessons.

  159. Scoob said,

    March 21, 2006 at 4:15 pm

    Aspiring Pedant, its not a question of slagging off the teaching profession in general, but its scary that there are teachers out there who think it necessary to justify a potentially beneficial activity (drinking water, exercise) with charlatan drivel.

    You could tell children that if they don’t look both ways before crossing the road that monsters will eat them. Might work for a while, but it isnt true and lying to children usually backfires as you lose their trust. If they cross without looking they’ll get squashed by a bus, if they exercise they’ll be healthier. No need for the monsters, and no need for the carotid artery stimulation nonsense.

    Incidentally I’m not too sure about the water and exercise thing. At the university where I work I am surrounded by extremely clever professors and I’ve yet to see a single one of them either drink water or do any exercise. Drink, yes. Water? Is that the tasteless stuff some people add to whiskey? Amazing what you can achieve with a shrunken brain.

  160. aspiring pedant said,

    March 21, 2006 at 5:01 pm

    Scoob,

    My point was just that teachers may use brain gym without teaching the theory. However, I too would be concerned if there are children being taught that thinking of an ‘X’ tells the brain that you want to use both sides of the brain at the same time, or that rubbing their navels will stimulate their carotid arteries.
    I doubt whether exercise and water do much to help learning directly but it might be a good way of getting their attention.
    Whiskey, though, you’d probably need to have ice in that stuff but Whisky, especially a single malt needs a wee drop of soft water to appreciate it best. Whisky’s got a lot of water in it anyway so I’m sure a bit of cross-crawling (or as I used to call it “elbow to opposite knee sit-ups”) and a wee dram and I’m sure my brain hemispheres will be working in perfect harmony.

    Slainthe,

    AP

  161. Terry Hamblin said,

    March 21, 2006 at 5:23 pm

    Not sure about the need for water bottles. God equipped us with the sense of thirst to let us know when we need to drink.

  162. Conrad Quilty-Harper said,

    March 21, 2006 at 6:40 pm

    This sounds exactly like that scene in Donnie Darko. He’s asked by a teacher to read out a scene (which is something like Jenny pushes over Tom) and place an “x” on a scale that is literally: Pain ————– Love. Naturally he refuses (after telling her to shove the love line up her arse). :-)

  163. shug said,

    March 21, 2006 at 7:14 pm

    As a secondary school teacher driven to distraction, drink and whimpering in the foetal position by the endless bollocks dressed up in pseudoscientific piffle that dominates discourse in schools, this thread has been a pure joy. As has the one on multiple intelligences. Now, can anyone point me at some rancorous bile directed at ‘emotional intelligence’ which I’m told I should now be teaching?

  164. S said,

    March 21, 2006 at 8:09 pm

    As an interesting aside to this:

    I was speaking to my mum (a teacher) yesterday and she told me about the disaster that was trying to apply the theory of making sure pupils were well hydrated.
    In her secondary school they gave out lots of black water bottles (like those you se on bikes or carried by athletes). They then lectured the kids about the kids in asembly about the importance of drinking water. There then ensued two weeks of mayhem with every lesson disrupted by 4-5 kids demanding to go to the loo to relieve themselves. After this time they all reverted to filling the bottles with Irn Bru (a Scottish delicacy).

  165. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 21, 2006 at 8:15 pm

    dont know about the emotional intelligence people, but there’s a good story behind “dr john gray phd”, the guy who wrote “men are from mars women are from venus”…

    www.badscience.net/?p=226

  166. carl said,

    March 21, 2006 at 8:42 pm

    radar i do believe that I said that the science was infallable. Meaning most of it! Are you telling me that we can maintain a sufficient level of consciousness with a de-hydrated brain? I am no more an educator than you are my friend merely a student. A future medical student may I add. I would like to point you to the basic cellular mechanisms, where without water we would indeed die! So perhaps this may lead you to believe that without being sufficiently hydrated we cannot learn! This along with the brain gym allowes students to learn much better, think of the increased levels of adrenaline in the body when the students are moving around. Surely this alone can be reason enough to allow this in the classroom as adrenaline is well known to increase awareness!

  167. carl said,

    March 21, 2006 at 8:55 pm

    jimmy :

    “Carl,

    Personal expression of Brain Gym whether as a tutor or pupil will tell you nothing. It is essential to conduct properly designed trials. The plural of anecdote is not data. ”
    This is rubbish. If the ancient tribes would not have consumed the bark of the willow tree and found restitution to their former ‘well’ selves they would not have partook of the bark would they? Furthermore asprin as we know it would not have been discovered if these tribes would not have partook of the bark! irrelevent? No the brain gym is as much a pseudoscience as the aforementioned example.

  168. stan said,

    March 21, 2006 at 9:05 pm

    I am with Shug!

    I am shortly to attend a training day on “Emotional Intelligence”. There is no alternative. Probably there is some government “Initiative” (now there’s an interesting word..) driving this too. Ben, I may soon be able to enlighten you (if I manage to keep the insomnia at bay).

    The news actually gets worse. The Dfes are, through the back door, deskilling the teaching profession. If you look at the curriculum material we are expected to use, it is broken down into idiot instructions as to which question to ask, how long to discuss, when to do this, which pictures to show when, what desired outcomes there are, all in Stalinist proscritive fashion. (Witness, Kelly, the well known and respected Educationalist is to legislate that only “synthetic phonics” will be used in primary schools.

    Why is this being done? The government anticipates HUGE teacher shortages (especially in key areas such as Maths and Science). The vision is that a number of teaching assistants, under the direction of a teacher, will deliver. Smacks of the old Victorian monitorial system….

  169. Jimmy said,

    March 21, 2006 at 9:32 pm

    Carl,

    I think you ought to own up now: You can’t be for real.

  170. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 21, 2006 at 9:44 pm

    carl is clearly bonkers.

    i’m not sure, incidentally, that it is necessary to do a trial to see if brain gym works, in the sense that: i don’t think everything in the world needs necessarily to be measured and tested. i just think that teaching children lies about science is so so so so so wrong.

  171. simonu said,

    March 21, 2006 at 9:44 pm

    Just a thought:
    If you use Brain Gym while drinking Penta Water, does that make you brainier?

  172. JK said,

    March 21, 2006 at 9:50 pm

    stan,

    The same barbarisation of “skills” is happening in universities too, I believe there are financial incentives. HR departments now insist on staff attending 10 days a year of skills training courses. Many academics show up, sign their names, and walk out because these courses are largely pointless and reflect the needs of massively overgrown HR departments needing to justify their existence. Anyone at the coalface in academia knows that the skills they need are “doing world class research” and “publishing many papers” and there’s naff all a HR robot can tell us about that.

    The focus of this kind of skills trianing is all about process and not about excellence, and I suspect Brain Gym fits nicely into that perspective. Who cares about thoroughness and intellectual rigor as long as you can tick off your INSET allocation for the reports. Show me to the river.

  173. S said,

    March 21, 2006 at 9:59 pm

    HR departments now insist on staff attending 10 days a year of skills training courses. Many academics show up, sign their names, and walk out because these courses are largely pointless and reflect the needs of massively overgrown HR departments needing to justify their existence.

    Here ..here you’ve hit the nail on the head. Teachers have had to put up with inset crap for years– most ignoring it a few idiots taking it in. We in the academic sector should speak up now before vested interests institutionalise this crap.

  174. WhyDontYou said,

    March 21, 2006 at 10:12 pm

    Schools and universities are obviously lacking in physics teachers / professors. That would solve all this nonsense.

    :-)

  175. Jimmy said,

    March 21, 2006 at 10:13 pm

    Ben,

    I agree on both counts, but if Barry’s suite of 26 movements, which are combined in various combinations to address a range of educational goals can be shown to give significantly better results than doing nothing or drinking water and doing exercises, then maybe there’s some truth in Brain Gym even if they’ve got some basic science wrong which is not necessarily the same as lying. I’m not convinced the theory is taught to the kids; I think the kids just do the exercises and drink water neither of which bother me much.
    In looking into the school my kids attend I was more concerned that a recent ofsted report recommended that the school needed to make better efforts to include a daily act of collective worship. I’m sure the kids will grow up to understand that even the best intentioned adults don’t always speak the truth even if they’re not actually lying. There’s a lot of nonsense about and perhaps telling kids a few lies which they can later prove to be wrong is good preparation for life. I doubt if a great many people believe in the explanations given for brain gym but there are far too many intelligent, well educated people who can says things like “God equipped us with the sense of thirst to let us know when we need to drink”. That worries me a lot more than whether some primary school or history teacher thinks the carotid ateries can be stimulated by rubbing the belly button.

    Anyway, thanks for keeping me entertained.

  176. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 21, 2006 at 10:31 pm

    jimmy,

    it would be fine and dandy if brain gym had that research, i’m not bothered either way, but they haven’t got it, and i dont really care if they get it or not, i dont even really care if they make huge claims that it works. seriously, the only only only thing that bothers me about brain gym is their stupid made up lies about how it’s supposed to work.

