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« The Whole Language Hustle | Main | Things Fall Apart. Part 2 »

Sunday, November 07, 2004



Dr. Plum.....
Your assertion that standards and practices exist in medicine is, on the surface, possibly true. However, if you look beneath the priestly robes of that brotherhood, you will find two driving forces. the first is avoidance of risk,since they pay so much for malpractice insurance, and, secondly, they reflect, on the whole, an ethic of unrestricted greed. I do not think it necessary to quote chapter and verse, examples of needless tests, useless proceedures, unnecessary, invasive treatments, the wholesale rip off of the medicare system, the insurance companies, the lies the in diagnostics, and on and on.......

interestingly, the profession claiming the highest level of "professionalism" is a profession on the run from lawyers, who finally caught up with their tactics and outright lies.
Of course, i will accept no contrary view, as i am never wrong, and refer you to the current volume of the medical coding bible, the ICD-9-CM.....this is the "bible"
of the profession because it has everything to do with profit and nothing to do with morality, ethics, or standards.THIS is what medicine is NOW!!!!!, please, use some other example to hold against the lack of success in education....doctors rate right up there with disc jockeys and used car salesmen.....there was a time when this society idolized doctors ....until frank burns, the maladroit doctor of the television show M*A*S*H, came along and destroyed that illusion.....

there was a time, just recently, when i wanted a Doctorate. I dreamed of being called a Professor. In you, that honor is justified. However, the majority of the rest are, to say it politely, less than farsighted, intelligent, or even iligent, except in the pursuit of their own tetirement plans. Thus, except for you, and a certain other california based Professor (god help her) the whole freaking lot of you could not sell a toaster at Wal Mart. The entire system is so completely rotten, it defies my ability to adequately describe it. Anyone pursuing a Doctorate in this age is doing it out of pure ego, or something less than nobility(which i despise). If you really want to make a difference, why dont you give the diploma back and apply for a job teaching fifth graders? If you mean what you say, then help us. Guide us. Get your boots back on the ground!!!!!

Damn, leave that temple (oh, hell, how can you?...i know what i ask is unrealistic.....). Yeah, i know you can answer "Ive been there", but have you been there lately? Is it not possible that the teachers we both know to be misguided, NEED a field commander? Is it beyond your scope to lead from the front? My god, they need you......I need you.....!!!!!

We both rant, however, lately my rants and thoughts seem to be education averse....i cannot bear to write about what i see, and what i is as if the whole subject has somehow reduced me.....and i hate myself for that)

Is there any value in talking about the problems in education anymore? Is it getting us anywhere?

When Churchill was sacked from the post of First Lord of the Admiralty, after Gallipoli(WW I),(sp?), he took the rank of major and went to the trenches....went over the top too....endured the hell of overwhelming german artillery...risked his life......


Because he believed......and sought redemption. I believe, and know you do too....

so, being a big guy, give a little guy a reason why therorizing is preferable to commanding from the front? (yeah, i know, economics)However, ...what is so implausable about you running for the school board?

you are so very are my standard, and it is time you put the stars on your epaulets.....

with the greatest respect
and affection,

dr. cookie

Ookie, my sweet. I think you're right and wrong at the same time.

Yes, medicine is not perfect, certainly not at present. But rewind 100 years. At the beginning of the 20th century, going to a hospital was more dangerous than being ill at home. The mortality rate for basic diseases like strep throat and small pox was much higher. Women regularly died in childbirth. Surgical patients died of sepsis. There was no such thing as a heart bypass, or a survival rate for breast cancer.

Why did things change? Because the medical profession got together around the idea of teaching medical students the best practices and shared procedures. (See the Flexner Report, commissioned by the Carnegie Foundation and published in 1910.) Prior to this report, medical practice was balkanized and disputed by professionals. But a few medical schools and hospitals began the pioneering work of linking medical research to medical practice, and then translating the practice into a curriculum for medical students. Over time, standards rose and practices improved.

There is no linkage in education. In fact, I disagree with Plum on his assertion that there is solid research showing what works in education. I argue that we're lacking good research, and we have done little to link what evidence we do have to teaching practice.

The most interesting example is early reading. Actually, this is an area that has been the most carefully researched, the ideas of phonics and alphabetic sounds and sight words. There is a body of research with shared conclusions about how to teach early reading. And it works. And lots of teachers use it. And lots of curricula call for it. Eureka! It is direct instruction in the basics of learning sounds and words.

Things go south, though, when kids need to understand what they're reading. Knowing the words, even reading a passage with some fluency, isn't enough to guarantee comprehension. And this is where I'm working. How do we teach comprehension skills, and then activate them in concert, as kids need to understand what they read? It's a great area to work in because honestly, I think we know nothing. Or little, at best.

I believe that we can make these links between education research and practice. The practitioners would be much more powerful (like physicians) if they could say to the world that their work was based on hardcore scientific research, and they could prove that it worked. That would be powerful, and might be better for kids.


Dr. Plum:

So glad to see someone is talking seriously about education. I happened upon you after reading some JonJayRay blog stuff.

