The chunk of text below is taken from an article about a Harvard social scientist who gained wealth and fame by proving “scientifically” that she had a method of behavior by which, when properly learned (she offered to teach) would help them to acquire what they wished to have, most wanting, well, wealth and power.
Having worked in a College of Education for many years and watched how certain practices were “scientifically” proven to be properly “effective,” I came to understand that so much of what was said to be science was pure bullshit, its odor masked by a spray of methodology.
The book upon which I am currently working will say much about how bullshit deodorized for human consumption has guided educational practices that, themselves are not just bullshit but terribly harmful to human beings. The main claim for the efficacy of the instructional methods mandated under George W. Bush’s “reform” program, No Child Left Behind, was that they were “research based” and any method maker who could not prove that his or her method was research-based was said to be, in the educational community, of no worth, the methods proffered not to be used in any classroom in any school that wished to collect federal educational funds.
So, when I saw this today, because the issue is one of the most important discussed in the book, I felt it worthy of sharing.
And, while there are a host of people I know who really do not like it when I say that our “based in science,” college of education certified methods do not work, I say that the reason that schools do not work to prepare students for lives as effective members of a DEMOCRATIC society, is because the researchers do not acknowledge that in order to have research that leads to effective instruction, on first has to have a profound knowledge of what it means to be properly educated. The discussion of proper education does not happen because the means of discovering what is proper cannot be based in science, but in theory and philosophy, from good reasoning rather than analysis of numbers.
Good science would follow if there were a proper conversation devoted to developing a good notion of good education. Why this discussion, if it takes place at all, is not a primary part of the expected work of the educator, seen often by administrators and faculty as a waste of time.
But since 2015, even as she continued to stride onstage and tell the audiences to face down their fears, Cuddy has been fighting her own anxieties, as fellow academics have subjected her research to exceptionally high levels of public scrutiny. She is far from alone in facing challenges to her work: Since 2011, a methodological reform movement has been rattling the field, raising the possibility that vast amounts of research, even entire subfields, might be unreliable. Up-and-coming social psychologists, armed with new statistical sophistication, picked up the cause of replications, openly questioning the work their colleagues conducted under a now-outdated set of assumptions. The culture in the field, once cordial and collaborative, became openly combative, as scientists adjusted to new norms of public critique while still struggling to adjust to new standards of evidence.
Cuddy, in particular, has emerged from this upheaval as a unique object of social psychology’s new, enthusiastic spirit of self-flagellation — as if only in punishing one of its most public stars could it fully break from its past. At conferences, in classrooms and on social media, fellow academics (or commenters on their sites) have savaged not just Cuddy’s work but also her career, her income, her ambition, even her intelligence, sometimes with evident malice. Last spring, she quietly left her tenure-track job at Harvard.
Some say that she has gained fame with an excess of confidence in fragile results, that she prized her platform over scientific certainty. But many of her colleagues, and even some who are critical of her choices, believe that the attacks on her have been excessive and overly personal. What seems undeniable is that the rancor of the critiques reflects the emotional toll among scientists forced to confront the fear that what they were doing all those years may not have been entirely scientific.