  177. Jimmy said,

    March 21, 2006 at 11:00 pm

    Yeah, I agree it’s wrong to make up spurious explanations for this stuff but I know my daughter is doing brain gym at school and this knowledge does not arouse anger in me at all. I just don’t think the lies matter too much because I don’t believe the theory is taught to the kids; My kids wouldn’t understand stuff like “this back and forward movement of the head increases the circulation to the frontal lobe for greater comprehension and rational thinking.” and once they are able to understand the words I’m certain they won’t think that shaking their heads about will make it easier to do school work.
    I don’t blame the teachers, who may just be testing the ideas out, and Brain Gym is just one example of a myriad of pseudosciences that pollute our world. Speaking of which I’m finding I’m not thinking too clearly – I’m off to do gravity glider and drink some water (with only few additives) or maybe I’ll just have a stretch and drink some beer.

  178. Delster said,

    March 22, 2006 at 12:07 am

    Stan post 169,

    Emontional intelligence… what ever that is…. plus brain gym, homeopathy on nhs + magnetic bandages et al….. what can we expect when we (i mean other people here of course) vote in leaders who have the kind of views that our current holders (or leaders wives) have.

    Personally i’m with with the late robert heinlein…. anybody who wants to be in power should automaticly be disqualified from holding office!

  179. yonatron said,

    March 22, 2006 at 12:26 am

    Jimmy, perhaps I can see not caring that your kids may or may not be hearing explanations that are over their heads anyway. But it really wouldn’t bother you later to hear that your kids are being told facts that are just plain wrong?

    I mean, if they hear it and believe it, school is making them dumber. If they don’t believe it, they get to assume that teachers are dolts. I mean certainly we don’t want to force children to think teachers are infallible. But if they’re expecting idiots, they might skip the occasional good part of an education.

  180. pv said,

    March 22, 2006 at 12:28 am

    Jimmy, what should bother you is that Brain Gym are being paid for this twaddle. The Education budget is limited and all sorts of real educational equipment and facilities (not to mention teachers) need to be funded. So why is this precious resource being given away to a bunch of people who are, in reality, nothing more than a bunch of charlatans. Whoever is making the decisions here should at least have the courage to stand up so that everyone knows who they are.
    There are lots of good reasons why students shouldn’t remain sedentary throughout their lessons. Relief of boredom, increased blood circulation… The drinking water to prevent an addled brain business is more appropriate to high altitude mountaineers than sea-level students, but it’s still a good thing to be able to have a regular intake of fluid during the day for general health reasons. However, if the students are being fed a bunch of nonsense to justify what is ostensibly a bit of physical exercise and a few drinks of water then it is clearly wrong. Children are impressionable and susceptible, and I can’t understand anyone thinking it’s a good idea to lie to them. And as Jonathan Swift wrote, “You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place”; even if some people see through the lies.
    Btw, I agree wholeheartedly with your comment about the religious nonsense peddled in schools. The idea of collective acts of worship fills me with horror. But the difference between the well intentioned religious folk and brain gym is that the brain gym scamsters know thay are peddling lies and are more than happy to profit from it – at the expense of some of the more educationally needy, because the budget is being diverted by fools into the pockets of scam artists.

  181. MDW said,

    March 22, 2006 at 1:28 am

    “Personally i’m with with the late robert heinlein…. anybody who wants to be in power should automaticly be disqualified from holding office!”

    I think that was the non-late Arthur C Clarke in “Imperial Earth”. Heinlein was the one who thought you shouldn’t get the vote unless you’d served in the military (“Starship Trooper”).

  182. Nic said,

    March 22, 2006 at 6:26 am

    Drinking water is overrated anyway. Check out this paper for an interesting discussion:

    Heinz Valtin (2002) “Drink at least eight glasses of water a day.” Really? Is there scientific evidence for “8 × 8″?
    Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 283:993-1004.

  183. coracle said,

    March 22, 2006 at 9:11 am

    That’s a great article Nic, thanks.

  184. Andrew Clegg said,

    March 22, 2006 at 9:46 am

    Carl, re. post 167, do you really think that adrenaline is good for rational thought and academic discourse? Personally I’d be pretty surprised. Show us a reference…

    Andrew.

  185. simonf said,

    March 22, 2006 at 10:43 am

    Couldn’t a tame MP be persuaded to ask a written PQ in order to find out how much tax payer money has been spent on this?

  186. Sockatume said,

    March 22, 2006 at 11:01 am

    Jimmy: frankly teaching this brain gym stuff pretty much is an act of collective worship. It’s pure cargo cult science and sets kids up to believe any old twaddle when it’s got magic scientific-sounding words around it. At least formal religions are clear on what’s going on.

  187. detly said,

    March 22, 2006 at 11:07 am

    Ben,

    You lament that you have “only got 600 words to play with.” Perhaps this is the problem. Might a four line explanation of your stance be a better follow-up than another 600 words?

    1. Excersise, breaks and water: good;
    2. Lying about why it works: bad;
    3. Lying to children who don’t know any better by people who should: absurd;
    4. You paying for it: what?

  188. andy brown said,

    March 22, 2006 at 11:58 am

    Ben,
    if you are planning on doing any more poking around in this area, i reckon a port of call should be ‘orisis educational’. They are a training agency and one of at least two who are the people providing brain gym to schools. When i spoke to them over a year ago, they estimated they’d trained 1700 teachers (although what being fully trained is is a grey area – like so many pseudosciences, the list of course you can pays your money to do are endless – see www.braingym.org/sched.html )

    Osiris also seem to offer training in ‘emotional literacy’ and, brilliantly, ‘philosophy for children’ – I wonder if this is taught by the same people who teach brain gym ?!
    You can find them here: www.osiriseducational.co.uk/sectors.asp

    Reading this thread, it’s fascinating how some people just CANNOT seperate results from theory – if you question the science, you MUST then be saying that the whole thing doesn’t work (rather than the explanation offered for how it works is what is offensive). Cue ad hominem attacks and emotive anecdotes, occassionaly from small children themselves. It’s just so predictable.

    Do you think that an inability to understand the scientific process is genetic ? the creationists seem to be breeding, certainly (within Creator-approved wedlock, obviously)

  189. Delster said,

    March 22, 2006 at 12:41 pm

    It is worrying how much is being spent on this brain gym twaddle even without the question of miseducating children. Does anybody have access to any kind of figures on expenditure…. even if only per consultant visit?

    MDW,

    Heinlein did say no vote unless military service in starship troopers but also wrote the other bit in one of his many others. I think Asimov also said it…. but then they were actually good friends so not surprising.

  190. Aniceto Pereira said,

    March 22, 2006 at 12:52 pm

    I’m a teacher of memory and study skills in Bombay INdia and I work with kids to use these skills in thier school and classwork. Learning Mnemonics and study skills are a huge help for them in class. While my main job is teaching them and motivating them, I DO NOT teach them silly pseudoscientific advice- I make it my duty to be sure I have done my homework on what I am talking about. You don’t need this silly pseudoscience to have a fun class- If a teacher is bad before, learning these methods will not make the class anymore exciting. A teacher who can put across the topic at hand well and with encouragement co-opt his students into the learning process is far more valuable than any BRAIN GYM excercise.. These methods are just to avoid the hard work that actually goes into acquiring knowledge and learning.. Teachers already teach hygience and physical education to the kids- this extra rubbish is as bad as believing in the four humours in Shakespearean times.

    In India today there is a rampant no of companies going to schools and implementing these excercises in the classes therein- thier primary goal is not education but MONEY- they work out deals with the school principals and faculty and take the students through a long tedious 24 month course at the end of which nothing is actually done. Education requires a huge commmitment to the children and yourself.. Teachers today have to stop taking things at face value and look at alternatives and form new opinions rather than knuckling down under this rubbish- I personally encourage all my students, parents and instructors to go out and learn more and not merely rely on me and my training. Only then can you not be caught off guard by these shysters..

  191. Teek said,

    March 22, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    bloody hell Ben you really have hit a nerve with this one.

    brain gym may well ‘work’ (i.e. drinking plenty of water and getting up and moving about makes you concentrate more – duuuh!), but only in the same way that magnetic bandages and homeopathy work, surely…?!

    the problem we face under New Labour is that it’s not PC to say to kids ‘right, i reckon we should go outside, run around for five minutes, drink water, and focus on the next activity so we can do it better’ because that sounds patrician, authoritarian, dirigiste, and all the other things we can no longer do.

    instead of telling kids ‘exercise/water is good for you, because of X, Y and Z’, and then basing X Y and Z on science and actual fact, it’s necessary to achieve the aims by gathering up the most groovy New Age Californian mumbo-jumbo you can find, and paying millions of pounds for it.

    what i love most are the indignant comments above from parents/teachers that testify that ‘brain gym works, so leave us alone.’ no-body, least of all Ben, is saying the things that may result from five minutes jumping up and down are bad, just that selling it thru bad science is wrong. it makes me laugh, cry, and hope that i dont have to bring my kids up here in the UK – does Italy have braing gym pv…?

