By Steve Sailer
#1: educators need to stop falling for this year's Solution of the Century every year.
A huge amount of time is wasted reorganizing schools and retraining teachers for the latest fad, which, typically, was tried and discarded so long ago that nobody can remember anymore. (So don't take these ideas I'm tossing out all that seriously!)
Many teachers and administrators don't mind all the reorganizations because sitting around playing office politics versus each other is more fun than trying to get students to memorize the Times Tables.
The dogma of racial equality helps explain much of the educartel's susceptibility to the latest cult craze. Nobody has ever been able to get blacks and Hispanics to consistently perform as well as Asians and whites on a large scale. And, since the obvious implication of this reality is unthinkable (in many minds, quite literally), then it must be the schools' fault. What else could it be?
This logic is then used by cranks reformers to justify implementing their pet obsessions. If the schools are small, for instance, that could be the reason for the racial gap. So, make them bigger. If they are big, then make them smaller. Just do something!
For example, the insanely rich Gates Foundation has been pressuring public schools to deconstruct themselves into "small learning communities"—which was what Americans were trying to get away from back when they built big learning communities.
One way to gain a wiser perspective on K-12 fads is to think about how you chose which college to attend. For some reason, ideology tends to get in the way less in individuals’ college choices than in debates about public policy.
Did you pick a small college or a big college?
And did you make the right choice?
You may have a strong opinion on the subject of the optimal college size. But, whatever it is, you have to admit that other people disagree with you. After all, both Caltech (864 undergraduates) and University of Texas at Austin (36,878 undergraduates) seem to have done pretty well for themselves over the years. Different sizes come with objective advantages and disadvantages. For example, when I attended huge UCLA, there were professors on campus expert on practically every topic under the sun, but my parking lot was a half-hour walk away. Moreover, different people flourish best in different size schools.
Education fads are seldom motivated by statistical research, since it's hard to move the needle noticeably for a large number of schools. As we've known since the Coleman Report during LBJ's Great Society, the students are more important than the school.
Instead, education vogues are launched by statistical outliers.
Small schools are particularly likely to be outliers, because they are small. There are so many of them, and unusual things can happen more easily when fewer people are involved.
Not surprisingly, though, outliers are hard to replicate on a large scale.
Lots of new educational fads are launched by charismatic individuals who can personally make them work. Charisma can accomplish amazing things. Rasputin apparently could stop the Crown Prince of All the Russias' internal bleeding just by talking to him. Nevertheless, "Hire lots of Rasputins!" is not a reliable strategic plan for hemophilia clinics.