2 jun. 2011

Bullshit Fields (6)

Education.

I'm sure there is excellent research in the field of education, and I have to make sure I distinguish between bullshit fields and simply low-status ones. A low status field would be one that is not well-respected by other academics, but that does not necessarily mean that it is not worthwhile. Education as a field does have a pragmatic aim, to improve education. The problem, however, is that however brilliant an educational researcher might be, the findings never seem to trickle down into actual education, you know, educating people. Instead, actual education is mired down in ideological debates between neo-liberal privatizers disguised as "reformers" and progressive but often equally misguided ideologues on the other side.

A dissertation in this field is likely to be of low quality, especially if the person is going to be a high-school principal. If you had a Chemistry teacher with an M.A., would you rather the M.A. be in Chemistry or in Education? I thought so. One teacher I know got an M.A. online, without even every going to the university where is was offered, even though it was brick-and-mortar university.

8 comentarios:

Clarissa dijo...

Do you include researchers in the field of second language pedagogy? Their findings have, indeed, trickled down very impressively, I believe.

Jonathan dijo...

Everyone good in that field tries to stay as far away from possible from a school of education. I consider that a branch of linguistics.

Shedding Khawatir dijo...

Many researchers in second language pedagogy could still be more proactive about applying their findings in my opinion. Part of the reason for what you mention in the second paragraph is that public school teachers in the US are paid more the more graduate credits they have. Since these extra credits are often unlikely to help their teaching, why would they not do whatever is cheapest/more convenient/etc?

Andrew Shields dijo...

In the US (and even in Switzerland and Germany), it is almost impossible for "actual education" to be influenced by scholarship on education. It's a field where the experts are simply ignored by the policy makers.

Jordan dijo...

I object to the characterization of what has historically been a gendered field as lightweight.

Maybe this series is meant as satire?

Jonathan dijo...

It is low prestige, and also feminized, that is true. Th fact that it's feminized cannot protect it against critiques, though. I think other of the BS fields I have examined have been gendered masculine (theology, evolutionary psychology, psychoanalysis, etc...).

Jordan dijo...

Right. And who was psychoanalysis invented to treat, generally?

Also: how exactly is the field of bullshit studies not itself fertile ground for confirmation bias?

Jonathan dijo...

It arose in part to treat a malady associated with women, hysteria, that no longer exists any more. It's gone the way of neurosthenia and the like. Disorders defined in culturally specific ways. You could contextualize it as part of the general misogyny of 19th century gynecology. Look at that poor woman on whose nose Freud's friend operated.

As to the meta question of whether any critique of confirmation bias might itself be susceptible to confirmation bias, that is something that the discipline itself (the new discipline of BS studies) would have to guard itself against. Finding confirmation bias exactly where it expects to. Any critique of epistemology that goes deep will also have to be self-questioning.