  192. raygirvan said,

    March 22, 2006 at 2:04 pm

    This all rings a lot of bells (my wife is an ex primary teacher, and we’ve discussed this kind of phenomenon a lot in the past). I think a major contributing factor is the hierarchical nature of the education system. If someone higher up in the system brings in some fecking stupid idea (eg government, education department, school head, influential parent governor, whatever) there’s no mechanism for anyone lower in the system to call bullshit on it. Try, and you risk getting branded as a troublemaker. Clare used to bring home a succession of brainless edicts from the staff notice board, often propagating urban myths like warnings about Blue Star LSD tattoos.

  193. Andrew Clegg said,

    March 22, 2006 at 2:09 pm

    brain gym may well ‘work’ (i.e. drinking plenty of water and getting up and moving about makes you concentrate more – duuuh!), but only in the same way that magnetic bandages and homeopathy work, surely…?!

    Teek, I think the homeopathy comparison confuses the issue. How about… Brain Gym works in a similar way to magnetic bandages — i.e., the bandages work fine as bandages, regardless of the made-up pseudoscience. The exercises work fine as exercises, regardless of the made up pseudoscience.

    But it’s a slightly different situation with homeopathy. The water works fine as water, regardless of the made-up pseudoscience? Well, maybe, but homeopathists don’t prescribe remedies to thirsty people.

    Andrew.

  194. aspiring pedant said,

    March 22, 2006 at 3:16 pm

    Teek,

    Could you identify some indignant parents as I can’t find any here. The general consensus seems to be that Brain Gym is a load of bollocks; does anyone disagree?

    MDW – I attribute “the desire to be a politician should disqualify you from ever being one” to Billy Connolly.

  195. Teek said,

    March 22, 2006 at 4:03 pm

    aspiring pedant: poppy’s mum.

    andrew clegg: agreed, the homeopathy comparison is crap (having read my own post it really shouldn’t have been there).

    i guess my point is that the teachers above saying ‘it works so don’t knock it’ are missing Ben’s point – do the fun stuff and drink water, yes, but dont wrap it up in bs that encourages unscientific approach to improving performance cos this sets a dangerous precedent, which in turn also could be applied to homeopathy (but not in the way i originally said so)…

    *goes off for a drink of water, as the above post confuses eve himself…*

  196. Huwmanerror said,

    March 22, 2006 at 4:34 pm

    Joy of joys! Gordon Brown has just announced more money for schools to waste on Brain Gym. We can’t let people get away with this.

    I bet the people at BG are popping open the champagne as we speak…

  197. coracle said,

    March 22, 2006 at 4:47 pm

    Huwmanerror,

    To be fair, he is actually trying to improve science education in the budget. From the budget report:

    • achieve year on year increases in the number of young people taking A levels in
    physics, chemistry and mathematics so that by 2014 entries to A level physics
    are 35,000 (currently 24,200); chemistry A level entries are 37,000 (currently
    33,300); and mathematics A level entries are 56,000 (currently 46,168);
    • continually improve the number of pupils getting at least level 6 at the end of
    Key Stage 3 (11-14 year olds);
    • continually improve the number of pupils achieving A*-B and A*-C grades in
    two science GCSEs;

    How this is intended to be achieved is, of course, another matter…

  198. aspiring pedant said,

    March 22, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    What? We can’t allow the Government to spend more money on education? specifically increasingly capital investment on schools? Next election vote Tory then you’ll really have something to worry about. Or, maybe Liberal would be better? New Labour have certainly got their faults but they’re a lot better than any government I can remember -that’s from the Harold Wilson’s first government.

  199. Martin said,

    March 22, 2006 at 5:00 pm

    Let me make it clear, up front, that I am totally opposed to the teaching of such blatantly incorrect science to children. The act of simple movement and re-hydration to improve concentration, ‘brain gym’, is a good idea and may help; Brain Gym is a parasite on the British educational system.

    Ben and others have said above that you must never lie to children. However, I disagree. Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart have written a great triology of books on basic science (covering topics such as the creation of the universe and evolution) in collaboration with the novelist Terry Pratchett. The books have chapters alternating between a story in the Pratchett Discworld based on wizards accidentally creating a universe in the university squash courts and the hard science behind the story’s narrative. In the science chapters, which are as good a read as the story, the writers come up with a concept called ‘Lies To Children’.

    They claim that they have had occasionally heated arguments over the name, Lies To Children, but essentially the reasoning is that children get taught something which is not really correct, but which they can understand. Later, when they have improved their education and powers of reasoning, they are taught that the original lesson was simplistic and are given a second lesson with better understanding, even if the second lesson is also incorrect. This continues throughout their education.

    A good example is the atom. Pre-GCSE we may be taught that the atom is made of the indivisible particles: protons, neutrons and electrons, and is spherical; I believe that this is known as Thompson’s Christmas Pudding and was a theory from the late 19th Century. At GCSE we are taught that the atom is a nuclei made up of protons and neutrons, and a shell of electrons; like a pea bouncing around in a football. If you do Chemistry at ‘A’ level you may learn that protons, neutrons and electrons aren’t indivisible, and the electron shell isn’t solid. You may even be taught Valence Shell Electron Pair Repulsion Theory, and it’ll please my chemistry teacher no end to know that I still remember that phrase. At university you’ll be taught that even VSEPRT is incorrect and you’ll be introduced to the various ‘flavours’ of quarks. If you go even further, atomic chemistry becomes physics and eventually it all boils down to mathematics. But you can’t teach this to 12 year old science students, you have to approach the truth through a series of ‘Lies To Children’.

    Remember the maxim ‘A easily understood, workable falsehood is more useful than a complex incomprehensible truth.’

    BTW, please excuse any mistakes made above regarding what gets taught when. This is based on my recollection of my education over twenty years ago and both I and the education system have moved on since then. Not always to better things, it seems.

  200. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 22, 2006 at 5:12 pm

    ah but the atom serves as part of a perfectly adequate and very predictive explanatory framework, at many levels, and indeed in many circumstances it is still the best model. there are no circumstances in which the same could be said of the rubbish peddled by brain gym.

  201. Alex said,

    March 22, 2006 at 6:07 pm

    Fianlly. Someone has brought up the excellent ‘Science of the Discworld’ series. However, I suggest that a lid is kept on it in case the pro-Brain Gym-pseudoscience-believing brigade get their hands on it. While lies-to-children is a useful concept, we may end up confusing it with ‘lies-to-addults’. For that last term, simply consider politics and those who believe in the psedoscience behind Brain Gym.
    I note that in the course of this thread, we seem to be despairing at the state of the education system in general.

  202. conejo said,

    March 22, 2006 at 6:38 pm

    Much as I hate to disagree with the likes of Ian Stewart (and I haven’t read the book(s) … maybe there is a foreword which explains the idea) I don’t think that science teaching does – or should – “tell lies” to children.

    What does (at least IMHO *should*) happen is that models are progressively refined, so that at each stage the ‘metaphor’ used is true – as far as it goes – and is comprehensible, bearing in mind the mental constructs that the child already has. This is particulalry true where the metaphor is not just verbal but needs mathematical (or other) knowledge or skills. It should also be pointed out to children at the earliest stage (with my kids I think this was about the age of 7 or 8) that this is what is going on and that there are bigger and better models to come – ad infinitum, possibly.

    What is out of order is to give explanations that are demonstrably wrong or have no ‘scientific’ value in the sense of being testable , etc etc (‘This is true because the pixies say so’). Is it OK to say “This is true because the white coats say so”? I think yes, because if someone is determined (and capable) enough, there is a clear and do-able course of action which will enable them (eventually) to check it out for themselves.

  203. conejo said,

    March 22, 2006 at 6:40 pm

    Hot damn … 7 or 8 turned into 7 or 8). Ha. : – (

  204. sadey said,

    March 22, 2006 at 6:50 pm

    People should also keep in mind that science makes a science of saying as little as possible.

    In every report assertions are couched, conclusions are avoided, and almost everything can reduced by a single sentence of someone who disagrees.

    So what does science say? Who knows.

  205. conejo said,

    March 22, 2006 at 7:03 pm

    Sorry Sadey, can’t agree. Cautious, qualified, bounded, measured … certainly. Sound bites (God, I nearly wrote bytes then :-( ) , sweeping generalisations – no. Go look elsewhere for those.