I have been in the classrooms of some pretty dysfunctional schools for the past ten years or so (in my defense, they were dysfunctional before I came along; but to my shame they were dysfunctional when I left) and have some things to add to your lists of reasons:

(1) no standards, combined with egoism

Correct. Combine that with a RESISTANCE to standards from the educational establishment. Standards imply things that can be tested, and testing is sure to hurt self-esteem.

The teachers unions don't want testing because it shows who isn't getting results. I can understand part of that; no one getting a class of underachievers wants to be compared to teachers who get great group of motivated students. The solution would be comprehensive pre-testing of knowledge for the purpose of determining basic abilities AS WELL as determining how much of the information the students already know (my suspicion is that Whole Language is tested on kids who come to school knowing how to read because their parents have read to them -- and then teachers take credit for the kids' love of reading and facility with it).

(2) rewards for pushing progressivist fads

Rewards might not be the right word; I'd suggest "cover". When your school is failing it really perks up the parents and board when you promise results with Integrated Thematic Instruction (differently-colored markers, as far as I can ascertain) or some other latest fraud to come from some Ph.D. who is looking to make extra bucks from unsuspecting (failing) districts.

(3) no contractual relationship with consumers

Right. But there is no way to be contractual when you won't allow testing for the reasons I mentioned above. When our district was most successful we tested students coming in and placed them in appropriate Direct Instruction classes, and we could demonstrate success at the end of it. Despite provable gains, the programs were criticized because they didn't promote "problem solving abilities" or "cooperative learning." (A tip of my hat to your #2.)

(4) the slop that drips down from ed schools.

Gee, I thought that WAS the "progressivist fads". Brain-based education is somehow favorable to "demonstrated results" education? I'm sure we're both flummoxed there.

Like others, I think you might have an inflated view of the medical profession.Personally, I think a lot of doctors have stopped practicing medicine and retreated to the safety of prescribing pills pushed by big companies that take care of most of the liability for them. This sounds much like education today: whether it works or not, the new "medication" is the big fad. I also think the medical profession today has a BIG problem of confusing correlation with causation, and thus treats symptoms rather than offer cures.

After my stint in a school of "education", the one lesson I wish I had learned was how to recognize a failing district, and tips on how to change it (okay, so it's impossible for one or two teachers alone, but at least you can die trying).

I got tired of waiting for all the administrators to come from THEIR college classes demanding that teachers in these failing districts use Direct Instruction programs and a comprehensive use of testing for diagnosis, placement, and effectiveness of instruction. Perhaps when they do THAT, I'll go back.

I'll be reading you regularly as long as you are writing just to reassure myself that someone "up there" cares.


hi cookie, glad i finally got your sex right. Does everyone else?
Anyway, I really could care less about your rather limp history lesson on medicine. Again, you miss the mark. Again your head is not where it belongs (is that by choice? How does your colon look?).

I have used direct instruction in a fifth grade class. If implemented properly, it not only works, but is the answer to a whole host of learning deficiencies in the public school system.
I am right, and you are engrossed in the manure of "doctoral pursuit". By the way, instead of sullying this site, if you want to trade words with me, all you have to do, is e mail me. I assure you, Ill peel you like a grape.

Best Regards,


Hi all,

It's funny, Ookrana, I was wondering about exactly what you said to Dr. there not solid research on comprehension? I taught 2nd grade and heard there was...hence, Mosaic of Thought, etc. All I know is that comprehension is the new catchphrase in ed, and I'm suspicious because it seems like a new way for Stephanie Harvey to make money. Call me jaded, but I'm suspicious.


Excellent post. Doctors were taught what the medical profession knew at the time. Obversely, Educators deliberately teach prospective instructors voodo crap for which they have not a shred of proveable data. The comparison between Medicine in the 19th century and Education in the 20th, and 21st centuries is invalid. Medicine in the 19th century was exploration. Education in the 20th and 21st centuries are crimminal acts. Deliberatey perpetrated upon children, unsuspecting parents, and grossly inadequate school boards.

Best Regards,

Dr. Cookie

I agree entirely that education in the current and previous century was and is a criminal act. But I think that if educators followed the trail set by medical folks (and plenty of other professions, BTW) we could pull the work of teaching out of the dark ages. It's the best plan I can see.

Sure, it's great to get into a classroom and do a good job. Trouble is, lots of people get into a classroom and do a crappy job. I worry about the latter, not the former.


What made medicine improve was the scientific method. You TEST your hypotheses. You rely on data.

I don't worry about teachers doing a crappy job. I worry about not having the data so we KNOW if teachers are doing a great or crappy job. Success in teaching is too seldom defined as demonstrable success; I know in some teaching environments there is little if any data available to PROVE either one.

With extensive requisite skills testing, pre- and post-testing, one could tell if they are teaching or not. Skills testing proves that the students are indeed ready to learn what you're teaching (all too often they are not -- if you disagree then you haven't had enough experience in reservation or low SES schools), pre-testing tells you if your students ALREADY know what you're teaching, and post-testing minus pre-testing tells what YOU taught.

Administration SURELY doesn't want skills testing because they'd have to spoil their schedules and budgets providing things like remediation, and the unions don't want the pre-testing and post-testing because then it would be obvious when someone couldn't teach.

My bet is that when confronted with the data, "crappy" teachers would either make the changes or leave the profession while "great" teachers could demand higher pay.


ariz.....good post.....

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