Season 2, Episode 27: Susan Engel

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Chris McNutt 0:09

Hello, and welcome to the Human Restoration Project. My name is Chris and thanks for listening in today. First off a special thank you to a few of our patrons that make our podcast possible, two of which are Michael Hyde and Jenny Lucas. Thank you so much for your support. You can learn more about the grassroots progressive education movement of the Human Restoration Project on our website at HumanRestorationProject.org or follow us on Twitter at @HumResPro. On our website, you'll find a plethora of materials related to progressive education, including a large list of free resources, a ton of research backed evidence and in general thoughts, ideas, and other things to share.

We are joined by Dr. Susan Engel, professor of developmental psychology at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, Dr. Engel has authored a variety of publications and books, including The End of the Rainbow: How Educating for Happiness, Not Money Would Transform Our Schools, and A School of Our Own: The Story of the First Student Run High School and a New Vision for American Education. Furthermore, Dr. Engel co-founded the Hayground School, which is a nonprofit focused on experiential learning in the teachings of John Dewey.

First off, I would like to know how you got involved in education? What led you into the field of developmental psychology? And how you just got all these different progressive ideas?

Susan Engel 1:33

I'll actually tell you a funny story that's in my most recently published book, which is a book for teachers called The Children You Teach. And I tell the story I'm about to tell in in that book, which is the first time that I worked with young children. I was 12 years old. And I was hired by a young woman in her early 20s, who was running a summer camp. She hired me to be her assistant. I lived nearby. And I was very interested. I had a little sister, so I guess I thought I'd be good with little kids. And you may know what this experience is like, because you're a teacher. The minute I started that job, I knew I had a feel for kids, it's not something that people talk about in the world of education. But I don't know why not. Because doctors talk about having good hands. And an athlete might talk about having a good pace or a good spring in their legs or good hand-eye coordination. There's no reason why teachers wouldn't also have certain characteristics that just give them a feel for the work.

Even as a 12 year old, I just knew I loved being around kids. I was good with them. And they brought out the best in me. I couldn't have told you then, and I'm not sure I could tell you now, what that was, but it was something - it was a feeling for kids. That young woman didn't run the program the next year and so I decided to run a program myself. I was 13 years old, I was very young, when I started thinking about kids and what they were like and what you should do to give them the most interesting experiences and how to help them interact in a group. I just sort of did it by intuition.

Fast forward, I got to college, and I still liked working with kids. And I still did it. But I thought that it had nothing to do with my academic studies. I wanted to study literature, and I wanted to study philosophy. In fact, I had an advisor at college who tried to get me to take a course in developmental psychology. But at that age, I was 17. When I started college, I didn't know what developmental psychology was. When he said psychology, I thought he meant therapy, or I don't know what I thought. But I thought I'm not interested in that, I'm not doing that. I work with kids...but that's not what I'm here to study at college.

Then finally, he was a very good advisor, so he convinced me to take this course in developmental psychology. And I instantly fell in love. I just knew that I had found my thing. I loved reading the theories about why children changed in the way they did, how they learned to talk, whether we should think of the mind as a malleable entity, or one that was born with all its propensities and abilities. I loved the research. I thought it was magic, the way that researchers made sense of everyday behaviors and the things that children said and did. I loved coming up with hypotheses and testing them. So I had found the second love - children, my first love, psychology was my second love.

It took me a lot longer to realize that it was more unusual than I had expected to put those two things together. And what I mean by that is I went on teaching to make money when I was a college student. By then I couldn't stop doing developmental psychology. So I went to graduate school to become a developmental psychologist. I also went on teaching because again, I needed to make money. And I liked working with kids. I began to realize that those two groups of people weren't talking to each other, the teachers for all their skills and knowledge and expertise, they didn't really have a grasp of how children develop, of how their minds change or don't change, how their behaviors are influenced by other people, are not influenced, and so forth and so on. It was something that would strengthen their work, not weaken it, if they only could learn about, that it would make them even more perceptive, more skilled, have more resources. It would certainly be a help to them when they were convincing parents of doing unusual things, or doing things that parents were nervous about.