    What does science say? Gulp .. it says that its models of how (not “why”, but “how”) the universe works may not be perfect but they are good enough to … protect against (sometimes cure) many diseases, extend human life expectancy, provide food and clothing, form the basis of modern legal systems (which depend on hypothesis and rebuttal not the use of hot irons or the ducking stool) …

  206. conejo said,

    March 22, 2006 at 7:15 pm

    and what’s more:

    “almost everything can reduced by a single sentence of someone who disagrees.”

    well yes, in principle it can. By putting their work up for scrutiny, scientists set themselves up to be knocked down. That’s why we tend to trust the stuff that stands up to scrutiny over long periods of time. Sooner or later the best theory will be refined by someone who finds a flaw or an inadequacy as a result of looking at things in a slightly different way – or more usually doing experiments at the edge of the domain where the original theory was meant to be applied. Yes, egos do get bruised and some scientists seem to get a kick from putting the boot into others’ work – but that makes the system work.

  207. WhyDontYou said,

    March 22, 2006 at 7:32 pm

    Martin, there is a fundamental difference between being taught an early stage of a theory and being told complete untruths.

    Using the atom as an example, unless the children really want to study science then for all intents and purposes it will be “true” for them. They will never work in a high energy physics lab where they smash atoms so it wont matter.

    Teaching them about water in processed foods and massaging the carotid through the ribcage is never correct. There is no system in which either are true.

  208. Jellytussle said,

    March 22, 2006 at 7:49 pm

    The atom example is similar to that of Newtonian physics cf Einsteinian physics. Both are correct and useful in that they allow predictive modelling. Newton is perfectly valid for most everyday applications. Einstein may be “better” at a more fundamental level, and for astrophysics.
    The theories are complementary. One does not invalidate the other.

  209. CCoyle said,

    March 22, 2006 at 8:32 pm

    Im stunned (and annoyed) that anyone could defend this practice even tacitly.
    The atom example is cogent enough to demonstrate the benifit of teaching a
    theory at a level of complexitiy suted to a childs current level of intellectual
    development but it has noting to do what really happens with Brain Gym.

    Brain Gym isn’t simply shaving off the ugly complexities in order
    impart a body of knowlwdge, its directly teaching children something that is
    patently false. Honesly, the diference between telling
    only part of a true story in the intrest of expediency and relating
    someting thats just plain bullshit should be apparent to anyone. One is
    leading towards the truth; The other is wandering away.

    If a child is led to believe that doing a completly pointless, strange, and ritualistic
    gesture will stimulate blood flow and make him smarter, exactly what valid understanding is he working towards? Voodoo? Scientology perhaps?

    What definition of ‘works’, as it refers to education, could posssibly involve anything other than exposing children to a true and meaningful body of knowledge and the skills to apply it?

  210. Huwmanerror said,

    March 22, 2006 at 9:29 pm

    (coracle and aspiring pedant, 198 & 199):

    Sorry, I worded it badly: I didn’t mean the government shouldn’t spend more on education, I meant schools shouldn’t get away with frittering away the opportunity of that investment on BG and the like.

    I hoped it might help drive home the point about how tight things are financially in schools, and how they can ill afford misjudgments like this, even if the amount they spend on it is insignificant overall.

    As for getting more students doing science, I’m absolutely all in favour. It’s good stuff, you know.

  211. Melissa said,

    March 22, 2006 at 10:18 pm

    CCoyle said: “If a child is led to believe that doing a completly pointless, strange, and ritualistic gesture will stimulate blood flow and make him smarter, exactly what valid understanding is he working towards? Voodoo? Scientology perhaps?”

    Or Theosophy?

    I mention that because I just found out that the school I had my heart set on sending my child to has some pretty scary bad science ideas. I’d dearly love to start a thread on the Forum about Waldorf education, but I can’t figure out how. Can anyone tell me where to look for instructions?

  212. pv said,

    March 22, 2006 at 10:27 pm

    Teek, I am currently teaching in 5 different Italian State schools, middle and upper, and I can safely say it doesn’t feature at any of them. I also have very close dealings with the Preside of the Istituto Comprensivo in Vittorio Veneto (TV). She is responsible for 9 State schools, none of which use Brain Gym. I’ve never come across it here. In fact, the other teachers I’ve asked have never even heard of it. Of course that doesn’t mean it isn’t anywhere in Italy, because I am working only in the Province of Treviso. But somehow I really doubt it is practised in anywhere in the Italian State school system. There are many faults in the Italian system but teaching the mumbo jumbo used to justify Brain Gym isn’t one of them.

  213. raygirvan said,

    March 22, 2006 at 10:37 pm

    I’d dearly love to start a thread

    Melissa: click Forums in the Pages list at the top right; click Bad Science in the Forum Index; then click Post New Topic.

  214. Melissa said,

    March 22, 2006 at 10:44 pm

    Ah– thanks, Ray! Navigating is never my strong suit. :)

  215. pv said,

    March 22, 2006 at 10:50 pm

    Melissa, would that be Waldorf Steiner? We have a private Steiner nursery and a middle school not far from us. Apart from an initial visit when we were looking for somewhere to send our son, I have no experience of them. But everything I can find about the Steiner system leads me to the conclusion that it is really some kind of cult. An English couple I knew who used to live in these parts (North East Italy) took their children out of the Steiner middle school because they said their daughter was ritually humiliated there.
    Waldorf Steiner himself was a strange character and apparently entertained some pretty odious racist ideas. He would have made a good Nazi by all accounts. Some years ago I remember reading a letter to one of the British broadsheets, the Times or Torygraph I think, from David Gilmour (he of Pink Floyd fame) bitterly complaining how his kids had been ruined by that system.
    I’ve just found a link to a critical web site that includes David Gilmour’s account.
    www.waldorfcritics.org/active/articles.html

  216. Melissa said,

    March 23, 2006 at 12:20 am

    Thanks for the link, pv! I’ve created a new thread about Waldorf.

  217. Andrew Clegg said,

    March 23, 2006 at 8:29 am

    I believe the man himself (advocate of the Theosophical flavour of mysticism) was Rudolf Steiner, and the Waldorf bit is named after someone else…

    Andrew.

  218. Andrew Clegg said,

    March 23, 2006 at 8:32 am

    Oops, I notice this has all already been mentioned on the forums thread.

  219. qubol said,

    March 23, 2006 at 10:32 am

    Spotted this on the news this morning, what do you think?

    Pupils ‘learn from foetal moves’
    Children who do daily exercises, mimicking a baby in the womb, have shown dramatic improvements in maths and English, new research suggests…..

    news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/4828146.stm

  220. potsy700 said,

    March 23, 2006 at 10:46 am

    In response to 220, was it the specific movements that caused the improvements, or would just any movements do it? The experiment doesn’t seem to have ben set up to test that.

  221. RS said,

    March 23, 2006 at 11:53 am

    Interesting study that one, it does actually have a ‘quasi’ experimental study but they seem to have a major regression to the mean problem (that they do obliquely recognise) if you look at their paper – the intervention group starts out way below the control group in attainment and ends up roughly the same or a bit better. So they obviously test improvement rather than overall attainment (presumably because there was no significant difference in the latter). They also only compared the intervention to teaching as normal so it wasn’t blinded in any way, so they really tested “action songs and rhythms” versus nothing. They also don’t report any demographics or other useful variables (age profile comes to mind). Still, intriguing nonetheless, even if the explanation is quite probably utter bollocks.

    ————————————–

    Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs
    Volume 5 Page 101 – November 2005
    doi:10.1111/j.1471-3802.2005.00049.x
    Volume 5 Issue 3

    The effects of the Primary Movement programme on the academic performance of children attending ordinary primary school
    Julie-Anne Jordan-Black1

    The present study investigated the prevalence of a primary reflex (the Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex) in children attending ordinary primary school and how this related to attainments in a number of academic areas. The effectiveness of a specific movement intervention programme in reducing primary reflex persistence and improving academic attainment was also evaluated.

    A comparative study of the progress of 683 children over a two-year period from Years 3 and 5, who completed an intervention programme known as Primary Movement, was carried out using the relative attainments of children at the same schools and standardised scores as baseline and follow-up measures. A second, quasi-experimental study followed the progress of four parallel groups in each of two large schools with the experimental side completing the movement intervention programme while the other side acted as the control.

    It was found that ATNR persistence was significantly associated with level of attainments in reading, spelling and mathematics and that boys were more at risk than girls for ATNR persistence. In both studies, it was found that the movement intervention programme had a very significant impact on reducing the levels of ATNR persistence in children and that this was associated with very significant improvements in reading and mathematics, in particular.

    This research provides further evidence of a link between the attainment of core educational skills and the interference that may result from an underlying developmental deficit. The effectiveness of the intervention programme in reducing ATNR persistence and in increasing academic attainments suggests that this programme could be used to complement other strategies that have been shown to have a positive effect on children’s learning.

  222. Melissa said,

    March 23, 2006 at 12:54 pm

    I heard about this when an acquaintance told me I should be encouraging my son to crawl more or he wouldn’t learn to read on time. ::eye roll::

  223. Delster said,

    March 23, 2006 at 3:14 pm

    Melissa,

    Don’t get me started on the way they teach kids to read now! phonetics…. pah!!

