This year, the Edexcel Examination board asked A-level biology students to explain how the position of anthers and stigma in thrum-eyed and pin-eyed primroses might affect cross-pollination (for eight marks). This seems to reflect a saddening lack of ambition, the latest example in a sequence of arcane riddles that have involved the coppicing of trees and the effect of ‘woodland rides’ on vegetation. I doubt I am alone in suspecting that students consider such ‘retro’ topics boring and notably silly tests of ability. However, such obscurantism seems less culpable than the lack of interest in the role of promoters in controlling gene expression.

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