DSM: RE: objective source of evidence

Joseph Moore (joseph@ivorycc.com)
Thu, 5 Apr 2001 09:11:12 -0700

As a parent, ultimately, the only evidence that really matters is your own
kids. Mine are doing great, so I'm happy. As a founder, you want more,
figuring that you will need facts and figures to back it up. Well, maybe. I
certainly point out that democratically-schooled kids do tend to go to
college, if they want. But the whole 'if they want' part - that can frighten
parents, too - they don't want their kids to have the option of NOT going to
college. It's almost the very definition of 'failed parent' in many circles.

As others have pointed out, some people will not be moved by statistics (or
anything else). The very idea that traditional schooling is wrong - which is
a pretty unavoidable point - sets many people off: I suspect their view of
themselves is so tied up in their schooling that rejecting school would be,
in their view, rejecting themselves. Also, the 12+ years of being rewarded
for conformity (and punished for individuality) is *designed* to produce
people who fear not fitting in.


Long P.S.: One course, which I do NOT recommend when talking with potential
parents, is to notice how shaky the statistics put out by traditional
schools are. Two examples. First, you will not find many (any?) studies
demonstrating much of a correlation between schooling and success, once
other factors have been adequately controlled for. In other words, it's
largely a myth that schooling leads to success - the children of better-off
people are better off (no surprise); the college educated or people who
value college send their kids to college, the poor stay poor. Sure, there
are some apparent exceptions, but it's an assumption not supported by the
data that education *caused* some people to get ahead, rather than education
being a *result* of better economic conditions. In other words, from about
100 to about 20 years ago, there were more and more better-paying jobs
available, and a college education just became a shibboleth used to decide
who gets them (answer: those with the drive and ability to conform, as
demonstrated by a college diploma.)

Second, the claims that private schools cherry-pick the best students, while
public schools have to take everyone ignores (especially in urban areas) the
very real weeding out process that goes on all the time in public schools -
the 'worst' students drop out and typically fall out of the 'success'
statistics. You have to look very carefully at the assumptions and methods
behind the statistics to even figure out how or if they are counting kids
who start school but disappear at some point prior to graduation. Generally,
I can't find the assumptions or methods at all most of the time - you get
meaningless statements like "test scores went up".

In California, there's a bit of a ruckus over a related issue: schools can
get a piece of an incentive pie if their test scores improve. BUT: parents
can opt out of having their kids take the test - like, if the kids don't
speak English. So now schools are highly motivated to get as many
potentially low testers to opt out - it's money out of their pockets if the
test scores don't go up, and what quicker way to improve the scores than by
getting poor scorers to opt out? Of course, everybody claims this could
*never* happen at their schools - nonetheless, the state has begun setting
limits on how many students can opt out of the tests - 10% (?!) in most

Bottom line: in this environment, where dollars are chasing test scores, a
rational person would be a fool to take the statistics put out by the
regular schools at face value. More information is needed to evaluate them.

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