  224. aspiring pedant said,

    March 23, 2006 at 3:44 pm

    Delster

    I think the correct term is “phonics” which is a method of teaching elementary reading and spelling based on the phonetic interpretation of ordinary spelling, whereas “phonetics” is the branch of linguistics that deals with the sounds of speech and their production, combination, description, and representation by written symbols.
    There is a system I’ve heard of called Jolly phonics, where each sound has an associated action and while this may have some superficial similarities to Brain Gym I’m inclined to believe that it’s actually a very sound teaching method.

  225. Melissa said,

    March 23, 2006 at 4:04 pm

    Just from personal experience, I hated phonics. I had already learned to read before I got to school, so when my teachers told us to sound them out I just got bored and frustrated. It was as if they were telling me, “No, merely recognizing words and letters isn’t enough– you must learn to write words using funny symbols!” Granted, that was in the 1970′s, so I’m willing to believe phonics-based teaching methods have improved since then. :)

  226. Andrew Clegg said,

    March 23, 2006 at 4:07 pm

    I’ve heard about this phonics business and frankly I can’t see how it’s supposed to work with English.

    I mean, how do you get kids to associate sounds with combinations of letters, when you have heterogeneous groups like tough, though, through, and thought making four different vowel sounds with the same vowels?!?

    Andrew.

  227. Cuchulainn said,

    March 23, 2006 at 4:49 pm

    Seeing the typo “addults” above set me thinking. Why not just refer to the people who believe the brain-gym nonsense as “addledults”?

  228. Delster said,

    March 23, 2006 at 4:57 pm

    yes i bow (as opposed to bough) to the superior pedantry of aspiring pedant. It is indeed phonics.

    Also Andrew Clegg is right….. english has to be one of the worst languages for this. Off hand i can think of half a dozen common word pairings where the spoken phonic is the same but the meaning is totally diffrent not to mention the occasional triple….. here here… lets hear it for the english language.

    I have a 9 year old niece who is being taught this way and her reading is considered normal for her group yet i think she’s several years behind where i was at that age and her spelling is terrible.

    What happened to teaching the rules of how the spelling of a word effects the vocalisation of it. That way if they come across a new word they can figure out how it should be said.

    Take pneumatic as an example. If you don’t know that the P is dropped you’d quite frankly be up the creek without a pressure hose….

  229. Bob said,

    March 23, 2006 at 5:39 pm

    Hi, thanks for your site
    Its very interessting for me

    Regards

  230. Melissa said,

    March 23, 2006 at 5:51 pm

    Delster– In America (don’t know if it’s prevalent in Britain), phonics has become something of a money-making industry. Vocalisation and spelling rules just haven’t caught on like Hooked On Phonics or LeapFrog’s numerous electronic toys that teach letter sounds. You can’t copyright the old rules, so no one makes money from them, so the phonics industry grows.

    Perhaps that’s overly cynical of me, but I see so many products designed to teach reading through phonics, and, well, I’m biased against the practice from the start!

  231. avenger said,

    March 23, 2006 at 8:06 pm

    #98 is spot on. Yes, when I was a lad they let us out for breaks and lined us up at the water fountain, and sometimes had us stand up and stretch a bit in class. These charlatans have repackaged common sense and *sold* it to schools.

    As with a lot of pseudo-sci, there is also this desire for some sort of quick fix, an easily-remediable constraint.

    Thanks to the poster above who went after Myers-Briggs. I’ve seen it used even in management sessions for university instructors, people who should know better.

  232. stan said,

    March 23, 2006 at 8:07 pm

    Some of these talk-boards are seem to attract people who waffle about nothing in particular.

    How about keeping to the point and saving all the crap for the bar….

    Comments on Brain Gym anyone?

  233. Delster said,

    March 23, 2006 at 8:53 pm

    Mellisa,

    if your too cynical then you can probably tar me with the same brush….

    Aspiring Pedant,

    yes was originally Hear him, hear him….. i just thought that here would point up the phonics being same for a number of different words better….. so am i guilty of lying to adults (and any kids that may be lurking)

    I think we can all agree that the brain gym exercises and water thing work but also that any exercise would work as well.

    I got an e-mail from a brain gym trainer today (i asked for cost and course details) The 4 day intro course is £425 + vat and is held in someones house…. althought they do provide drinks (water i assume) and snacks…. but you have to bring your own lunch! The literature i got was a 3 page word doc with small pretty graphic on first, nothing on last and some vague text on the 2nd……

  234. imagineyoung said,

    March 23, 2006 at 9:33 pm

    aspiring pedant said:
    ‘the teachers have to simplify matters a little and say “ou” is always pronounced as ow – like the noise you make if you hurt yourself. So, they’re used to telling partial truths or even lies to kids.’

    No, we don’t lie. We use concepts like ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’. Kids like fuzzy – that’s the way their world works. And we get to challenge them, which they love.

    Also some kind of visual-led phonics does seem to work best – not an auditory explanation of rules. Lots lf examples.

  235. FromtheContinent said,

    March 23, 2006 at 11:56 pm

    I’m a newcomer and it has been great fun reading all the entries.
    Now, as a “bloody continental” who lives in this country since quite a long time ago, I’ve a problem, the fact that this type of discussions almost only exist in the UK and the USA.
    I spent an entire life working in quite a number of European countries and this kind of problem wouldn’t exist there.
    First, because teachers still believe in real teaching and second because parents believe in it even more.
    Obviously teaching needs to evolve according to the brave new world but all this rubbish that we face in England it is quite over the top.
    Once upon a time when I was very young, in my own country if people were seriously rich they would send their kids to schools in Switzerland, if they quite well off but not at that level they would send them to England.
    Well a few years ago my neighbour in London a Nigerian high flying Bank Manager when I asked about the two teenager kids, replied, back in Nigeria to get a proper education until University time when they’ll be back.
    I bet he was afraid of the “Brain Gym” and more of the same.
    Any comments on this matter?
    Apologies for the not so perfect English.

  236. RS said,

    March 24, 2006 at 10:19 am

    Isn’t it kinda funny, given we know what happens when you massage the carotid sinus, that they think rubbing carotid arteries will improve circulation? (Yes, I know why massaging the sinus is different to the artery, but they don’t).

  237. Richard Lindley said,

    March 24, 2006 at 1:17 pm

    Re carotid sinus massage – surely they were getting confused with the carotid bodies – at least they are used in the regulation of arterial o2 content….

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carotid_body

  238. potsy700 said,

    March 24, 2006 at 4:29 pm

    Delster

    Carotid sinuses lie in the carotid arteries in the neck. They act as ‘barometers’ of blood pressure. Increased BP is detected by the sinuses which increase the rate of firing of the vagus nerve which slows the heart rate. (By increasing the duratioon of the refractory period of the cardiac muscle, I think).

    It’s a parasympathetic response to an increase in blood pressure, as heart rate is one of the determinants of blood pressure.

    Externally massaging the neck in the area over the carotid sinuses has the effect of increasing vagal nerve stimulation and leads to a drop in heart rate. It’s often used as a first line treatment for certain conditions where the heart rate of an individual is abnormally rapid. It’s not without risks.

    It can also be used as a diagnostic test for a condition called Carotid Sinus Hypersensitivity. As the name suggests, the carotid sinus can become over sensitive, leading to a sudden drop in heart rate at inappropriate times, causing a person to suddenly collapse. It’s diagnosed by connecting the patient to an ECG and watching what happens to their heart rate and rhythm as you massage the carotid sinuses.

  239. Delster said,

    March 24, 2006 at 6:06 pm

    thanks Potsy,

    i trained as battlefield medic (among other things) and they kind of concentrate on things that make holes in people and what to do about the resultant hole….

  240. potsy700 said,

    March 24, 2006 at 7:01 pm

    Mmmm, yeah. My interest is in accident and emergency these days, which is kind of jack of all trades, master of none. Trauma is one of my favourite situations to deal with. People look at me funny when I say that, but I like the variety.

    I’ve got several friends in the army as medics who’ve been to Iraq. I bet battlefield medicine is very interesting, but wouldn’t have a) the bottle or b) the patience with all that army discipline myself.

  241. AitchJay said,

    March 25, 2006 at 2:26 am

    Sorry, Delster.
    I couldn’t help pissing myself over your last comment (246).
    Hilarious!

  242. Delster said,

    March 25, 2006 at 2:30 pm

    why thank you…. i try and amuse :-)

  243. BSM said,

    March 25, 2006 at 3:08 pm

    Just in case “Carl” is still reading, someone should do him the service of pointing out that in the sentence;

    “Have you ever partook of a session of brain gym?”

    the correct word is “partaken” and it was the correct word each and every time he wrote “partook”.

    Spout nonsense, if you wish, but spouting grammatically flawed nonsense just makes it more painful to read.