And by the same token, I noticed that researchers didn't seem to know about real kids, the kids they imagined were the kids in the lab who were nothing like kids on the playground or in the kitchen or in school. So I began this interest of bringing those two things together. And then eventually I became a professor at Williams College. I began to get students who didn't only want to studied developmental psychology - they wanted to teach. And that gave me this golden opportunity to put those two things together. So that's how I became a psychologist very interested in education. I'll just say by way of ending that answer, I began to realize that some of my most dearly held intuitions or ideas about education were based on good research. They made sense, and that the way to convince people they were good ideas was not to keep shouting it or saying that again and again, but to show that the research backed up what I was saying about how children learn, and what made them thrive, and what were the best things to do for them in the school setting.

Chris McNutt 6:44

Yeah, that's something that always shocked me. After I started looking at progressive ideas...there's always been this mentality whenever I spoke to teachers about this kind of stuff, that it was the "hippie style of learning" that it's all that 1960's Kumbaya stuff. But then you look at what people are actually publishing on this. I mean, there's literally thousands of studies that back up everything from changing how homework looks, and grading, to doing all sorts of kinds of things. It's shocking how much we know yet how little we actually practice - how little those two go together, at least in most schools. I would argue along the exact same lines - to hone in on what you focus on in The End of the Rainbow - you point a lot of criticism at how schools use terminology that focuses on the industrial benefits of education - [to] quote something, "students of the 21st century will need to be innovators to work in tomorrow's industries." Could you go further into the problem with our overwhelming focus on job readiness or next step education?

Susan Engel 7:46

Sure. So as I talked about in that book, the focus on sort of job readiness that came about during the Industrial Revolution, I think was unintentional. So for time immemorial, the only people who got a formal education were the privileged and it was considered a luxury. School meant not at work. And by extension, the gifts of literacy, of thinking abstractly, of pursuing philosophy. Then later science, those were the privileges of the wealthy, and deep down intentionally or not, the uneducated were deprived of that kind of intellect - by and large, were deprived of that kind of intellectual life. When more and more children needed to be cared for out of the home, because their parents were working out of the home, they are developed as a need for somewhere for kids to be while parents were working.

And that began the slow drift toward school for all, which has enormous benefits, obviously. But as that took hold, the purpose of education shifted. It's a crazy paradox. And I'm no historian, but it seemed like as we began to think of education, or formal education, school as a place for everybody, we also began to think, "well, if it's for everybody, it better be a very different thing than it's been. If it's for everybody, how could it be the pursuit of enlightenment or higher order thinking? It better just be job training." That's at least a piece, I think, of how schooling became focused on this job readiness. Then, that went hand in hand with the idea of thinking about all these kids that were going to need to be able to work. They were going to need to be able to work in factories or stores or in trades. The idea of using school to get them ready for those things just fell into place.

There's so many problems with that model. It's not one that people examine very carefully. Even now, I work at one of the most selective colleges in the country. And I think by many measures, one of the best colleges in the country. I certainly love it and adore it, we get incredibly bright students, and they're very motivated, and they're very engaged. But they talk all the time about their college experience in terms of what will help them in the workplace, even though the best thing we can offer them is not training and some trade, or some particular narrow career path, but rather an education that enables them to think in complex ways about complex matters, which is the world they're moving into. So that idea of schooling or education, as being a pre professional training ground, is permeated at all levels of education, and it doesn't work.

Number one, you don't really prepare people for work by trying to train them in these narrow ways. Meanwhile, you spend all that time unsuccessfully preparing them for particular - I don't know what - professions and you lose the opportunity to help them all become enlightened, in the truest sense of that word: able to read complex material, to think about complex arguments, to consider various approaches to a problem, like a mathematical approach or literary approach, to think like a social scientist, or to think like a natural scientist. Those are all ways of thinking that any citizen should be able to access at some level, if not at the professional level. And that's what a good education should give you. You can't do everything, "so if you were going to do that, you would have to let go of this" - [is a] false sense that you're preparing people for jobs. That doesn't even begin to get at what I think is the more fundamental question which, is school a place where kids develop a liking for thinking, and debating issues, and deliberating over complex questions? If you can't give them that liking for higher order thinking, then you've lost whatever game you're playing.

Chris McNutt 12:11

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On the same lines, this is going to sound like a very obvious question... but I think it's worth mentioning, why is it important that we focus on student well being and curiosity and creativity, rather than preparing them for the next step? To preface that, I think about many educators who I had growing up, or still maybe work with me, who say things like, "well, they have to get used to it", "life isn't easy", or "they're going to appreciate it later." or, "this is teaching them rigor." It's code words are very authoritarian, "do, as I say, and learn to live with it. That's how the world works."

