Ideas on education, the English language, and the teaching profession.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Studies have shown...

In a recent study, educational researchers have shown that kids who start kindergarten a year later have an advantage throughout their academic careers and are 7 percent more likely to succeed in school. Many newspaper and magazine articles concerned with the academic welfare of upcoming generations have latched on to this study, promoting the practice of starting school later. Hardly any of them bother to analyze the reasons behind the ever slight advantage older kids have in school, but the reasons are usually negligible in these studies. The conscientious writers will simplistically conclude that older kids equal better students, and all the good parents do it; just look at all the pie charts and graphs that prove it.

To any sufficiently grounded reader who can dodge the over generalizing tones of the writers and their "evidence", these educational studies have very little relevance or accuracy. However, educators and educational certification programs positively live by these studies which are conducted arbitrarily and often poorly. Many of the superfluous inanities that bewildered students encounter at school often derive from the idiotic conclusions made from these studies.

Consider this: An educational guru researcher, Dr. Gaardner has determined that the mind has multiple intelligences, which oddly correspond with subjects at school. For instance, some kids have math intelligence (math), some have verbal intelligence (English), some have artistic intelligence (art), and some even have kinetic intelligence (P.E.). He proves this by compiling some numbers based on children's responses to some inquiries he drew up that probably ask the kids' favorite subject at school. He veils his lack of objectivity with many charts and numbers, and his readers succumb to his apparent hard logic that defies those terrible IQ tests that put some minds ahead of others in ability. Dr. Gaardner triumphantly makes all minds equal in ability by classifying whatever a child likes, be it videogames or soccer, as a simply a different intelligence that schools fail to recognize. Therefore, it's up to educators to recognize and channel these diverse proclivities of students in the classroom.

In response to this logic, fledging teachers learn that they must create lesson plans that utilize music, movement, art, math, science, and foreign languages to effectively educate kids in any subject. Thus, teachers will assign projects with no learning value whatsoever. The concepts and information that are taught become distorted. Inevitably, time and money for the variety of resources necessary (especially computers and a plethora of software) are wasted. Teachers who witness the failure of method advocated by their superiors either leave or become jaded about the students they teach and the administrators they work for.

Gaardner's compassionate originality earned points with people looking for the ultimate quick fix towards academically impaired kids who lack motivation, but it’s counterproductive and just plain wrong. In terms of true mental ability, the closest measurement has been the IQ test. Consequently, studies show that kids with high IQ turn out to have high intelligences in all of Gaardner’s areas while kids with low IQs have low intelligences in the same spectrum. However, actual studies have shown that even the IQ test has many flaws and that the mind can gain in IQ points throughout a person's life, which renders its evaluation of intellectual potential useless and even detrimental in the classroom. Not surprisingly, Gaardner's Multiple Intelligence criteria are even more useless and detrimental.

While he continues to produce more fanciful theories on education, Gaardner is only one among many “experts” who shape the way American public schools look today. Their studies evaluate a human being's response like a rat's response and dictate the direction of school administration and instruction. Maybe that explains why so many campuses operate like rat mazes or sheep farms, or why so many children painfully suppress their human gift of thought and inquiry in the public school setting. The purposes and intents behind schools have become clouded and ridiculous by trying to use Pavlovian experiments laden with flawed judgments and reasoning.

Unfortunately, psychologists will continue to churn out these studies, and readers will follow them. Don't be surprised if the official age of kindergarten moves up to six years old because of this latest study.

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