Post Containing Some Wild Generalizations

Steve Sailer writes about the American educational system:

During my lifetime, Americans have made progress in many fields—for example, retailing, where Wal-Mart and Costco operate profitably selling at inflation-adjusted prices that would be unimaginably low to past generations.

Yet, our schools keep bumping along, with one fad replacing another, but little if any improvement in results.
This sounds like he's talking about Germany! My impression is that if schools or individual teachers change the way they do things, this is based either on the latest fad or some idea teachers came up with that sounded plausible and nice. I have yet to hear a teacher say: "I changed the way I teach maths because consecutive randomized controlled trials have shown that this new way works better than the traditional one for most pupils." That'll be the day!

But maybe we shouldn't blame teachers. A few years back, it was reported that the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (the main research agency in this country) didn't spend all of the money they had set aside for education research because they didn't get enough applications for projects that were worth funding.

That didn't surprise me too much. I took some education science courses in uni and a friend of mine actually majored in the subject. Boy, I can tell you, these people are so not into evidence. What they love are endless discussions in which anecdotes from one's own school biography count as a good argument.

And here's how your typical journal article goes:

1. I submit the hypothesis that teaching children by telling them stories is a good idea.

2. Well, we all like stories, don't we?

3. Q.E.D.

It's sad, really. After all, this would seem to be a rather important topic.

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