Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Plea for Informed Skepticism

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Plea for Informed Skepticism

Article excerpt

I KNEW FROM the cloud of dust on the horizon that it was an enormous bandwagon. But I didn't worry that it might roll right over all of us not until I received a phone call from a friend whose professional capabilities I admire and respect. During the course of our conversation, the words "brain-based education" crossed her lips and, when I quietly suggested that we don't yet know enough about the workings of the human brain to negotiate a successful leap from neuroscience to classroom practice, she responded: "Well, if we wait until we know everything, it'll be years before we can do the things we ought to be doing."

Uh-oh. That's when I phoned John Bruer and invited him to write for the Kappan. You'll find his article leading off this month's issue.

The other Kappan editors and I had read Bruer's article "Education and the Brain: A Bridge Too Far" in the November 1997 Educational Researcher. Bruer noted in that article the fact that most neuroscientists are unwilling to speculate just yet about what their findings (at the cellular level) mean for classroom practice, which involves 20 or more human brains in all their glorious diversity. Rather than providing the structural supports for a solid bridge from the lab to the classroom, neuroscience today offers educators at best a frayed rope.

So how do we explain the popularity of the brain-based education bandwagon, now merrily rolling along and picking up speed? In part, the bandwagon is fueled by the allure of neuroscience a "hard science" deemed worthy of trust and respect. …

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