Saturday, March 24, 2012

John Spencer on data

As a result, I am known as the guy who "doesn't believe in data." And they're right. It's not a belief. It's a rejection or acceptance. I hold research at a high enough standard that I don't easily accept the counterfeits.
John T. Spencer, a mensch

A couple of hours ago, an old man new to fishing hooked a large smooth dogfish. Its emerald eyes stared at me in its last few moments as I helped him and his buddy hoist the yard-long fish over the jetty rocks.

There is no word to describe the intensity of green of the dying critter's eyes. I suggested that they bleed the fish (which they did), and that they knock it out before they do (which they didn't). Dogfish bleed the same bright red that we do, and it struggled just a moment after the artery was cut.

I don't have data for the suffering of a fish slapping its tail on a jetty wall while it bleeds into unconsciousness, but I knock them out anyway.

Measuring anything that involves humans can be messy, and measuring the progress of our human larvae in public schools is particularly difficult, complicated by our lack of consensus on just what we're trying to accomplish.

There is a concerted effort to discredit public spaces in general, and public schools in particular, in this fine land of ours. Those of us in education are not helping by clinging to magical beliefs that education is immune to old-fashioned research, leaving us prone to silver-haired, silver-tongued devils.

John Spencer's simplicity gets to the heart of the matter--don't easily accept the counterfeits. We'll get fooled now and again, even the beset researcher in science do, but let's not make it easy.

The Piltdown Man fooled the science community for 40 years, but eventually his fraudulent conception unraveled, only because of a consistent application of logic. The Piltdown Man did not fit in with the rest of the story.

Who among the edu-glitterati push the Piltdown Man?

How many of us in the education community have the tools needed to recognize fraud?

Full disclosure: I love John T. Spencer's blog, and I've appeared in one of his books.
The dogfish photo was from the Oregon Coast Aquarium


Jenny said...

Gentlemen, I am in the midst of skimming through John Dewey's 1933 book, How We Think, in preparation for an ASCD presentation Monday morning. Having just read John's comment and now Michael's post, I thought of you both as I read: "In its next sense, thought denotes belief resting upon some basis, that is, real or supposed knowledge going beyond what is directly present. It is marked by acceptance or rejection of something as reasonably probable or improbable." That's on page 4 of the book which can be found on google books.

It is wonderful to have folks writing now in ways that make me think as clearly and thoughtfully as Dewey's writing does. Thank you.

Mary Ann Reilly said...

Appreciate the post and the ending question. I do wonder about some of the educational organizations that have bought into/been bought w/ regard to ed reform movements, such as Common Core. ASCD, for example earned $3 million to produce products for others to consume regarding Common Core.
As Common Core is a vehicle through which companies will make billions, I guess I am skeptical as to the quality of the work produced. Even before the purchase, i found it surprising how their books and videos seemed to sprout up together.

Feeling snarky 2nite. So much for children (and democracy) seem to be on the line.

Mr. A. said...

Amen. I teach kindergarten. Trying to look at their data is kind of a joke. Nuff' said.

Anonymous said...

As a physicist forced into the math teacher niche, I find myself being told what to do by people who have no idea about statistics or their interpretation. Principals in charge of multi-million dollar budgets who freely admit (and fail to correct) their ignorance of percentages, will nonetheless choose to dictate that students do not need to understand addition and multiplication in order to understand Algebra. Because apparently algebra is all about finding x. Silly me.

Jeffrey Michals-Brown said...

Okay, Doyle, I gotta ask: what's your beef with Marzano? Why should I chuck my copies of his books in the trash?