Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

THE EDITOR'S PAGE: Staying Informed

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

THE EDITOR'S PAGE: Staying Informed

Article excerpt

MOST OF us know that local newspapers just can't give us enough detail about everything that's important for us to know. Nor do TV and radio do a very good job of filling in the blanks. Yet sometimes we're required to try to understand some very complex subjects. At the polls, we vote our opinions on questions involving science or economics that are far from simple, no matter how they may be artificially simplified for presentation to the electorate. To be well-informed citizens, we have to go to other sources of information.

The findings of educational research are not that different. Those who read the Kappan or any of a number of other publications in the field will at least find the issues clarified to some degree. Some relevant details will be explained, and varying interpretations will be presented.

In education, as in other areas, the popular press gives only the tip of the iceberg. And that's not always enough to help people reach sound judgments. The attenuated coverage of some crucial topic will often be accurate -- as far as it goes. But that's usually not very far.

Consider how my local paper covered the release of the TIMSS 1999 Video Study, which James Hiebert and his colleagues have summarized in this issue. The item in the paper was no more than a snippet from the wire service, stating that a video study of math teaching in seven countries "shows there is no single method among high-achieving countries." True. The report goes on to say that math teaching in the U.S. differs from math teaching in these high-achieving countries. True again. Ready to take that information to your school board? I didn't think so.

For those with an interest in math education, I recommend a close look at the TIMSS Video Study article, which begins on page 768. Perhaps math educators might even want to acquire the CDs that include samples of the videotaped classes in the seven countries. …

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