Ordinary Human Language

by Brian Crane

Teacher Proof

I recently tried yet again to read The Globe and Mail. Before deciding that the web version of their paper was terrible, I stumbled over a review of a new book about the shortcomings of recent educational science. I recognized all of the concepts mentioned and the review was positive, so I grabbed a copy from Amazon and dove in.

The book is a publisher trolling: rush a book to print hoping to incite outrage among teachers who will scream bloody murder and thus generate free publicity. Sell tons of copies. It’s Gutenberg’s version of link bait. And the review played along. In fact, I wonder now whether the reviewer even did anything more than skim the book or worse, simply read the promotional material and sample reviews offered by the publisher and worked from there. The review was that poorly done and that complicit. (It says something about my opinion of the Globe that this confirms rather than challenges my opinion of the paper.)

The book doesn’t earn much attention to detail. It reads like Billy O’ set loose with a word processor. But here are a sample of my problems with it:

1 The author displaces his argument to fields he can’t navigate. He is no philosopher. So to make his criticism of methodology in educational research about (to list only a few things) British v. Continental philosophy or Evidence v. Theory, is to move his subject beyond his depth. He doesn’t do the heavy lifting such an argument would require and lacks the tools to make it even if he wanted to try.
2 Questions of depth aside, arguing that Aristotle is wrong as a philosopher misses the point of the argument at hand. The problems of educational research are not about context.
3 Most of this feels like padding. It’s as if the book wants to avoid being a polemic for letting teachers do their job–because they know how to do it–and wants instead to appear to be something grander. It isn’t though.

I jumped at this book because I’ve seen how shoddy educational research can be and often is. I was eager (if I’m honest) to see it take a good beating because at work, it operates as if its letters are still warm from being cut into the stone by holy fire. I was primed to agree with him and enjoy a bit of fish-in-a-barrel pot-shotting. But even still, I’m not willing to read a pompous teachers’ lounge rant printed up and sold for 20$.

I got suckered.

Posted September 23, 2013