Fads in Education: The Saga Coninues…and Continues…and Continues
Here is an interesting article written in 1993 about fads in education; but it might as well have been written yesterday, tomorrow, or a year from now. It’s first twelve words tell us much of what we need to know:
The only ones helped by teaching fads are those who market them.
It is a lesson hard learned for departments of education the nation over. The presence of educational fads – multiple intelligences, brain based ways of learning, varios language arts programs that last for about two years, the endless array of “educational consultants” gracing inservices – has certainly not slowed down.
When I was a public school teacher, brain based learning was – and still is – all the rage (multiple intelligence theory is not far behind). Several times, our school was visited by educational consultant Allen Mendler, which I have to assume costed the district a good amount and yielded few results. (None of the teachers I talked ot afterwards took it very seriously, but the administration was sure giddy that he was there.)
One of the points the above-cited article alludes to is that we must be cognizant about the fact that the educational fads are almost exclusively pushed by those trying to sell something. (I will elaborate further, though, because I think it is a good point that needs more examination.) Not that there is anything wrong with people trying to sell products that they believe in; it is just that selling makes a person a salesperson, and salespeople work on slickening and polishing rhetorical sales pitches. The primary goal of the salesperson trying to sell is to sell.
Now, couple that with the fact that school districts, unlike businesses, are not truly accountable for the money they spend (generally, there is pressure to spend all of the budget money per year), and we are asking for problems. When a business wastes money on a fad, the business loses money and can choose later to be more cautious in buying into fads. When a school district wastes money on a fad, they can simply recoup the following tax season, and do not generally need to worry about cost-cutting in the future to recoup costs.
Anyhow, this is a very interesting article. We learn about some of the goofy fads that actually did make it into the education community. And shame on us for that! Will the lesson ever be learned?