  244. BSM said,

    March 25, 2006 at 3:16 pm

    Would any of Brain Gym’s defenders like to declare a pecuniary interest?

    Can real teachers be so flagrant stupid as to completely misinterpret Ben’s argument- exercise and water may be good, but the pseudoscience of Brain Gym is bad?

    Perhaps the employees of Brain Gym would like to make themselves known to the rest of the group.

  245. Geoff Roberts said,

    March 26, 2006 at 7:15 pm

    What an interesting set of responses to an article that quite clearly differentiated bad science from the value of exercise breaks. Like some (too few!) of your correspondents, I too find it disheartening that so many respondents (teachers included!) do not appear to have differentiated the criticism of the explanations from the apparent value of the exercises.

    Yes, there is bad science involved and it should not be taught to teachers or our kids; yes, the exercises do help improve learning; no it doesn’t help our kids when teachers are turned off a good idea because the packaging is poor.

    I’m not sure if what I am about to do will actually achieve anything – some of the posts read as if the participant’s minds are closed – but let’s have a look at a few so far.

    Bens Roome (16) and Goldacre (177) and PV (181) state that Brain Gym instructors are ‘lying’. I do think it is important to differentiate ‘lying’, which is generally regarded to be intention misrepresentation, from repeating genuinely held beliefs (and, for the record Kess 51) beliefs are not necessarily linked to religion – I believe that Australia exists despite the fact that I have never been there).

    M’s response (102) to Dennis (96) seems a touch disingenuous “Brain Gym either: a) is not submitting potentially life saving treatments for proper clinical trials. If the carotid bloodflow can really be stimulated that easily this would be of great use in various conditions (perhaps in strokes?). b) is useless.” No other options then?

    Like Tristan (113), I too am interested in the relevance of the Hawthorne Effect, arguably a variant of the placebo effect.

    A 15 year old schoolgirl (Rachel Dunn 124, 127) reports that the exercise are “…quite frankly, rubbish” and that her (I wonder how she managed to set up a fully double-blind randomised trial with adequate cohort sizes and cleared by the relevant ethical authorites dealing with experiments on children) experiments “…managed to prove that brain gym was less beneficial to a pupil than working in the time used in almost 80% of cases..” Well that’s scientific evidence then?

    Shug (163) and others comment adversely on modern trends in education and new ideas. Whilst some might be dubious (I’m not going to fuel the debate by naming any) some may actually be helpful. Do Shug and His/her likes teach our children to reject new ideas or to listen, question, evaluate and make their own decisions. As a school governor I am constantly disappointed by the number of teachers who do not appear to be prepared to do what they encourage their students to do – learn.

    Somehow I am prompted to consider an interesting issue about why so many people, teachers included, apparently feel a need for ‘scientific’ explanations of stuff that works. Should we not use ‘stuff’ until there are ‘respectable’ scientific explanations or is it OK to use what works? I suspect that the BG community are feeding this need for scientific rationale. Maybe some of the pseudo-science is misguided, maybe some of it is just plain wrong/daft and maybe there could just be some seeds of the unknown in some of the statements used to support BG. Andy maybe there isn’t – let us at least be open to the possibility that we don’t know everything about how it works and that ‘scientifically sound or unsound’ statements made today (in their day – ‘the atom is indivisible’, ‘humans will die if they travel (in cars/railway coaches…) at more than 30 mph) may prove otherwise as our knowledge expands.

    Pseudomonas (31) refers to the placebo effect. Well what’s wrong with that? Let’s also consider the possibility that some people may find (probably non-consciously) the pseudo-science ‘helps’ the placebo effect. Or perhaps Kess would reject the value of the placebo effect because it is fundamentally based in beliefJ

    Oh, and (BSM) if you want to find out more about who is involved in Brain Gym then try www.braingym.org – it’s no secret!

    Ben, you are doing BG a service IMO by pointing out some fundamental errors in their explanations – thank you. To those who cannot differentiate commentary on the explanations from acceptance of the value of exercise, perhaps you should go for a drink of water and do a few exercises to help clarify your thinking J

    Regards,

    Geoff Roberts

  246. John Hawcock said,

    March 26, 2006 at 7:28 pm

    I would like to know why all these gurus think that only pure (expensive bottled) water can hydrate you. Back when I did O-level biology I was told that water absorption takes place in the colon which is the last bit of the digestive tract before the anus. How can my colon tell the difference between water molecules from the glass of water that I drank with my dinner and water molecules from a bowl of soup – or pint of beer for that matter?

  247. pv said,

    March 28, 2006 at 10:30 am

    “water absorption takes place in the colon which is the last bit of the digestive tract before the anus”

    According to Brain Gym water absorption takes place through the roof of the mouth. There is no contradiction here of course where Brain Gym instructors are concerned because the instructor’s mouth and anus are one and the same orifice!

  248. Loki said,

    March 28, 2006 at 3:24 pm

    Ben – I’d suggest an FOI request to DFES about the national schools expenditure on Brain Gym, I wonder just how terrifying the response would be.

  249. Loki said,

    March 28, 2006 at 3:45 pm

    ah, i see someone already suggested that on the other thread.

    [wanders away nonchalantly, hands in pockets, whistling]

  250. Geoff Roberts said,

    March 29, 2006 at 10:52 am

    pv (whoever he/she is – why won’t people be brave enough to name themselves? Yes Geoff Roberts IS my real name, before you ask) said “There is no contradiction here of course where Brain Gym instructors are concerned because the instructor’s mouth and anus are one and the same orifice!”

    In what way does this sort of scientifically inaccurate comment add to the dialogue (or should I say debate?) on this topic?

    I would find it much more helpful for the discussion (there’s another word for what might be happening here) to relate to the topic raised by Ben Goldacre, not the attacks on BG adherents (whether or not they are mistaken in their actions does not really qualify them for the viteruperative personal attacks that have often appeared above. Attacking the beliefs, personality, etc. of an individual is generally less likely to create change than dealing with the substance of the matter you want to change).

  251. Mikel said,

    March 29, 2006 at 11:18 am

    Geoff Roberts is absolutely correct, vituperative personal attacks add nothing to the debate. they do however make it more fun to read.

    Keep up the good work Ben.

  252. Adam said,

    March 30, 2006 at 6:57 am

    Geoff, I also believe in Australia, though I’ve never been. If such a large land mass did not exist to counter balance the weight of Europe, the Earth would wobble dangerously on its axis, eventually falling out of its orbit and plummeting into the Sun.

    But disaster awaits. Australia is moving north at a rate of 5cm per year. Fortunately I head up a company that aims to drive a giant titanium spike through the centre of Australia; pinning it into position. This is where you can all help. Such a project needs massive governmental support. Please lobby your MP to “Spike Australia”.

    Regards, Adam

  253. Geoff Roberts said,

    March 30, 2006 at 7:49 am

    Hi Adam – Hah, Hah, Hah!

    I’m trying to bring coolish rational thought to a difficulkt argument, so thanks for your amusing interlude. At least yours clearly IS menat for amusement, unlike many of the other posts!

  254. Delster said,

    March 30, 2006 at 8:34 am

    Geoff,

    there is no difficulty in this argument. Drink of water and exercise = good. Telling kids that water is absorbed through the roof of their mouths and therefore into their brains = bad

  255. John Hawcock said,

    March 30, 2006 at 8:46 am

    Where did the BrainGrm(R) people get the notion that water is absorbed through the roof of the mouth anyway? Do they not swallow when they drink?

  256. radar said,

    March 30, 2006 at 9:05 am

    Geoff, how could you possibly miss that “There is no contradiction here of course where Brain Gym instructors are concerned because the instructor’s mouth and anus are one and the same orifice!” (PV, post 254) is quite clearly a joke, whereas you are happy to thank Adam for his ‘amusing interlude’. Are you for real?

    As Delster (and many posts, passim) quite rightly points out, there is no particularly difficult argument to be had here. Thanks for your efforts in trying to bring rational thought to his argument, but I’ll think you’ll find it’s pretty much already here. Would you happen to be a Brain Gym adherent?

  257. shug said,

    April 1, 2006 at 9:39 pm

    Shug (163) and others comment adversely on modern trends in education and new ideas. Whilst some might be dubious (I’m not going to fuel the debate by naming any) some may actually be helpful.

