by Tom Rhodes, 6/1/2011
The hypothesis in question is that of the Federal Department of Education (DoED). Based on its mission statement that hypothesis is that “Centralized federal education programs will promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.”
Virtually every high school science book has a section, sometimes a whole chapter on problem solving and the scientific method. For a short time (3 years) I was a high school chemistry teacher. Having come from the industrial world, not the teaching world, and realizing that very little of the chemistry I thought would be remembered past graduation, I stressed one thing over and over, problem solving and critical thinking. I believe that these skills would be far more valuable and germane for my students than remembering the atomic number and mass of Germanium. If you google “4 steps to problem solving,” you will find a veritable tsunami of information. The basic 4 steps are Analyze, Plan, Execute, and Evaluate. These four steps may have different terms to describe them but in essence they are the basis of logical rational problem solving. Kids ask a lot of hard questions, often not about the subject you are teaching. As a teacher I often responded with “You are smart enough to figure that one out. Use your problem solving skills and think for yourself, what was tried before, what worked, what didn’t.”
The first step to solving any is always analyzing the problem. This involves correctly defining the problem. This should include what you know in as much detail as possible, historical information of similar or identical problems, previous solutions that worked and those that didn’t work, and what the expected or desired results to any actions you will plan for solving the problem. Most problems that keep getting worse not better are caused by three things; 1) incorrectly identifying the problem, and 2) failure to correctly evaluate the results of the plan executed to solve the problem, 3) failure to analyze the hypothesis and conclude that is is wrong because the results are not as desired.
Consider the Department of Education, it’s mission is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.
The Department carries out its mission in two major ways. First, the Secretary and the Department play a leadership role in the ongoing national dialogue over how to improve the results of our education system for all students. This involves such activities as raising national and community awareness of the education challenges confronting the Nation, disseminating the latest discoveries on what works in teaching and learning, and helping communities work out solutions to difficult educational issues.
Second, the Department pursues its twin goals of access and excellence through the administration of programs that cover every area of education and range from preschool education through postdoctoral research.
The DoED has been in existence for over 30 years, any critical analysis of its mission and measureable results of implementing the plans created by the DoED conclusively indicate that both the DoED mission and execution of its plans have failed. Nobody can rationally argue that plans to improve US education by the US Government have, on the whole, been of much measurable success. Although a few of the DoED programs have had limited success, it can be reasonably concluded that as education as a whole, with an increase in centralized government influence, has cost more money and has produced no better, and usually worse outcomes.
We have a problem in our education system. Congress created a plan and the DoED to implement that plan to effect change. The DoED programs (plans) and have revised over and over again for the past 30 years, thus an attempt to follow basic scientific methods. The outcomes were not as desired, very expensive, and not successful. Rationally we should abandon the entire notion that with a country as large and varied as the USA founded on a system of strong States rights, that the federal government can centrally plan an education system that will meet the stated mission. Arguably the education of our students was as good or better before it was directed from Washington, and vast sums of wealth were not confiscated and redistributed in the name of education.
We have failed to correctly evaluate the results of the plans executed to solve the problem and failed to analyze the hypothesis created to fix the problem and consider that it may be in error. Rather than use emotion to attempt to keep promoting a failed hypothesis because we desperately want education to get better, we should use basic scientific thinking, and actually analyze the effects of centralized education programs.
The hypothesis, “Centralized federal education programs will promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access” through years of planning, execution and revision, has been completely disproven. Based on rational scientific evaluation of the results of 30 years of DoED programs, we should end the Department of Education. Diversity brings about innovation and change, not central control, we should let the 50 states all develop their own methods of education, the competition between different practices and ideas will provide a much better variety of education programs that will better serve our diverse nation.