Blame the method, not the kids (or educators)

the definition of ideology is doing the same thing over and over again without regard to evidence or experience.

When your method fails, and fails, and fails, and fails, don’t blame the kids. Blame the method.

Diane Ravitch via

5 Responses to “Blame the method, not the kids (or educators)”

  1. Hi Scott- I love your blog…subscribe to it and regular tweet it out. But truthfully, I don’t know how you can stomach the stuff that Diane Ravitch writes (or says, for that matter). I used to follow her on twitter and got into several go-rounds with her, trying to pin her down on what real solutions she advocates and it seemed that what she cared most about was talking in sound-bites that were “media-ready” about all of the things she thinks are wrong with education. But without any cohesive, data-based, effective solutions for the shortcomings in instruction. It was very frustrating for me and I ultimately stopped following her. I don’t think anyone can disagree that doing the wrong thing over and over again and then blaming the kids for not learning is crazy. And I hear her lambasting testing every chance she gets. But what is the solution that she envisages, along with a methodology for measuring that solution’s effectiveness. As of yet, I haven’t heard one.

  2. Hi Karen,

    I regularly struggle with Diane too. See, for example:

    I often find myself wishing for data, evidence, or at least some support for what she’s saying. Sometimes what she says drives me crazy. She has a tendency to overgeneralize (e.g., ALL charter or virtual schools are bad) and I remain firmly convinced that her personal lack of technological proficiency significantly hinders her ability to understand the powerful learning potential of digital technologies. And, even though she’s a professor, I often feel that her grasp on the quantitative / statistical side of things isn’t very strong (perhaps because her background is as a historian).

    But, all that said, she’s good for a quote now and then (like this one) so sometimes I’ll capture one of her statements for my Mind Dump category. And a lot of people feel she represents their voice so I keep her in my RSS reader. And she often leads me to policy resources that I otherwise wouldn’t find.

    I’m also cognizant that many of the criticisms we might levy against Diane also apply to me (speaks in sound bites, often doesn’t back up statements, general ideas rather than specific solutions, etc.). I try my very best to avoid those things but I’ve been labeled with all of them at one time or another…

    Thanks for the kind words about my writing and for being a loyal reader. I greatly appreciate your contributions (and pushback!) in this conversation/learning space.

  3. I actually appreciate Ravitch’s commentary, though I read it not as research, but as an advocacy-oriented pushback against some policies that seem to get enacted without a full review of evidence and without adequate oversight. I chalk this up to the fact that she spent so many years on the other side of the arguments, and feels a press to undo some of the policies she supported.

    I will say that as to the “soundbite” criticism, we likely all fall to that tendency sometimes; however, her Charlie Rose interview was anything but soundbite-ish, in my estimation. When I’ve heard her speak in person, it’s not soundbite-driven–she can deliver for long spans of time with coherent arguments and in ways that include ample evidence and example (I’m referencing her appearance at AERA in New Orleans a few years ago here).

    In the end, she’s an advocate with a research background who seems to be using a critical approach to highlight inconsistencies in arguments/rhetoric used to support various policies. I think–for me–it would be as inappropriate to simply ignore her voice as it would be to ignore the voice of others with whom I may not always agree, but who represent the thinking of many in the political/policy world.

    Thanks for the blog–very much enjoy it and learn from it regularly!

    • I think this is a good way to think about Diane, Jo, and I agree with your statement that we shouldn’t just ignore her because of some frustration (wait, again, that could be said about me!). Thanks for chiming in…

  4. Scott and Jo, you two are more forgiving than I am. I can’t listen to Diane for the same reasons I can’t listen to Rush Limbaugh….they both make me too angry. My original training was as an experimental psychologist and research methodologist. Then I moved into educational psychology and instructional design. I find that much of the “research” that Diane frequently cites doesn’t hold water with me when I read the primary sources. The other part that I don’t like about her is that I find her to be combative, which is always a turnoff. The good news for me is that I can hear some of her perspectives through people like you both who deliver the messages in what is, for me, a more thoughtful and civil approach. Thanks!

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