Susan Engel 13:13

Well, first of all, I think many people would now acknowledge that doing what you're told is a dangerous way for society to function. If you have a whole society of people who are just doing what they're told, you're on the path to a terrible society: a society without invention, a society without democracy, a society without liberty, and ultimately, society without the ability to move on in any good way. That would be terrible, if we had a whole society filled with people who all they had been trained to do is do what they were told. Where most people I think would agree, if they stopped and thought about, is that you want people who can think carefully about the way they live their life, make good choices, think about who they want governing society. And then also come up with good ideas, and be innovative in the way that they solve problems, whether they the immediate problems of the job they do, or bigger problems of how their community can function. Or how their families should live, or what they should do if they face a medical crisis - those involved making informed decisions.

That's what you can learn to do in school. So to cycle back to your question, you said, "why should we care about things like curiosity and creativity and well being in education, instead of preparing for life?" For people who argue against that and say, "Well, what we need is to prepare these kids for life." Well, the first answer is, if you were to really educate people, kids to feel curious, and then pursue their curiosity, and get interested in problems, and then figure out how to solve those problems, you would be preparing them for life. I'm going to teach that. You'd be preparing every single kid for a productive, thoughtful, civically engaged life. We know as developmental psychologists, that being curious is the reason why kids learn so much when they're birth to three, that's why they're learning machines. And anybody who's been around a toddler knows that you can't keep them from exploring the world around them. The real question for educators is, "how do we build on that?" And what happens in many schools in this eagerness to train children in these narrows skills, or to make them obedient, is that we do the opposite. We turn that curiosity off, which is like turning off the engine to learning.

Chris McNutt 15:35

Something that you wrote about in your book that I thought was really interesting was, you gave either surveys out or you had teachers collect feedback from people, basically seeing what engagement was. You found that essentially, engagement didn't necessarily mean students were asking questions about what they want to learn about or things of that nature, it was more, "Oh, they've sat up straight and they [had] compliant behavior,

Susan Engel 16:01

"Do what you're told and pay attention." In many places, the child does that. If you see a child focused on their work in front of them, and not fidgeting and not looking around and not wriggling, you, often a teacher or an educator will think, "Oh, yeah, they're engaged." And probably what they really mean, or what a psychologist would see is "focus", which is important, it's not unimportant. And compliance, being able to follow rules, again, not unimportant. It not the most important thing. Because, if you flip this around, and sit and help a child get really engaged, which is to be absorbed by something, to lose awareness, what's going on around you, because you're so focused on the task...to have an internal sense, or drive to learn more or achieve more with the project, whatever it is...then oftentimes, children are focused, they do pay attention, and they're able to acknowledge or abide by rules.

Engagement comes first, not after, and as you and I said, developmental psychologists know this. I mean, watch any three year old who's wiggling around, looking around, and shouting out and doing what three year olds do, and then watch them get really absorbed in something they care about. Building something with blocks, or rolling a ball, or watching something fascinating that's going on outside the car window, they become totally absorbed and totally engaged. And that's what you want. So the thing that educators often forget is that what the school should do is build on natural development, not try to redirect it or thwart it. That's what I'm arguing for in the book. To go back to the question of curiosity, or creativity, and why those are important early on, or well being, it's because fostering those is the best foundation, or the learning that is important later on. I mean, learning about mathematics or learning how to read a complex text or learning how to write software for a computer...it's not that those things are unimportant, it's just a question of what's the best way to get people able to do those things.

Chris McNutt 18:14

Yeah. And it's interesting, too, once you take that very large step, all those solutions tend to fall in order. That's essentially what you were just saying. I used to be, I guess, "the mean teacher" - taking my grading hyper seriously. And everything was always according to plan, because that's just how, as teachers, you're typically taught, which is ironic, because we actually talked a lot about Freire. And push came to shove, [it was] make a lesson plan, do it this way. In a way, the second that we stopped giving out grades, students actually did more. It was just a matter of being okay, with accepting that initial risk, or that initial step that you might be afraid of taking, which actually builds into the question I would have for you - how do you go about convincing people that are used to the way that they were taught to teach, or the way that they grew up? And what is expected, in a sense, from other administrators or just the mantra of being a teacher? Because there's the idea like you're a superhero teacher, because you do this, this and this, and you grade for four hours a day... how do you convince a co-worker, an administrator that this is the direction that we should go?