    Well now, Geoff Roberts, climb down off the fence. Which are dubious and which are helpful? The whole purpose of a forum like this is to “fuel debate” – otherwise, why are you chipping in?
    I’m not too impressed by your self-righteous “I am really Geoff Roberts Schtick

  258. shug said,

    April 1, 2006 at 10:21 pm


    Frankly, I dont give a bugger if people use a pseudonym – it’s what they say that counts. I’ve taught in a Scottish secondary school for the past 30 years. One advantage of the Scottish School system is that we are spared school governors (I’m sure that you, unlike so many English school governors, are actually qualified to pontificate about education).
    “Do Shug and His/her likes teach our children to reject new ideas or to listen, question, evaluate and make their own decisions”. Yup, Shug and his/her like does. A more relevant question is, does the current school system with its endless preoccupation with quality assessment, normative assessment and similar managerial bollocks, do so? Well, nope, it don’t. What it does is cow and discipline teachers into accepting this crap despite their experience and knowledge crying out against it. ” As a school governor I am constantly disappointed by the number of teachers who do not appear to be prepared to do what they encourage their students to do – learn.” My experience – and I’m sure it’s far more limited than yours – is that what students, and teachers, are encouraged to do is to work towards assessment achievement, and bugger any fancy notions of learning/excitement/iconoclasm/
    scepticism/education. In this cretinous, soulless travesty of education, it’s small wonder that idiocies like Brain Gym take root – the ground has already been made fertile.

  259. Mum's the word said,

    April 3, 2006 at 11:09 am

    Brain Gym is bollocks and so is the kinaesthetic learning claptrap that my son is exposed to at his grammar school (where surely they should know better?). The only outcome of his recent ‘learn to learn’ day at school was that some idiot told him he’s clever enough for his brain to do several things at once. The outcome is full blast heavy metal through the homework hour because he thinks he can listen to music and concentrate on his French verbs at the same time.

    In my day . . . we had a teacher who made us do ‘physical jerks’ for five minutes when our concentration levels started to flag in the complete silence of the 1960s classroom. Our head teacher made us all (yes, the whole school, even the fat girl whose Mum had sent in a note saying her knees were too weak for PE) run around the playground five times before we came in from lunch. It helped clear the mind for an afternoon of endless handwriting practice.

    And as for water. We had a third of a pint of free school milk at break time – luke warm in summer, frozen in winter. Everyone drank plain old tap water which was supplied in water jugs on the table at lunch times and that was it . . . no juice, no squash, no fizzy drinks. We even managed to last from lunch time to end of school without the need for a water bottle by our side.

    Funnily enough our brains didn’t shrivel and some of us even managed to pass some exams. We may even have been a bit fitter for our physical jerks. But then there’s no money to be made out of old-fashioned fresh air, exercise and a jug of water.

  260. Hatter said,

    April 4, 2006 at 3:44 pm

    Humans can do more than one thing at a time. However having music playing is really a second, peripheral activity that does not require attention nor distract from a primary activity.

  261. Hatter said,

    April 4, 2006 at 3:50 pm

    Lying down improved my literacy levels. I do most of my reading lying down :-)

  262. Hatter said,

    April 4, 2006 at 3:52 pm

    The point is Andrew Ross that you could do any silly physical activities. Children (and some of us adults) have short attention spans and their natural learning method is to do one thing intensely for a short time, then move to something else – this is in fact a highly efficient way to learn even if many adults view it as chaotic. I can’t believe there are institutions imposing lectures longer than 40 minutes on adults, never mind children.

  263. Hatter said,

    April 4, 2006 at 3:53 pm

    I think the term Human Resources better reflects the way companies really view their employees. The same way they view whatever inanimate materials they may use as part of their business.

    Josie of course we don’t know everything there is to know. That is the point of scientific enquiry.

    There is no western science, there is just science.

    Scientists are human they will cling to their sacred cows, but show them evidence that their cow is really a sheep and they will accept that it is a sacred sheep. This is what differentiates science from superstitions like religion, homeopathy and other drivel.

  264. Hatter said,

    April 4, 2006 at 4:09 pm

    Perhaps the problem with a field of study like say English literature is that everything is just made up whereas in science you have to interpret the real physical world. You can interpret a text any way you like if you can come up with some sort of justification. Although I found that most lecturers like you to simply regurgitate their pet theory on what the text is about. Of course it is never about what it obviously appears to be about. That particularly drove me nuts – the constant dissection of and reading meaning into every text. I took it as an extra course in first year because I had a gap in my science timetable – I’m glad I dropped it – those who actually did this as their degree appeared to lose the ability to simply enjoy a good story with interesting characters.

    I actually enjoyed English set works at school – if the book was boring I didn’t actually have to read it, just know something about the characters and story, which I could pick up in class or by seeing the movie :-), enough to justify any interpretation I might present in an exam. I always did well on that and always made it up on the spot. Really easy. I did read a lot at school, probably 30 or more books a year, but just not the usually boring stuff they assigned for English.

  265. Kim said,

    April 6, 2006 at 3:57 pm

    For those who haven’t seen it, there’s a very entertaining debate going on about brain gym at
    www.tes.co.uk/blogs/blog.aspx?path=/Speakers‘%20Corner/&post=2211723

    Brain gym instructor Alan Heath kicks it off by responding to Ben’s original article.

  266. pv said,

    April 7, 2006 at 6:32 pm

    Geoff Roberts, if you’re still about, I’ve finally got back to this thread and caught up with your humourless and vaguely sinister comments. Very sorry to have offended you but offence, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. I can’t help thinking that you are complaining not so much on your own behalf but on behalf of all those you wish to protect from the “corrupting” influence of people like me; i.e. your inferiors.
    Now, I have no idea if you really are Geoff Roberts. You can protest all you like that you are, but I am none the wiser. I am PV. I really am. And I only post in this forum as PV. P is the first letter of my first name and I’ll leave you to guess the rest. In fact I don’t think it’s a very good idea to post in on-line forums using one’s real or full name, for rather mundane reasons – for example, I don’t want over-sensitive individuals turning up on my doorstep demanding, on pain of death, I retract one of my sarcastic comments about Brain Gym instructors.
    To be honest, people like “Brain Gym Instructor and Consultant Alan Heath” deserve all the criticism and ridicule that is heaped on them. They are either fools or liars, or (if the following link is anything to go by) both:
    www.tes.co.uk/blogs/blog.aspx?path=/Speakers'%20Corner/&post=2211723
    Both Alan Heath and Barry Pavier knowingly and consistently misrepresent Ben Goldacre’s criticism of Brain Gym (this is call lying in my part of the world), and both gloss over or completely ignore the central point of the criticism, which is the pseudoscientific garbage used in order to justify Brain Gym. The pseudoscience and unsupported claims of Brain Gym regarding research, for which there is no (i.e. zero) peer reviewed material, are all part of the sales patter used in order to extract payment for what amounts to a bit of exercise and a drink of water. Messrs Heath and Pavier both appear to have a vested financial interest in Brain Gym. Both resemble snake oil salesmen. Both are worthy of the utmost contempt,
    1. for being liars – as described above,
    2. for being pedlars of voodoo,
    3. for promoting public ignorance, and
    4. all of the above for profit.
    Mr Roberts, or whoever you are, do you have a financial interest in Brain Gym. Or are you located in the vicinity of Sheffield University?

  267. Ben Goldacre said,

    April 7, 2006 at 6:54 pm

    incidentally, i see there was some debate above as to whether i personally do think it’s reasonable and proportionate to use the death penalty for people who deliberately lie about science to children in order to make money: the answer is yes, i do.

  268. thirdparty said,

    April 9, 2006 at 3:10 am

    I have just completed my own trial into the benefits of stimulating blood flow to my brain by forming a c-shape with my hands and rubbing my chest either side of my breastbone, under the collar bone for five minutes which resulted in severe chaffing of the nipples. I followed up this experiment by doing the same over my carotid arteries, which you all know lie in the neck, and have just regained consciousness.

  269. Melissa said,

    April 9, 2006 at 5:21 am

    Ben, rather than death penalty, I think Geoff Roberts was thinking you were suggesting the vigilante murder of people peddling pseudoscience to children.

    Of course I don’t condone vigilante murder, but I do enjoy graphic novels about it. Shall we call this one “‘B’ for Bad Science” ? :)

  270. Janet W said,

    April 9, 2006 at 5:14 pm

    “Ben, rather than death penalty, I think Geoff Roberts was thinking you were suggesting the vigilante murder of people peddling pseudoscience to children.”

    Yes of course! BadScience fatwas!

  271. Ben Goldacre said,

    April 9, 2006 at 6:21 pm

    tricky. we would need a scientist state beyond the reach of incitement laws to issue these edicts.

  272. Melissa said,

    April 10, 2006 at 4:58 pm

    Anyone got a private island they’re not using?

  273. JQH said,

    April 12, 2006 at 10:53 am

    On the naming and shaming front: I checked out the website of the school my step-daughter is due to start at in September. Some of their students toured South Bank University in May last year – part of the tour included a Brain Gym workshop. If Higher Education establishments are falling for this rubbish then we really are doomed.

    John

  274. Jotaf said,

    August 20, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    I’d just like to say that, I can’t wait til someone mentions this to me in person so I can laugh hard in his face for like 10 minutes.

