"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, July 20, 2014

In Response to Bill Wraga's Review of The Mismeasure of Education

University of Georgia professor, Bill Wraga, offered a review of The Mismeasure of Education in the UGA-based Journal of Language and Literacy Education.  Because we feel strongly that, while everyone has a right to his own perspective, she does not have a right to her own facts.  Therefore, we offered JOLLE a corrective to the more glaring inaccuracies in Dr. Wraga's review.  We received this response to our proposed rejoinder from Principal Editor of JOLLE, Michelle Falter:
Dear Mr. Horn,

The Editorial board regrets to inform you that we are not accepting responses to book reviews at this time. I strongly encourage you to find other people to read and review your book, and have them submit their reviews to a journal that accepts book reviews. In the future we may choose to do response pieces, but at this time, we have decided not to.

Thank you for your time.

You may download a copy of the Wraga review here.  It would be good to read it before you read our response below:

 In Response to Bill Wraga's Review of TMoE
 Jim Horn and Denise Wilburn
            In response to Dr. Wraga’s mixed review of The Mismeasure of Education (TMoE) in the previous issue of JOLLE, we would like to clear up some apparent misunderstandings as to the intent and focus of our work.  We never intended TMoE to provide “the history of educational testing” (Wraga, 2014, p. 217) in American schools, as Dr. Wraga seems to think but, rather, to place the current misuse of value-added measurement within the broader ideological context of social sorting via testing and the resulting social control that gained prominence at the beginning of the 20th Century. It was during that initial rise of the social sciences that many leading educational reformers became fixated on high stakes quantification methods as the most socially-efficient and “scientific” tools for labeling children and differentiating their school experiences.  We now know, of course, that much of that new science of education was a collection of more or less elaborate superstitions derived from social Darwinism and/or the pseudoscience of eugenics.
            TMoE (Horn & Wilburn, 2013) offers a brief evolutionary and philosophical outline for the most egregious misuses of standardized testing and testing’s high stakes value-added offspring, which exerts so much influence in schools today.  If we had attempted to offer a history of testing in the three or four dozen pages that we devote to an overview of those most egregious misuses of standardized measurements, then surely we would agree with Dr. Wraga (2014) that our rendering was “incomplete and oversimplified” (p. 217).   It hardly seems fair, however, to be accused of failing to accomplish a goal that we did not attempt.  Dr. Wraga (2014) goes so far as to label our work “historical exaggeration” that depends upon “cherry picking evidence,” “ignoring evidence,” and “misrepresenting other historical developments”:
For example, in a section titled "Zealots for the Elimination of the Unfit," they associate Franklin Bobbitt's (1918) The Curriculum with Tayloristic scientific management, although in that book Bobbitt considered Frederick Taylor's principles as a management system a "relative failure" (p. 84). They associate the Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education's (1918) Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education not only with social efficiency-social control doctrine, but also with standardized testing and even with eugenics, although the report advocated none of these practices (p. 217).
            In defending Bobbitt’s work against the “social efficiency” designation, Dr. Wraga ignores the context for Bobbitt’s description of the Taylor System as a “relative failure.”  Bobbitt’s (1918) criticism was not that Taylor was too focused on social efficiency but, rather, that his approach did not go far enough toward extending scientific management to, in fact, “rule in the consciousness of the workmen” (p. 84):
The relative failure of the Taylor System seems to result from an insufficient attempt to enlist the intelligence and initiative of the men. The system claims that both managers and men are working under the control of science; yet, as a matter of fact, this science is mostly visible only to the management; and is little or not at all visible to the men. They see only the orders. The system represents a halfway step, however, toward actual and inevitable scientific management. Science rules in the planning-room; it must also rule in the consciousnesses of the workmen. . . . In a school system, for example, the pupils are the ultimate workers. Using the terminology of the factory, the teachers rank as foremen. It is their business not to do the work that educates, but to get it done by the pupils. In doing this, they must know the pupils: know their varying mental capacities, their interests, their aptitudes and abilities, their states of health, and their social milieu (Bobbitt, 1918, pp. 84-85).
            Not only do we see here an enthusiasm for social efficiency that surpassed even Taylor’s, but we see, too, a more nuanced version of Bobbitt’s views than the ones he expressed more demonstrably in “Practical Eugenics,” an article for The Pedagogical Seminary, edited by G. Stanley Hall.  In that article, Bobbitt (1909) advocated for halting “civilization’s retrogressive policies,” by which he meant social welfare programs and public schools:  “schools and charities supply crutches to the weak in mind and morals” that must be eliminated for Nature’s efficient weeding process to operate freely.
            Taylorism applied to schooling (Rice, 1913) provided the technology for the social agenda that Bobbitt, among many others, embraced, which was grounded in the ideology of Social Darwinism and made contemporary by the crackpot “science” of eugenics.  In short, Taylorism provided the “efficiency” rationale for  “social efficiency,” and the efficiency zealots in education became fixated on cheaply sorting students and to providing them with the “differentiated” curriculums that their class, ethnic, and racial characteristics ostensibly demanded. Under the banner of educational science, primitive IQ and achievement test scores were used to justify these preconceptions.
