"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Why Use Longitudinal Data Systems on Students when Palm Reading is Probably As Effective (and Cheaper)

Can data determine your child's future in the work force?  That's the plan of the Department of Education and the use of the Longitudinal Data System.  Student data will be shared with various federal agencies so employers will be able to identify workers fitting their unique requirements. 

How dependable is this data in scrutinizing children?  According to a recent Wall Street Journal article and the teenage brain, adolescent behavior may not determine the character or future actions of children, and children may have little control over their actions at certain stages.  From "What's Wrong With the Teenage Mind":

"What was he thinking?" It's the familiar cry of bewildered parents trying to understand why their teenagers act the way they do. 

How does the boy who can thoughtfully explain the reasons never to drink and drive end up in a drunken crash? Why does the girl who knows all about birth control find herself pregnant by a boy she doesn't even like? What happened to the gifted, imaginative child who excelled through high school but then dropped out of college, drifted from job to job and now lives in his parents' basement?
Adolescence has always been troubled, but for reasons that are somewhat mysterious, puberty is now kicking in at an earlier and earlier age. A leading theory points to changes in energy balance as children eat more and move less.

It's a fascinating peek into how teenage brains operate and how they are operating differently than just a few generations ago as society has shifted:

...contemporary children have very little experience with the kinds of tasks that they'll have to perform as grown-ups. Children have increasingly little chance to practice even basic skills like cooking and caregiving. Contemporary adolescents and pre-adolescents often don't do much of anything except go to school. Even the paper route and the baby-sitting job have largely disappeared.

The experience of trying to achieve a real goal in real time in the real world is increasingly delayed, and the growth of the control system depends on just those experiences. The pediatrician and developmental psychologist Ronald Dahl at the University of California, Berkeley, has a good metaphor for the result: Today's adolescents develop an accelerator a long time before they can steer and brake.

This doesn't mean that adolescents are stupider than they used to be. In many ways, they are much smarter. An ever longer protected period of immaturity and dependence—a childhood that extends through college—means that young humans can learn more than ever before. There is strong evidence that IQ has increased dramatically as more children spend more time in school, and there is even some evidence that higher IQ is correlated with delayed frontal lobe development.

The author makes the argument that children do not have the apprenticeship skills necessary to learn how to attain skillsets and success via repetition and failures.  As we have noted previously, they will be judged on data sets and standardized internationally benchmarked tests.  Students' futures will be decided from assessments at birth...and into adolescence... and into college or career training.  With society changing and brain development differing from past generations, how informative and reliable is this data?

The education "reformers" should ditch the multi-billion dollar plans they have for the taxpayers, parents and children and practice the ancient art of....palm reading...to determine where to channel the human capital in future endeavors.  Palm reading might just be as accurate as tracking data from the teenage brain via the Longitudinal Data System (and much cheaper).  From news@xinahuet.com:

TAIYUAN, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- Education authorities in a north China city on Tuesday banned schools and kindergartens from carrying out palm-reading tests that could allegedly tell a child's intelligence and professional aptitude.

"We have issued a circular to criticize the three kindergartens that offered palm-reading tests for 1,200 yuan (190 U.S. dollars) per person," said Ma Zhaoxing, education bureau chief in Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi Province.

Earlier in January, some parents in Taiyuan complained to Xinhua that they had been offered the test, which could allegedly help them find out their children's aptitudes in music, mathematics or languages, so as to cultivate these talents accordingly at an earlier age.

Mei Mingzhi, a company executive with Shanxi Daomeng, said the test could help determine a child's innate intelligence and potential and was applicable to all children aged over three months.

The test, however, was described as pseudoscience by Zhao Yulin, a family education specialist with Shanxi Academy of Social Sciences.

Zhao, who did some research work on palm-reading three years ago, said the test was originally based on genetics and the multi-intelligence theory, but had apparently gone beyond science and could be misleading.

Does data from the Longitudinal Data System (gathered from developing brains of children) go beyond science as well and could be misleading?  Just substitute the word "data" for "palm reading" in the article.  Could a case be made they are both less than reliable in determining if a child will be successful in life...or not?


  1. If parents are too stupid to teach their kids or help them figure out how to make a living, and need the school system to cover everything from reading to morality, what makes the dept of ed so sure that these "morons" are going to be able to supply accurate data on LDS points? The resulting database may be no more accurate than the palm reading. Um, there might be a flaw in their plan.

  2. Anngie-- Somewhere this morning I read that the Left is finding itself farther and farther from the moral beliefs of the average American...

    By and large the same professors who educated the Occupy Crowd, also taught today's teachers... As a result I can see some potential for problems..

    BTW I used this as a Feature today


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