Another dot in the blogosphere?

How is this (still) a thing?

Posted on: July 6, 2020

Today I reflect on how the reporting of some news is similar to the application of research in schooling and education. Both have questionable practices.
 

 
A person I follow on Twitter shared and later deleted this CNN article on how some people were supposedly organising and attending coronavirus parties in the USA. Attendees reportedly put money in a pot and the first to get infected got the prize.

Then a Wired writer countered that report by arguing how even reputable media outlets did not check on original sources of information. Bottomline: The coronavirus parties were not as common as the news implied.

To substantiate rumours that such parties actually happen, investigators need to ask critical questions. At the minimum, they need to ask:

  • Do such coronavirus parties actually happen?
  • If they do or do not, how do we know for sure?
  • Just how widespread are these events if they do happen?

The problem is that it is difficult to get the data to answer the questions. So people rely on guesses, hearsay, or conjecture. In the case of coronavirus parties, the reports could have started with public officials who made statements to the press without clear evidence. The press did not dig deeper, took the word of officials as fact, and propagated unsubstantiated information.
 

 
What does this have to do with schooling and education? Lots. There is so much “knowledge” about how teachers should teach and how students purportedly learn based on the uncritical sharing and perpetuating of bad information.

I have lamented on some of these pseudo-science and barely psychology theories before, but here is a short list.

  1. Digital natives
  2. Learning styles
  3. Bloom’s Taxonomy (as prescription)
  4. The Myers-Briggs type indicator (psychological types)

The first assumes that students are somehow able to use current technology, but this does not mean they can do so well or wisely [1].

The second assumes that addressing supposed styles will optimise learning when more recent research counters such thinking [2].

Using BT as a prescriptive tool instead of a descriptive tool leads teachers to assume that delivering information to generate knowledge is always first and foundational. However, learning does not have to follow a strict sequence [3].

The MBTI was created by two individuals who had no psychology background and the inventory has been roundly critiqued [4]. However, it is sold as the basis of career guidance programmes in some schools.
 

 
The fallacy of coronavirus parties is easier to spot because the public eye casts a bright light. But the theories and practices of teaching are the domain of a smaller group that does not necessarily understand or conduct educational research. This means that pseudo-science goes unchecked.

If the theory seems believable at face value and is attractive because it is easy to understand, it might be snake oil. Such theories lack nuance and ignore scrutiny.

Coronavirus parties, if they happen, might infect bodies. Theories based on pseudo-science infect the mind. It is far easier to cure the body than to rid the mind of misplaced principles.

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