Lose the Science, Lose the Kids


150 years ago, numerous perfectly healthy women died of “childbirth fever” in hospitals across the western world. Ignaz Semmelweiss solved the problem by introducing sterile procedures, like handwashing. He dramatically reduced deaths due to infections in his Vienna hospital. He was driven out of the hospital by his surgeon colleagues as his reward. The culture of the bloody surgeon’s smock trumped logic while medicine spent the next 100 years learning to wash its hands between the autopsy and the delivery.

Today close to one-third of students enrolled in our schools are functionally illiterate while proven methods remain untaught to our teachers. We are losing the science and as a direct result we are losing the kids. In many cases, they will become our next generation of welfare clients through no fault of their own.

Let’s be clear on one thing. It is not the fault of the classroom teachers. You cannot expect them to deliver what they have never been taught. I know because I have taught thousands of them over the past 50 years. In some cases, they never get to use their new training because the district cannot or will not provide the curriculum. Sometimes they fall away because they have no support. Sometimes they burn out because their successes with at-risk students results in the school dumping ever more greatly challenged students on them to remediate.

Schools escape accountability by blaming the child, not the lack of instruction or practice or adherence to a set of measurable standards. Parents aren’t much help. They are understandably naive about effective methods that would help their child. They generally feel powerless when facing school administrators.

To correct this situation, a renewed evaluation of the supposed sanctity of our children needs to occur. We keep calling them “our most precious resource”, but if you look at our educational priorities and practices, they are not the top priority. They are well down the list. We need to re-evaluate the effects of leaving millions of kids illiterate and we need start to use the available science to solve a major international problem. Read : Project Follow Through by Cathy L. Watkins -Project Follow Through: A Case Study of Contingencies Influencing Instructional Practices of the Educational Establishment.

As an educational community, and as nations, we have both responsibilities and options. We can continue to ignore the science at our peril or we can use the science and develop a literate society. The clock is ticking. Choose.

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