Susan Engel 19:23

That's a really great question. And I've had some amazing experiences trying to figure that out. One thing I noticed is that if you just keep telling a teacher who's been trained in the way that you just described, "you should get kids to do things they really interested in, you should loosen the reins a little, you should make the day a little more fluid", whatever. They don't listen, because you're just giving them another set of instructions that might or might not replace the ones they've already been given. But there are two questions you can ask most teachers, teachers who actually like kids, and that's most teachers, I'm glad to say. There are two questions you can ask that are very powerful. One is to ask them what their real deep down, in their heart of hearts, what's their goal for children educationally?

Because no one will say that their goal is to get children all over the neighborhood, or the state, or the country, to do math facts super quick, or to spell a lot of words well, or to learn how to identify the most important sentence in a paragraph. Because if people think about who's really well educated in their own lives, they will never say, "my uncle Noah, because he can do a math minute better than anybody." Or "he can diagram a sentence" - people don't think of that as what it means to be well educated or to be an informed citizen. They'll say," my uncle Noah, because he's so thoughtful", or "he's so open to new experiences", or "he really knows how to put together information from different sources to come up with a new idea." If they begin to think about what the real goal of education is, or "my aunt Marlene, because she really knows how to listen to people and think from other people's perspectives" - another thing we value in the abstract. But if teachers get in touch with what they really think the goal of education is, and you work backwards from...or maybe you have a more modest goal, maybe you're a first grade teacher and your real heart, your goal is to get kids to love reading. That's a great goal. Because it turns out if you love reading, the doors of schools are open to you forever. And there is no limit to what you can learn on your own. If you love reading.

So let's say that's a really great goal for a first or second grade teacher. If that's your goal, and you work back from that, you will often see that the things you're actually doing again and again, day after day are not things that will lead kids to love reading. If you think about well, "what does get a kid to love reading?" - acting out stories, having stories read to them, having really good books, and the biggest number one thing is having a chance to actually read and enjoy the books that you're reading. And I left out the most important one, the biggest, most important factor in loving reading, is to begin with the chance to have extended conversations. If you thought to yourself, "okay, so if I'm a really great first grade teacher, I will give my students a lot of chance to have a conversation." Suddenly, that makes sense. Because you think, "Well, we know that's what leads to reading. And we know that the real purpose of kindergarten and first grade or kindergarten through second grade is to get kids to be readers." Suddenly, what seemed like a radical crazy idea doesn't seem that radical or crazy, it seems like the best path to achieving your goals.

That's one question you can ask, "What's your real goal here?" And then to work backwards from that. The other thing that I think works incredibly well, and I've seen it happen, it looked like someone was turning a light on in in their brain, is when you ask teachers, and again, it's important that they love kids, if they don't love kids, none of this is going to work. But if they love kids, and you ask them to think about the times in their classroom where kids are trying their hardest, and really engaged and going through some kind of change, understanding something that they didn't understand, being able to do something they couldn't do before, working at a higher level than they have previously, they will begin to identify the times in the day that are not necessarily what they've been told to do with students.

The times when kids are doing things that matter to them, that seem to have meaning that captivates children, captivate them as imaginative, as physical, as social beings. And they can build on that. I wrote about this in my most recent book, I had a teacher write to me, he was high school, he might have been a physics teacher. And he taught high-level classes in his school, but he said, the kids, they're just doing it because they were told they have to, or because they want to get a good score on their AP or whatever. He said, "I watched them after school and the after school program that I teach, and that's when they're most engaged, then I can't stop them. They love it so much." I think it was a robotics class. And he said, "What do I do?" I said, bring that into the school day. If you know that's what makes the kids work their hardest and think their best, why wouldn't you do that during the day? It just took getting him to think about his own experience and his own observations of children. I mean, nobody knows kids as well as teachers do. And nobody has the teacher's repertoire for thinking of things that that are going to be engaging and challenging to kids. It's more a matter of letting them use that in the classroom. And too often they're not allowed to use their wealth of expertise and knowledge of kids.

Chris McNutt 25:04

I feel so gross to ask this question every single time. But I know that if someone were listening to this, or if you were talking at a conference, and someone brought up a question, the first thing is going to be "well, what about standardized testing? What about SLOs? Or your learning objectives? Whatever policy?

Susan Engel 25:21

Wait, what's an SLO?

Chris McNutt 25:22

I don't know if that's just an Ohio thing, but a student learning objective. So it's just basically...

Susan Engel 25:26

Oh no, I just didn't know the initials, it goes beyond Ohio.

