The Primary Online Database is one of the worst ideas I’ve come across.  Dave Molloy wrote a good piece about how easy abuse of the system could be.

I want to pick at one of the little threads. The ethnic or cultural background categorisation

Its useful when looking at a system to take apart the assumptions underlying it . There is a much longer piece to be written about categorisation and we’ll take one element here.  This is a list of drop down choices for one of the pieces of information for the Primary Online Database.

Ethnic or cultural background (drop-down list)

White Irish
Irish Traveller
Any other White Background
Black African
Any other Black Background
Any other Asian background
Other (inc. mixed background)
No consent

The comment I used on Twitter when I first saw this list  “The word you’d use to describe the list of ethnic/cultural choices in the Dept of Eduction planned Primary Schools Database is WRONG.”

Categories are artificial ways of slicing up the world.  Dave Snowden wrote an interesting post on Categories recently. In it he quoted a passage from Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ which is worth quoting again here.

Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they’re so frightfully clever. I’m awfully glad I’m a Beta, because I don’t work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don’t want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They’re too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly color. I’m so glad I’m a Beta.

I was going to describe that the categories above as “not even wrong” a better description is probably “wronger than wrong.” They are wrong in that they are very poor and very distorting classification.  As Dave said in his piece

The problem with categories is that things are made to fit within the boundaries

What I’d wonder about is what is the mindset of someone who comes up with these particular categories.