Newsnight do Brain Gym, and Paxman interviews the man who invented it.
Some of you will notice I’ve just gone into stealth mode briefly on a couple of previous articles. Shhh, there is no cause for alarm, more fun to come.
In the meantime, here is a Brain Gym article in The Guardian, by someone who’s not me.
Mercifully it’s critical. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday March 18, 2006
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 Read the rest of this entry »
I wonder if anybody remembers Brain Gym? I wrote about them a couple of times in 2003 (links below). They’re a strange bunch who seem to get into lots of UK state schools at the taxpayers expense, where they share pearls of wisdom such as: â€œFocus is the ability to coordinate the back and front areas of the brainâ€¦Centering is the ability to coordinate the top and Read the rest of this entry »
People often wring their hands over how to make science “relevant” to the public, or to young people. For me, this is an open goal: we are constantly barraged with health claims in popular culture, and evidence based medicine is the science of how we know what does good, and what does harm. Every popular claim is an opportunity to learn about the relative merits and downsides of randomised trials, systematic reviews, cohort studies, laboratory work, and more.
I got together with Collins, the people who make the biggest selling GCSE textbooks, and we’ve made some resources for teachers who are interested in covering these kinds of things at school. Read the rest of this entry »
Banging your head repeatedly against the brick wall of teachers’ stupidity helps increase blood flow to your frontal lobes
Saturday February 16 2008
As time passes, largely against my will, I have become a student of nonsense. More importantly, I’ve become interested in why some forms of nonsense can lucratively persist, where others quietly fail. Brain Gym continues to produce more email than almost any other subject: usually it is from teachers, eager to defend the practice, but also from children, astonished at the sheer stupidity of what they are being taught.
As you will remember, Brain Gym is a set of perfectly good fun exercise break ideas for kids, which costs a packet and comes attached to a bizarre and entirely bogus pseudoscientific explanatory framework. They tell you to rub either side of your breast bone, in a special Brain Gym way called Brain Buttons: “This exercise stimulates the flow of oxygen-carrying blood through the carotid arteries to the brain to awaken it and increase concentration and relaxation. Brain buttons lie directly over and stimulate the carotid arteries.” Through your ribcage. Without using scissors. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday December 30, 2006
The funny thing is, now that I’m in a symbiotic relationship with the bullshit industry, I’d be stuffed if they all went straight. Although in 2006 there was no sign of it happening just yet. It was a particularly good year for anyone wanting to make money shovelling dodgy science into the innocent minds of young schoolchildren. The ludicrously pseudoscientific Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday March 25, 2006
Nothing prepared me for the outpouring of jaw-dropping stupidity that vomited forth from teachers when I wrote about Brain Gym last week. To recap: Brain Gym is an incredibly popular technique, in at least hundreds of British state schools, promoted all over government websites, and with Read the rest of this entry »
Setting up camp in the healing field
Thursday July 3, 2003
Â· Doing a New Age Bad Science Glastonbury Special is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. Which is not to say I’ve had a change of heart: within five minutes of entering the Healing Field last weekend, I was handed a copy of the “Avalon Rising” leaflet. Pay close attention: “Celtic in your DNA? Cutting edge information has established the possibility that a substrand in our DNA connects us through the energy grid to one of 12 sacred sites, stargates or electromagnetic vortexes to enable the vibrational rate of Mother Earth to be energetically stabilised. Glastonbury is one such site. Its guardians are the time travelling grail lines of Celtic/Gaelic Britain: you!” Pseudoscientists everywhere, please note how easy it is to come across like a white hippy racial supremacist when you splash around with big words you don’t understand.
Â· Brain Gym has struck a chord with many of you since we covered it last month. You might remember the jargon-heavy “educational kinesiologists” from California, with no peer-reviewed data to back up their grand claims for improving academic performance, who were being employed at considerable expense by UK local education authorities. I was moaning that teachers should be teaching our children how to spot this kind of pseudoscience, rather than peddling it. So I was heartened to receive frontline reports from science teachers of the fun they have teasing Brain Gym tutors visiting their schools.
Â· One was told that after watching telly your brain goes to sleep for eight hours: “Very precise about that, she was. But don’t worry, as long as you sit with your ankles crossed and make a funny shape with your hands this will ‘protect you from the electro-magnetic rays’. She was even kind enough to post me the handouts detailing the Pace [positive-active-clear-energetic] which ‘increases and balances electrical energy to the neocortex _ allowing reason rather than reaction (choice)’ and ‘increases polarity across cell membranes for more efficient thought processing’,” our source reports. My favourite exercise is Brain Buttons: “While holding the navel area with one hand, rub with the thumb and finger of other on hollow areas just below the collar bone on each side of the sternum.” Why? Because, you heartless cynics, “buttons above carotid artery supply fresh oxygenated blood to brain, helps lung/brain function … and brings attention to gravitational centre of body.”