Odds And Ends: If It Bleeds It Leads, Algebra, Book Thought Experiment, More!

Don’t miss Bellwether’s annual report and we’re hiring for a pretty key role – COO.

If it bleeds it leads, as they say. This is one way coverage in the education sector is distorted. Another is an adult-focused politics, so more stories about battles between adults about school opening than say about millions of kids missing from school. And a third, I’d suggest, is frequent lack of attention to base rates. So student mental health or teacher attrition or school violence is reported by isolated statistic absent context to help consumers understand what’s a spike versus what’s a consistent trend or anomaly.

Also seems like this issue Freddie deBoer coined a “synecdoche problem” is one in education, too. For instance, everything you think you know about pods might be wrong?

Related, if you had to assign just one book to help people understand the education sector and how it rolls, would it be Knowledge and Decisions by Thomas Sowell or A.O Hirschman’s Rhetoric of Reaction? (Yes there are others, of course, but if you had to choose between these two!).

BMGF announces initial winners of their Algebra challenge. Seems like an important effort, some great orgs including some Bellwether clients. Something I wonder about, though, is that the value of Algebra in 8th-grade is an article of faith in a lot of circles. But could it be a proxy for other things or something basic like taking Algebra puts you on the right school schedule to take college track courses – so it’s really a proxy for disrupting de facto tracking more than anything about say linear equations per se? Lisa Delpit wrote a book that gets at some of that and I recommend. In other words, is algebra a concrete and actionable way to address the pervasive race and class-based low-expectations facing a lot of kids or is there something about the content of algebra itself? I’m not a math expert, obviously, so this could be totally off-base, but I wonder if there is a content / form kind of thing going on here?

Past pro here and pro-and con here algebra debates around these parts.

There was a dark 1999 education-themed film with Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick called Election. I thought of it reading this.