Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Hard Problems in Education

A conference was held last week at Harvard seeking to trace out the "hard problems" in the social sciences, following after David Hilbert's famous ranking of the hard problems in mathematics.

I thought it might be interesting to talk about what we think the hard problems in education are. Note that many of the problems Hilbert came up with eventually proved to be unsolvable.

I have two, that will surprise no one who has been reading.

    1. How can schooling contribute significantly to the democratic empowerment of marginalized students?

    2. How can we eliminate the relationship between the efficacy of schools and the socioeconomic status of the communities they serve?

Note that I refer to "schooling" not "education." Many of our key problems are less "educational" than institutional, related to a particular kind of institutional structure that produces particular effects and limitations.

Of course, each question contains assumptions about what the "real" problem is. (E.g., if we could change the socioeconomic status of communities, the coupling problem would disappear.)

I know many of us are off to AERA (I'm not going) or otherwise buried by the end of the semester, so I listed this as the "monthly forum" to allow people to easily return to it if they are interested.

11 comments:

Art said...

Taking the second problem first, there is a growing body of research that suggests that the quality of teaching children receive determines their level of achievement even more strongly than SES. To the degree that's true, acting on it in wise ways would go a long way towards solving the first problem.

The Reflective Educator said...

Art, please share some links to this growing body of research.

Also - I love the second question.

Art said...

Summaries can be found in the Handbook of Research on Educational Policy, the Handbook of Research in Education Finance and Policy, and in Goldhaber and Hannaway.

Aaron Schutz said...

I changed #2. "Decouple" is the wrong word. One of the few approaches to addressing this problem involves community empowerment--and that is actually "recoupling" schools and their communities, not "decoupling" them.

#2 is now:

How can we eliminate the relationship between the efficacy of schools and the socioeconomic status of the communities they serve?

Sherley said...

Hello,
I was thinking of it in the other way.
Why schooling contribute significantly to the democratic empowerment of marginalized students?
answer this first,
why we want to eliminate the relationship between the efficacy of schools and the socioeconomic status of the communities they serve?
consider why do you want it and you will get your answers. (may be at least try to)
Essay Writing Service

rose may said...

Before enrolling your child to any of the schools, you can opt for a school, which will best meet your child's interests and suit his/her abilities. It is I think the best way.

short courses

Michael Dunn said...

SES trumps all else. School structure, pedagogy and personality can all help some students do better, but probably never the majority of low income students. Lead poisoning, iron deficiency, low birth weight, smoking parents, high chronic cortisol levels from stress all wreak too much havoc with cognitive development, immunity, self-efficacy.
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/

crystal said...
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Risky Zhuanda said...
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Emily Tavoulareas said...
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Anonymous said...

When you see poverty first hand, you realize that it is not the people that need "fixed" but the system. As history has shown, there are brilliant minds that haven risen out of the depths of poverty. I feel by classifying people we are taking away the individual drive and desire and saying' "hey look you can be just like that person". In spite of circumstances, treat every person as an individual and they will show you success.