Things We All Know About Education Yet Are Not True: The Thomas Friedman Edition

The Great Pornstache of Understanding recently scrivened this:

In fact, it was a feel-bad speech, asking one big question. Are we falling behind as a country in education not just because we fail to recruit the smartest college students to become teachers or reform-resistant teachers’ unions, but because of our culture today: too many parents and too many kids just don’t take education seriously enough and don’t want to put in the work needed today to really excel?

It takes real skill to pack so much dumbitude into so few words. First, if you look at the PISA scores and the TIMSS scores, the U.S. isn’t falling behind: we’re pretty much where we usually are (and in a historical context, we’re doing much better than the cohort which managed to land people on the moon, developed the computer chip, and commercialized the laser. Just saying). We do have longstanding chronic problems: the poor performance of minorities and low-income children (and the overlap and intersection between these two groups). But that was a problem yesterday, it’s a problem today, and as long as dopes like Pornstache continue to focus on the wrong problems, will still be a problem tomorrow.

But what really drives me bonkers is the culture war angle:

Duncan said, “Amanda points a finger at you and me, as parents — not because we aren’t involved in school, but because too often, we are involved in the wrong way. Parents, she says, are happy to show up at sports events, video camera in hand, and they’ll come to school to protest a bad grade. But she writes, and I quote: ‘Parents did not tend to show up at schools demanding that their kids be assigned more challenging reading or that their kindergartners learn math while they still loved numbers.’ … To really help our kids, we have to do so much more as parents. We have to change expectations about how hard kids should work. And we have to work with teachers and leaders to create schools that demand more from our kids.”

Unbeknownst to Pornstache, scientists have developed this new technology called hypothesis testing. We can use this radical new technique to develop hypotheses and then see if they make any sense. For example, if commitment to education affects educational outcomes, then Massachusetts parents should be far more committed to education than Alabama parents (as Massachusetts students do far better across the board than Alabama students). Likewise, based on the TIMSS results, Massachusetts parents should be more committed to education than Finnish parents (Not Blessed Finland!).

Maybe they are! But I suspect that might not be the case. We could measure this.

On the other hand, we might want to look at U.S. models that work reasonably well. Or not.

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2 Responses to Things We All Know About Education Yet Are Not True: The Thomas Friedman Edition

  1. Min says:

    “if commitment to education affects educational outcomes, then Massachusetts parents should be far more committed to education than Alabama parents (as Massachusetts students do far better across the board than Alabama students).”

    Having grown up right next door to Alabama, and having lived right next door to Massachusetts, I am pretty confident that, on average, Alabama parents are much less committed to education than Massachusetts parents. Anti-intellectualism, anti-science feelings, and pride in ignorance are deeply rooted in the Deep South. This 19th century sentiment is not dead. In fact, with the resurgence of Southern conservatism, it may be as strong as ever. “A piny woods minister in Mississippi thus addressed his congregation: “A piny woods minister in Mississippi thus addressed his congregation: ‘My brethring and sistern, I air a ignorant man, follered the plow all my life, and never rubbed agin nary college. As I said afore, I air ignorant and I thank God for it. (Bro. Jones responds, ‘Well, parson, you ought to be very thankful, for you are very ignorant.’)” From “Tupelo” by Jame Aughey, p. 516, 1905. http://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/aughey/aughey.html

  2. Pingback: Today’s Episode of Things We All Know Yet Are Not True: Our Schools Are DOOMED! | Mike the Mad Biologist

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