February 21, 2007

Educational reform and friction

Every time there is a new school "reform," there turns out to be a lot of unexpected collateral damage. For example, a new required course to graduate from high school will be added, but some sizable fraction of the students won't get the class added to their schedules. The bureaucracy drops the ball, the kids drop the ball, and their parents drop the ball. So, marginal students don't graduate from high school. Military strategists have a concept called "friction" or random negative events that prevent the plan from being carried out as written. Something like that happens with school reforms, too. So, these fads like No Child Left Behind wind up having large human costs that nobody anticipates.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

First, it seems, the comments to this post are badly linked.

Second, you might be interested in Quebec's educational reform.

The result has been a drop of Quebec's rank in international contests.

Among the skills to be learned and evaluated are:

Cross-Cultural Competencies:

To construct his/her identity
To cooperate with others

Or in social sciences:

To be open to the diversities of societies and their territories.

To construct his/her representation of time/space/society.

If I understood correctly, failure has been mostly abolished, objective standards have been abolished.

Here is an example of the drop in international contests:

In mathematics, Quebec students used to be 5th among 26 countries in 1995, now they are 14th among 28 countries.

And in science, Quebec students used to be 6th among 26 countries in 1995, now ranked 19th.

This is an example of a website supporting the reform:


Here is another example:


The Last Man is here!

Anonymous said...

The education blog sphere (at least a part of it) has been abuz of late with the work of Siegfried (Zig) Engelmann , the method of Direct Instruction in general, and a large educational experiment from the 1970's called Project Follow through. In the event that you are not familiar with this, you may want to add it to your knowledge base.


And a good blog to start from would be:


My short summary would be, there is a demonstrated process to educate people even at the low end of the SES-IQ scale. But the methodology requires a rejection of most everthing that ed-schools teach.

Garland said...

The concept of "friction" really applies to government policy in general, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...


I heartily second rws1st's suggestion to investigate Direct Instruction (and the links he provided). There is much food for thought regarding how to boost the prospects of the left side of the bell curve.

The topic also has the flavor of "Sailernomics" in that it is both evidence driven and infammatory by the standards of muddleheaded conventional wisdom.

Anonymous said...

This isn't exactly the case, as those who are mentioning Direct Instruction note.

The fact is that if you go back far enough (say the early 1900s), you'll find dropout rates much higher and literacy much lower...and it wasn't just because some were new to the English language. My great-grandfather never went beyond 4th grade (he was a soldier in WWI, to give you an idea of the timeframe), and he couldn't read (interestingly, he married a schoolteacher. But he still never learned to read.) As "my people" have been on the continent since the 1700s, his illiteracy had nothing to do with being an immigrant.

The way school was conducted back then was very different from my parents' time, with much higher high school graduation rates and much higher literacy. Something different had been done, and so there was definitely a net benefit.

Likewise, one "new" school reform has been to throw out whole language teaching for reading, which pretty much works only for those who have taught themselves to read before coming to school.

Of late, though, almost all of the reforms that are championed by the ed schools do involve lower performance of students. There might be a reason for that.

Anonymous said...

Military strategists have a concept called "friction" or random negative events that prevent the plan from being carried out as written.

AKA "shit happens".

Anonymous said...

Re. the People's Republic of Canada:

This is the wonderful land where many of us would be subject to jail or fines for merely discussing biodiversity topics, such as IQ differences among races. Canada has no equivalent of America's First Amendment; instead, it has laws against "bringing a race or class of people into disrepute" (or language like that), enforced by a "Human Rights Commission." To describe differences in crime rates or any other behavior in races is crimethink. In a recent case, the judge stated the principle of these laws: "Truth is no defense."

Interesting to observe (and still legal here, despite the efforts of the ADL) that the instigators and some of the most persistent enforcers of such totalitarian laws are jews. "1984" is here, and the face of BIG BROTHER is the face of...the Chosen Ones.

Anonymous said...

In a recent case, the judge stated the principle of these laws: "Truth is no defense."

Whose case was that? I still miss Lubo Prytulak's UKAR site.

TurbineGuy said...

From a comment over at my blog parentalcation.

"Illinois law now requires Algebra, Geometry, and an additional year of high school math for high school graduation (previous requirement was 2 years of math, courses not specified).

Sounds good - until the Illinois State Board of Education changed their policy so that students are not allowed to earn credit towards high school graduation before 9th grade.

Net effect: No one can take Algebra before 9th grade."


There are students who have completed Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II/Pre-Calculus before 9th grade. Under Illinois law and ISBE policy they have had those three years of high school honors math credits and grades stripped from their Academic Records and High School transcripts. They have exhausted the High School math curriculum through AP Calculus BC by 10th grade, leaving them short of the three years of H.S. math credits required for H.S. graduation - and their GPAs and Class Ranks are now below those of students who have completed H.S. math only through Algebra II.

The ISBE has refused to revise their policy for cases like these, effectively placing a limit on the high end of the achievement spectrum and effectively punishing those students for achieving to the best of their ability.

School policy usually reads something like this example: *No high school credit will be awarded to elementary or middle school students concurrently enrolled in high school courses.* These kids have taken high school courses at the high school, taken the same quizzes, tests, and finals as their high school classmates, but are then informed that their work and effort do not count (and will actually count against them) because they took those classes before they were in 9th grade."

Anonymous said...

"...instigators and ...enforcers of ...totalitarian laws are jews" Oh my god! You coulda knocked me over with a feather when I read that! Jews depriving gentiles of the right to express themselves?? Jews locking up gentiles?? Jews proclaiming,"Truth Is No defense??" I am shocked,shocked! Another writer looks at Quebecs (post-reform )falling scores,and wonders if it is maybe the whole point? Train kids to submit to diversity and do what theyre told,and give 'em a 2nd rate education,sounds like a home run for the kikes!

Anonymous said...


And I'm sure all the kids in the state who graduate high school get a lot out of math classes that basically make sense only if you're planning to keep studying math.

I wonder if any high schools do something with the naming conventions for their math classes to make sure they can give credit? "This is the honors geometry class. Instead of doing the compass and straightedge thing and doing some simple proofs, we're going to figure out how to write shapes as equations. Then, we'll learn some cool tricks for finding the slope of the lines in those shapes, and the areas inside them."

We could call this "whole math learning," or some such thing. Educrats and legislators, none of whom could pass a calculus test if their lives depended on it, would never know the difference.

Seriously, do you have any idea why these requirements were written in such a dumb way? Was this an attempt to shut down some advanced placement kinds of programs, or to flatten SAT scores, or what?