  275. Mild Peril » Brain Gym said,

    November 14, 2006 at 10:33 pm

    [...] I had heard about Brain Gym before on an excellent website called Bad Science, written by Guardian journalist, Ben Goldacre, where it was described as “a vast empire of pseudoscience“. The teacher had the children do an exercise called “Brain Buttons”, best described by Ben : Is there anything else I can do to make blood and oxygen get to my brain better? Yes, an exercise called “Brain Buttons”: “Make a ‘C’ shape with your thumb and forefinger and place on either side of the breast bone just below the collar bone. Gently rub for 20 or 30 seconds whilst placing your other hand over your navel. Change hands and repeat. This exercise stimulates the flow of oxygen carrying blood through the carotid arteries to the brain to awaken it and increase concentration and relaxation.” Why? “Brain buttons lie directly over and stimulate the carotid arteries.” [...]

  276. Agnostic said,

    March 8, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    It’s all very well with the sceptical attitude and the witty remarks and the cynicism, but I have yet to hear a valid argument against Braingym as a science and have yet to find scientific studies that show that it does not work.

    You see, preconceived ideas about how the world should work are not in my opinion impressive enough to diminish my belief in the effectiveness Braingym. I’ve come to understand and experience Braingym as a focused means of stimulating the brain. Much of this stimulation comes from the sensation of -indeed- rubbing your fingers in a certain area of your body.

    You see, science has proven that parts of the brain associated with specific functions tend to “fire” when a certain area of the body is massaged. The other way around works too. Athletes muscles “fire” when a brain thinks of a (series of) motion(s). It is today how athletes train for certain extremely difficult performances.

    In conclusion I would like to suggest you keep a somewhat open mind to “pseudo science”, because you may think you know everything, but so did the people who “knew” the world was flat.

  277. Maureen said,

    March 25, 2007 at 1:09 am

    What really annoys me is the fact that the criticism expressed by people in these entries is not based on any kind of actual experience with Brain Gym.

    If you have neither had any training in the subject nor experienced the beneficial effects of using the exercises yourself, you cannot be sufficiently competent to express an opinion.

    The fact is that Brain Gym is part of the science of Kinesiology and Kinesiology stems to a great degree from Traditional Chinese Medicine which has been more than successful for over 4000 years – indicating that it must have something going for it.

    If you had seen children getting bad marks due to stress and mental blocks and then using brain gym to reduce the stress and indeed eliminate the mental blocks and go on to get top marks then you would realise that your arguments are superfluous.

    For a lot of children – and indeed adults – brain gym works.

    Just because you are biased doesn´t mean you have the right to deny others this possibility.

  278. Dangerous Intersection » Blog Archive » Brain Gym: Another edu-tainment fad said,

    May 19, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    [...] I saw on the local news that the Brain Gym® program is being adopted (purchased) by some local schools. You may want to read what the Bad Science website has to say. Their main complaint is that it claims to be scientific, but has all the hallmarks of pseudoscience in both its structure and its teachings. [...]

  279. Napka’s Top Science » Brain Gym - Name & Shame said,

    November 17, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    [...] read more | digg story [...]

  280. Are you in your right mind? « Experiments in Living said,

    November 23, 2007 at 12:23 am

    [...] been popular in primary schools here in Britain over the last few years, but is not without its detractors due to some of the claims made about improving cognitive ability by doing exercises like patting [...]

  281. afromoose said,

    November 25, 2007 at 11:28 pm

    I think that BrainGym TM (!) works to be honest.

    I think the way they’re explaining it is wrong – probably ‘pseudoscience’ as people are fond of saying. But I think at the heart of it is some good practice.

    I also think that there is something of great value in the kinesiological (sorry I don’t know the correct terminology) techniques they are using – being a biological scientist and also doing yoga regularly, I can say that there are many things that fall within the realm of human experience but beyond the realm of ‘scientific’ method, which by it’s virtues relies on the availability of good quality empirical data and the necessary tools to measure it. I can’t measure my ‘chakras’ physically for example, but conceptualising the human body in this way has it’s practical merits, and regardless of science’s ability to comment eitherway on this, it remains a practice that has tangible and significant, but subjective, benefits.

    The system that they use in schools that identifies kinaesthetic, auditory, visual and read/write learners is also seemingly pseudoscientific. What exactly the terms refer to and the specifics of the theory are nebulous – worrying especially because this system is the basis of the entire national curriculum which was introduced in 1991. However, the system does represent an attempt to make teachers aware of the diversity of learning styles that may be present in their classroom and to have at their disposal all the available methods of teaching their learners. Maybe for a teacher that’s trying to overcome barriers in a practical rather than a theoretical sense, the ‘scientific truth’ of the matter takes a lower priority to the evidence right in front of their eyes that this stuff helps.

    It seems to me also, that the stuff being branded (as BrainGym) and simplified is essential to it being passed on as a consistent idea that doesn’t meet with continual questioning, cynicism and interference.

  282. Fitness » Brain Gym - Name & Shame said,

    December 11, 2007 at 6:10 am

    [...] Fitness created an interesting post today on Brain Gym – Name & ShameHere’s a short outline [...]

  283. Brain Training vs. Brain Gym « Learning Games said,

    December 21, 2007 at 10:00 pm

    [...] exercise bit seems to work, though the pseudo-science behind it has been criticized, however. See here). A third, control, group was also assessed – making the study reasonably rigorous, although some [...]

  284. Brain Training vs Brain Gym « Gaming & Learning said,

    February 21, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    [...] exercise bit seems to work, though the pseudo-science behind it has been criticized, however. See here). A third, control, group was also assessed – making the study reasonably rigorous, although some [...]

  285. Brain gym - coming to a primary school in the UK near you! « Homo economicus’ Weblog said,

    April 2, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    [...] more about this bad science here. Tagged with: brain gym, children, education, primary school, pseudo science « One [...]

  286. Brain Gym loses its trousers (figuratively) « Dr Aust’s Spleen said,

    April 8, 2008 at 1:16 am

    [...] ludicrous set of pseudo-babble explanations. And posts from anonymous teachers back when BadScience discussed Brain Gym suggested that they were made, on pain of dressing down and even disciplinary measures from the [...]

  287. Fop said,

    April 24, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    “I think the way they’re explaining it is wrong – probably ‘pseudoscience’ as people are fond of saying. But I think at the heart of it is some good practice.”

    The problem is seeing a reaction and just making up an “explanation” is much more to do with religion than science.

    Dressing that “explanation” up in pseudo-science is deception and hypocrisy of the worst kind.

    There may be some benefits (although they are like to be the same as any form of coordinated group light exercise), but the explanation (“brain buttons” and such) is just plain rubbish and you’re not helping or education kids by teaching them rubbish, I’m afraid.

  288. Brain Gym – A pile of rubbish?- Teaching News said,

    September 4, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    [...] agrees with Brain Gym.  I’ve come across an interesting article this morning on the Bad Science blog stating that Brain Gym is a "a vast empire of pseudoscience being peddled in hundreds of [...]

  289. More Brain Gym?- Teaching News said,

    September 4, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    [...] the bad-science blog Philip Beadle has written another critique of the science behind it.  The original article provoked a lot of controversy between teachers and scientists and I’m sure that this will as [...]

  290. Exam Results « Data – Where is it? said,

    September 5, 2009 at 9:42 am

    [...] of schools are teaching something called “Brain Gym”, which has been wonderfully exposed by Ben Goldacre (if you don’t own his book already, buy it). In it he gives some examples of the Brain Gym [...]

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  292. Great Learning State = Focus + Physiology | Brain Friendly Trainer said,

    January 29, 2010 at 10:19 am

    [...] known physiology state changers is “Brain Gym”. There has been much written around brain gym; some of it interesting, some complete nonsense (in my humble [...]

  293. When our passion clouds our judgement | Brain Friendly Trainer said,

    March 22, 2010 at 1:01 am

    [...] Brain Gym [...]

  294. Here’s what I’d do: | PSP-3003 Science of Education 2011/12 said,

    March 2, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    [...] “brain gym” and similar exercises from the classroom. There’s no evidence that they work, but plenty of [...]

  295. Bucharest Life | The Romanian education system, again: Religion | Bucharest said,

    March 10, 2012 at 8:37 am

    [...] that the time could be better used teaching children something else (although not, I hasten to add, Brain Gym: the pseudo-scientific bullshit which kids in many – far too many – UK primary schools are [...]

  296. Learning Styles | sputniksteve said,

    June 5, 2013 at 11:28 pm

    [...] Goldacre, B. (2006) Brain Gym – Name & Shame [online]. Available from: www.badscience.net/2006/03/the-brain-drain/ [...]

  297. RKC said,

    October 7, 2013 at 4:12 am

    Hi im 12 and im purposely doing bad punctuation to speed up the process of typing. Luckily, i live in australia so i don’t get taught mind-numbing brain gym. Mr Goldacre, if u know Patrick Holford of Gillian McKeith’s email could u tell me so i can annoy them with science? Thanks

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