Chris McNutt 25:30

Okay, cool, then this will be relevant then, your pre test, post test and seeing growth over time, and all these things that tend to get bogged down at the end of the day. And just taking a strict multiple choice test or something created by a robot - something that really has no relevance outside of for adults to track data so they feel good about themselves. How do you convince someone that's become just so attached to that mattering? I think, for example, all the times we'll talk about this at work, "Well, yeah, but we're going to see our test scores, people aren't going to want to come to the school anymore, or they're going to think we're not doing a good job. At the end of the day, we really to make sure those test scores matter." And a lot of times that just leads to doubling down on traditional policies, back to basics, how do we go about convincing people to basically bite the bullet on standardized testing?

Susan Engel 26:17

Well, if I had the answer to that question, I'd have some great prize or a lot of money that I don't have. I mean, it's a very complex question one way, and I talked about this, in The End of the Rainbow, is to come up with alternative measures of the things you do value. So as I say in that book, we measure what we value and we value what we share. Most teachers, if they're asked and they're being honest, will say that they don't really think standardized tests measure what they do, the most important stuff they do. And most of them will agree that it doesn't capture the most meaningful thing about their students. And then they're stuck, they're measuring one thing but valuing a different thing. That's how I started my research on curiosity. Teachers often told me what they really cared about was not a standardized test score, but a child's love of learning or their curiosity, or their interest in the world around them, or their hunger for information. And then I think, "okay, that's what they really value, but what they're measuring and what they're being measured by, is our tests that that look at something completely different." And my impulse, this was like 14 or 15 years ago, was, "okay, let's come up with a measure of the thing we do value, let's measure curiosity." And you know, that led me on a 15 year odyssey to try to measure curiosity. That's a whole other story about how I got involved in that work.

I would argue, and I have had this conversation with school people all over the country, that one of the things a school can do is say, "Okay, we'll let them do the standardized test, because we have no choice. That's mandated. And someone's going to look at those scores. And they're going to read too much into it, but that's their problem. Meanwhile, let's measure the things we care about." And you can measure them. The idea is that the only thing you can measure is the thing that's on a standardized test. First of all, a standardized test, that's a meaningless phrase in and of itself, it just means a test where you've come up statistically a norm of how kids of a certain age, how they generally do, so that you can compare each individual or an individual group of kids to that norm. You could do that for any number of tests. And it doesn't have to actually be a paper and pencil test, it could be something else.

But holding aside the standardized piece of that, let's just think about the things that are generally measured on those tests. They're fairly meaningless things, like I said, like how to summarize some thing buried in the paragraph, or how to do a lot of math problems very quickly. One of the things that's never measured in those math tests, is whether you actually use math to think about things that you need to think about, like how to find an address. To use a great example by the educational researcher, Daniel Koretz. He was with a group of mathematicians and other college professors. And they were in New York City trying to find an address. They couldn't figure out how to find the address because they didn't realize they could use algebra to solve the problems. We never measure people's disposition to use math, not only to solve practical problems, but to solve more complex abstract problems about the nature of the world around them.

You could come up with a test that would look at something like that, or to take another example, since we know as developmental psychologists that extended conversations with two children is the best way to prepare them for more specific kinds of formal education later on. Why don't we measure the conversations that are going on in classrooms? And again, you can't do that with a paper and pencil test. But you can collect data on that. Psychologists do it all the time, record conversations and analyze them for depth and complexity and cooperation. There are ways to measure the things that people like you and I might really value in an educational setting: a child's ability to identify interesting problems in the world around them, and then try to solve those problems. That's something you could measure, you can measure helping and cooperation. And that that's a long winded way of saying that one thing I do think that people like us need to do is come up with a measure of the things that we value, because it will never fly, it will not be acceptable in society in 2018 or beyond, to say, "well, we care about certain things, but we're not going to measure them. We just want you to trust us with your children." That's not going to happen.

Chris McNutt 30:46

Yeah, that's a really good point. I've never thought about that, in terms of the fact that researchers obviously look at these things. Why would that not factor in? That makes a lot of sense now that you mention it.

