The appointment – followed, eight days later, by the resignation – of Toby Young to the board of the government’s new Office for Students in January was only the latest in a series of controversial interventions in education for the self-styled Toadmeister (Young’s Twitter handle). Having established his media profile on a platform of comments guaranteed to rile the “politically correct” (sexism, homophobia, that sort of thing), he began to reinvent himself as an educationalist through his initiatives on free schools – and he has been raising hackles in that sphere too. Things came to a head late last year when an article that Young wrote for the charity Teach First on intelligence and genetics was withdrawn from the organisation’s website on the grounds that it was “against what we believe is true and against our values and vision”. Young’s article summarised – rather accurately – the current view on how genes affect children’s IQ and academic attainment, and concluded that there is really not much that schools can do at present to alter these seemingly innate differences.
That affair is now coloured by the disclosure that Young had advocated “progressive eugenics” as a way to boost intelligence in a 2015 article in the Australian magazine Quadrant. The flames were fanned by Private Eye’s account of how Young attended what was widely labelled a “secret eugenics conference” at University College London that featured speakers with extremist views.