NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Education Fads Ignore The Scientific Method

April 27, 1999

Some education researchers have embraced a bizarre method of evaluating curricula and instruction. It is called "qualitative research" and it relies on anecdotes, interviews and "arts-based representations." Some adherents utilize poetry, ballads and paintings to present their findings, experts report.

  • Deploring scientific methods, qualitative researchers see hard data as a danger and a threat.
  • Critics say those who employ this method seek to manipulate and control results, as well as promote untested ideas.
  • Some educators point out that whole-language teaching procedures made their way into schools with no strong research backing -- and, indeed, had been actively contradicted by reading psychologists for 25 years.
  • "Educators don't like solid material," says California State University mathematics professor Wayne Bishop, adding "their work is all philosophically based, not knowledge based," -- while process "is everything and content counts for very little."

Critics make a comparison with the drug approval process of the Food and Drug Administration. "If we require random assignment studies to approved medicines to be used on our children, shouldn't we also give credence to random assignment studies about how to educate children?" writes Jay P. Greene, assistant professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin.

Source: Matthew Robinson, "Experiments on Johnny's Brain," Investor's Business Daily, April 27, 1999.


Browse more articles on Education Issues