Susan Engel 30:55

And for people listening to your podcast, who doubt that, they should think back to the most recent article they read, and I'm sure if they read magazines or newspapers, and I hope they do, that they've read in recent years about things like: how people control their appetite for dieting, or what makes people fall in love, or why some people gamble impulsively, or unconscious biases. So these are things that psychologists figured out how to measure. Most of us accept the findings of that research, we trust that psychologists have figured out how to measure all these subtle, invisible complex phenomena. So why wouldn't we be able to measure things like whether a child likes books, or explores the world around her, or he's able to engage in a complex conversation? Those are not very hard to measure. In fact, in all those examples we already have ways to measure. We don't even have to come up with the method, we just have to think about how to use it in a school setting,

Chris McNutt 31:56

Moving into I guess, a final question. This is subtly a very grandiose question, what would be something that a teacher listening into this today, could do tomorrow in their classroom, that would make that much of a difference? Not something that would require a lot of planning or something that would be, "Whoa, I can't do that. I would have to read a whole book on that." What could be something they could just do?

Susan Engel 32:25

What a great question. First of all, I want to say that I love that question. Because I love the idea that teachers can try some of the ideas that we're talking about, without having to cause a revolution in their school or throw out everything they already do, or change everything. I don't think that's realistic. And I don't think it's necessary, a lot of teachers are doing a lot of good stuff in their classroom already. Or they're doing stuff they must do. That's fair enough. So I love the idea that you could do a little of this in your classroom, see how it goes, and not make a big deal of it. Just find out if it engages kids and leads to something good academically.

They could do two things, they could start paying attention to what really absorbs their students, and then try to do a little more of it. It might be storytime, it might be a particular kind of project, it might be a chance to investigate natural materials, it might be a chance to design their own experiments, it might be a chance just to have interesting arguments with one another over important topics, or to work together in groups that the teacher doesn't form for them. They could just pay attention to what engages their students, and then try to do a little more of it. That's one thing they could do.

Another thing is if they already know something that their kids their students find very absorbing, set aside 20 minutes, 30 minutes a day, when they're just going to devote themselves, their kids time, to that thing. And again, it could be just reading books, it could be having conversations, be some topic that the kids are fascinated by. Just give it a little time. Even that can feel scary. You use the word risk, it can feel risky, and costly, but it's not that big a risk. And there are untold payoffs to doing that in terms of what a teacher will learn about what works in their classroom and what their kids respond well to.

The second thing I would say, is teachers, if they're listening to your podcast, they're already doing this, I guess, but they could read one new thing about this approach to education that might give them some ideas or bolster an argument or give them a new way of thinking about something. People underestimate the power of having a good way of thinking about something. As a teacher, you have a hunch about how you want to do things and then you read what an interesting educator has written about, or psychologist or parent or whatever, it can really transform how you see your classroom. And seeing your classroom in a different way can lead to very good things.

Chris McNutt 35:10

Exactly. And that speaks to the heart of my shift. After I started thinking about [these things], I just read one book, like an Alfie Kohn book. And that for me, that was like, "Whoa, wait, there's so much information on this." And you can go down the rabbit hole from there. There's shockingly not a lot of research that supports "the other side", if that's what you want to call the very traditional notion. At least, not a lot that supports learning, rather than just increasing your test scores, at least how that data correlates...if that make sense.

Susan Engel 35:37

That's a great point. I have a lot of colleagues - some of them are developmental psychologists, but some of them are cognitive psychologists who study some very narrow thing about learning, like study habits and what makes you "learn more." Your listeners won't see my little finger quotation. But whenever I asked them, "what's learning in that study? What do you mean by learning?" They will say, "Well, you know, of course, it's an experiment." So what we mean is, you hear a list of words, and you can repeat them back one day later, one week later, or you hear some facts, and you remember them in two weeks.

Most people who do that kind of research are themselves highly educated and will at some point, say, of course, that's not the most important thing about school. It's not what they would want their kids to be experiencing in school. And that goes back to what you just said, which is the research that supports the efficacy of certain study habits or the value of drilling kids on certain skills... they can show that in the lab, and they'll stand by that, but very few of them would support that as an educational practice. Because they themselves wouldn't value that in their own educational experiences or the experiences they would want for their children.

I think you're right that there isn't a lot. There's plenty of research to support individual tools for getting kids to memorize things, or become more obedient. But when you put all that together, even the researchers, most of them wouldn't argue that in and of itself points the way to a good educational model. Most of the things that are done in school that aren't very good for kids these days are not based on good research. They're based on one little adjustment at a time, to a series of social and political and economic events that no one really thought through, which is how we landed with this sort of ungainly and oppressive system that doesn't really work for children. But everyone feels locked in.

Chris McNutt 37:42

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