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Ludwig Wittgenstein

Ludwig Wittgenstein


The National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) via their Education Trials Unit have issued a challenge to Professor Stephen Gorard  (Durham University) regarding his book on Randomised Controlled Trials in education. Unfortunately, both parties have it completely wrong on the matter as made clear by the writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein

Wittgenstein Brown Book

   The mathematics behind randomised trials only works if the attribute being studied is first-person/third person symmetric, like the properties of plants in Fisher’s Cambridge garden.  However, attributes of interest in education are, with few exceptions, first/third asymmetric.  So-called evidenced-based education research is nonsense, pure and simple. Those who fund it are wasting public money.  In his “Brown Book” Wittgenstein described the error of confusing symmetry with asymmetry in the ascription of attributes (via criteria) as “a disease of thought.”


To understand the full extent of NFER’s misunderstanding of the limitations of RCTs in education watching Ben Styles’ performance during the U Tube video referenced below may be illustrative.