Arnold Kling

Education Research

Arnold Kling, Great Questions of Economics
Previous Entry Next Entry

A rant by Steven Pinker with which I am inclined to agree:

People outside of the educational establishment are often shocked to learn how little in instructional practice has been evaluated using the standard paraphernalia of social science–control groups, random assignment, data collection, statistics. Instead, classroom practice is set by fads, romantic theories, slick packages, and political crusades.

And of course, as a teacher of economics and statistics in high school, I have to go on to this quote:

no matter how valuable a subject may be, there are only twenty-four hours in a day, and a decision to teach one subject is also a decision not to teach another one. The question is not whether trigonometry is important, but whether it is more important than statistics; not whether an educated person should know the classics, but whether it is more important for an educated person to know the classics than to know elementary economics. In a world whose complexities are constantly challenging our intuitions, these tradeoffs cannot responsibly be avoided.

Discussion Question. Pinker dismisses vouchers as an administrative issue. Can one make the case that vouchers would change the incentive structure in education to be more favorable to scientific evaluation of teaching methods?

Return to top