Monday, November 15, 2010

Rebecca Costa: Superman Versus The Supermemes

I read over at the huffington post a post about education by Rebecca Costa. I think it's a really interesting look at the problems facing education, but I do have some concerns about the issues she feels faces education. I'll have to find a copy of her book The Watchman's Rattle: Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction. Perhaps she further details these topics there.

Which supermemes currently prevent progress in education? The Watchman's Rattle describes five universal behaviors that inhibit solving the problem once and for all:

1) Irrational Opposition: This occurs when people are more comfortable rejecting remedies rather than advocating solutions. If every solution that is proposed can be found to be flawed, then none will be adopted. Simply put, across-the-board opposition results in gridlock.

I completely agree with this. Too many solutions are rejected because there isn't any proof that it works. Although it's hard to justify trying something that hasn't been shown to work when your job, your school and the children you teach rely on you to meet certain standards.

2) Counterfeit Correlation: When we hastily determine the relationship between a cause and effect(s), this leads to an incorrect diagnosis of our problems. We are left to pursue one ineffective remedy after another, all the while wasting precious time and resources as the problem continues to grow in magnitude. In the case of education, we have sited everything from outdated textbooks, the eradication of physical education, poor school lunch programs and low teacher salaries as the culprit -- but how many of these quick fixes are based on valid scientific studies?

I feel that this is in direct conflict with the previous statement, although I do agree with it as well. There are countless "solutions" that are suggested that have been proven to have no correlation with student performance.

3) Personalization of Blame: As soon as we hold each individual accountable for debt, obesity, and depression, and other such issues, society is off the hook. Blame the parents for the fact that they aren't more involved in their children's education and the systemic problem doesn't have to be addressed.

Isn't there also a problem when we blame systems, as in, I don't have to take personal responsibility for debt, obesity and depression. I think there needs to be a balance in how much the system and how much the person is blamed.

4) Silo Thinking: In tackling complex, multi-dimensional problems, it is crucial that nations, organizations, and individuals work in tandem. Adopting a territorial mindset greatly impedes progress. In the case of education, why aren't neuroscientists who understand how the human brain learns part of the discussion? Does it make sense to fix education without first understanding how the brain loads content, solves problems and retains information?

Absolutely. I'd love to hear what other resources could be used to improve education.

5) Extreme Economics: The financial bottom line becomes the unilateral litmus test in determining which solutions are valid. Economic considerations drive decisions for everything, from hospital care, immigration policy, to whether each child needs a locker, computer or physical education. We begin to speak in economic terms such as 'investing in our children's education.' Really? Since when was education an investment? It was supposed to be a 'right.'

Yep! Although, wouldn't an economist be another great resource in looking at how to reform schools?

Read the rest of the article here: Rebecca Costa: Superman Versus The Supermemes

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