            We understand that Dr. Wraga has devoted a good deal of his scholarly life (1982, 1994) explicating, promoting, and defending the 1918 Cardinal Principles Report issued by the Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education (CRSE).  That does not justify, however, his incorrect claim that we are off base in suggesting a connection between CRSE and the widespread scientific racism and eugenics enthusiasms running rampant during the early 20th Century.  The facts show otherwise. 
            A couple of examples should suffice.  Professor Otis W. Caldwell, who taught at Teachers College, served as Science Chairman for the CRSE. Dr. Caldwell was and remained an advocate of the eugenics agenda through the 1930s, up until the rise of Nazi Germany made scientific racism less fashionable.  In case any doubt remains about the connections between CRSE and the eugenics enthusiasm of the day, below is a clip from “Some Aspects of Instruction in Eugenics” (Caldwell, 1932) that appeared in A decade of progress: Scientific papers of the Third International Congress of Eugenics.  Here, then, is a classic example of the most vile social policies being promoted under the guise of progressive education aimed to serve the needs of children who cannot be motivated by some distant future adult role:  
Thus, in eugenical education, we shall keep in mind Galton's emphasis upon future society, but in practice we should deal with the problems and with the individuals now concerned with education. We need less preachment about how fine it would be to have a future society determined by eugenics, and shall need to face the far more difficult task of trying to incorporate sound principles of eugenics into the possessions of the young people who are now in the process of becoming this so-called future society whose destiny is the ultimate aim of eugenics. The biological and social facts and their meaning in relation to young people constitute the proper foundation for eugenical instruction. Constant admonitions about a hopeful philosophy for future use serves a good purpose, but needs to be based upon specific biological knowledge (p. 168).
            With a eugenics enthusiast in the Science Chair for the Cardinal Principles Report, the CRSE chose as its Chairman for the Committee on the Social Studies the former Hampton curriculum specialist, Thomas Jesse Jones.  While at Hampton, Jones had developed a “race development” theory that he applied in teaching African-American students the virtues of hard labor, the duties of second-class citizenship, the dangers of too much book learning, and the folly of aspirations to social equality. Jones believed and taught that all races are inferior to Anglo-Saxons, and because African-Americans are at least 2,000 years behind because of their non-Christian history, former slaves and their offspring should devote themselves to the lowest level of domestic, agricultural, and industrial labor (Anderson, 1988) until such time as they have developed enough to enter into the world of social influence.  Under the sponsorship of the Phelps-Stokes Fund, which provided huge philanthropic donations to promote the Hampton-Tuskegee Model of industrial education, Jones (1917) wrote Negro education: A study of the private and higher education schools for colored people in the United States.  Published by the U. S. Bureau of Education and lauded as providing the solution to the “Negro Problem,” the report advocated a subjugated role for African-Americans that included industrial education and life roles built on the lowest forms of labor and domestic work. 
            Finally, we want to clear up any potential misunderstanding as to our intended audience or the direction for assessment that we openly and repeatedly advocate.  We did not write this book as an “academic analysis,” which seems to demand a type of rhetorical neutering that would hinder the immediacy of our message.  We acknowledge and own the passion we put into the book, even as we apologize for its imperfections that eluded the eye of the copy editor.  Our book was written for the literate layman who cares about the future of public education in the United States and around the world.  One final correction: we are not calling for ending the “overreliance on high stakes standardized assessment” (Wraga, 2014, p. 218) but, rather, we are advocating for the elimination of high stakes standardized assessments.  If any society hopes to have an equitable system of schools for learning and against segregation or inequality, the first step must be the eradication of high stakes tests. 
Bobbitt, F. (1909). Practical eugenics. The Pedagogical Seminary, 16, 385-394.
Bobbitt, F. (1918). The Curriculum. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Caldwell, O. W. (1932). Some aspects of instruction in eugenics.  In A decade of progress:  Scientific papers of the Third International Congress on eugenics.  Held at the American Museum of Natural History, New York.
Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education. (1918) Cardinal principles of secondary education. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Education:  Washington Government Printing Office.
Horn, J., & Wilburn, D. (2013). The mismeasure of education. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc.
Jones, T. J.  (1917). Negro education: A study of the private and higher education schools for colored people in the United States. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Education:  Washington Government Printing Office.
Rice, J.  (1913).  Scientific management in education.  New York: Hinds, Noble, & Eldredge. 
Wraga, W.  (1982).  Democracy’s high school.  Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
Wraga, W.  (1994). The Cardinal Principles Report revisited.  Education and Culture, 11 (2), 6-16. Retrieved from http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/eandc/vol11/iss2/art3 
Wraga, W. (2014). Review of the mismeasure of education. Journal of Language and Literacy Education [Online], 10(1), 216-220, Retrieved from http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/


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