Yes, We ARE Guinea Pigs

“We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time.”

This is a quote from a recent article by Diane Ravitch on her blog, dianeravitch.net.

I – and many others – have considered Diane a guru of education reform. The rest of her article is classic Ravitch, but I just have a hard time with the above quote. It seems so…naïve.

Isn’t that almost anything we’re trying when attempting to reform educational policy and standards in such a short period of time? To effectively vet a new method of teaching our students using accepted academic research methods would require a decade, or more, to judge and prove the effectiveness of one method over another. And there are obviously no other previous methods that we’ve used over the past 100 years of organized, standardized public education, otherwise we would be using those methods. Right?

We’re in an interesting time in history, recognizing there is a fire smoldering all around us, and yet we don’t know what to use to put out the fire. Neither salt, water, nor smothering are options. We think we are surrounded by this conflagration within a city. Are we instead in the wilderness, which has built up century’s worth of underbrush, which simply needs to burn?

Right now we have to accept that, yes, and our children are guinea pigs. Some are going to benefit, and others are not, which really isn’t so different from the status quo.

Such a realization, however, should not stop us from trying to find an answer, and to finally control this smoldering mess.