When Educational Research Battles Polictical Research

The New York Times Magazine last week had an interesting piece on new science indicating that physical exercise mitigates anger.  The science here is new only in the sense that this is a study that clearly indicates this link, but as others have written over the years, the link between physical activity (and sleep) and emotional/intellectual stability and strength is pretty clear. We know this.

So why, then, do we not change our schools to reflect what the facts tell us will improve the learning of our students? Because of political research. The Brookings Institution and others release studies about the effectiveness of individual schools that often ask political questions, not academic ones, which then affects funding for schools, which, in turn, affects how effective schools are. When we ask whether student test scores are rising, we are asking a political question, not an academic one, since the science is clear that testing does not actually measure or improve learning.

So what’s the answer? I don’t know, but getting our politicians to stand up to political pressure and look at what is actually best for students is a good start. That can be done on Capital Hill, but what about in your school? Can you talk to your teachers? The principal? The school board? “All politics is local” Tip O’Neill famously said, and the individual school I send my child to is a good place to start.