50 Myths & Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools: The Real Crisis in Education by David C. Berliner, Gene Glass, and Associates

Abstinence-Only Myths and Let the Dog Eat Your Homework

  • There is no evidence that government supported abstinence-only sex education programs are effective. They tend to moralize and have an ideological foundation. Many curricula contain false, misleading, and distorted information. The idea that you don’t have sex until marriage only applies to the 5% of people who do wait, and makes no sense to students who don’t intend to marry and students who are already sexually active. The authors and 82% of Americans support a comprehensive sex ed program that provides age-appropriate, medically accurate information about contraception and STDs, along with advice to have fewer partners, consider monogamy, delaying first intercourse, and avoiding unprotected sex. (Doug: I would also like to see schools and parents talk about Internet porn where most students really get sex ed today.)
  • Homework has been a hot topic lately and a lot of research shows that it has little or no benefit. Students, parents, and teachers all hate it. Since 1860 there have been many efforts to get rid of it or scale it back that are mentioned here. It’s ironic that Finland where they give no homework and South Korea where they give many hours of homework are both top performers on international tests. If students must take work home, the best idea at this time is that they continue working on long-term projects that they start in school.

Group Projects, School Uniforms, Longer Days/Years

  • People who shun group projects do so because they feel the work won’t be evenly distributed and that group projects are difficult to grade. Others believe that the best preparation for social life was to actually engage in social life. It’s also good to help students learn how to learn rather than worrying about what they are learning. There is strong support from the research community and as a result, the design of school-sponsored group projects is experiencing a renaissance. The ability to work in groups is a skill almost every business leader is now asking schools to promote. Students should have some say in their project, which builds motivation. It should have some specific question or problem along with enough time and monitoring by the teacher. If you must grade projects consider both the process and product, and have students rate their own work.
  • School uniforms have a long history but they were given a boost by President Clinton in a 1994 speech. They are common in English schools where the elites wear uniforms to separate students from lower classes. Trying to research the impact of uniforms is very difficult due to the fact that their adoption almost always accompanies the adoption on many other reforms. At best there is only a weak relationship between uniforms and higher academic performance. The research also seems to be highly partisan. It is possible that uniforms in poor schools can save parents money on school clothes and allow poor kids to dress the same as wealthier students.
  • Surprisingly, longer school days and school years don’t seem to produce as much added learning as you might expect. Finland has shorter days and years and doesn’t start academic work until age seven yet leads the world on international testing. Also leading is South Korea where days and years are much longer. Longer days mean that teachers have less time to plan and collaborate, which could explain some of the effect. Cultures are also highly resistant to changing school calendars. (Doug: Students may also reach the point of diminishing returns.)
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One Response to “50 Myths & Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools: The Real Crisis in Education by David C. Berliner, Gene Glass, and Associates”

  1. […] These aren’t easy problems to solve. But we need to think about how to tackle them now. Otherwise, our children’s standard of schooling will be rapidly sliding downhill. […]

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