Last April I was in Chicago for a political science conference. I found our own conference fairly routine and was more intrigued with the education research conference going on down the street where more that 12,000 education scholars met at the American Education Research Association meeting. That event was covered well by Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute in the National Review Online a while back, where he noted just how nutty and irrelevant much of their activity has become.
He wrote, “ . . . [T]hose policymakers interested in Creolist perspectives on social change, the hegemony of standard English, and the current status of the Whig party, doubtless flocked to the session featuring the research ‘Beyond the Anglicist and the Creolist Debate and Toward Social Change,’ ‘The Ebonics Phenomenon, Language Planning, and the Hegemony of Standard English,’ and ‘The Whig Party Don't Exist in My Hood: Knowledge, Reality, and Education in the Hip-Hop Nation.’”
Now that should raise test scores, don’t you think?
Other notable presentation included ‘“Identity, Positioning, Knowledge, and Rhetoric in the Pedagogical Practices of Elderly African-American Bridge Players’ and ‘Everyday Pedagogies in Basketball, Track, and Dominoes: Culture, Identity, and Opportunities for Competence.’”
Perhaps I should not mock. Who cares if these academics have their fun? None of this matters in the real world, does it?
In some disciplines, like my own, or say, in sociology, there may be little cause to worry as such academic escapades have little chance of filtering down into the real world. But education is different, because, by some kind of perverse logic, this stuff does indeed make it into your daughter’s fourth grade class. That’s the important difference with wacky research in education; people actually try to implement it.
I am reminded of the Chicago conference—and of education research in general—because I just got back from the beach.
A number of my relatives, you see, are public school teachers and I look forward to these family gatherings to catch up on what kind of nonsense is going on at the street level of public education.
I wasn’t disappointed this time around.
It seems that at the school where one of my relatives teaches, administrators, emboldened by “consultants,” are implementing a new “4.0 grading system.” Parents are casually told that it is “kind of like the college 4.0 grading system” which corresponds, of course, to the traditional range range from “A” to “F.”
Henry T. Edmondson III is Professor of Public Administration and Political Science at the Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Georgia.
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