The Psuedoscience of Education, Teaching, and Learning

By: Ashley Hyde

I. Abstract

This paper defines pseudoscience and a few of the reasons humans believe strange things including non-science ideas, the social validation rule, confirmation bias, and the self-fulfilling prophecy. Then we explore ways to combat these ways of thinking with science through use of the scientific method, skepticism, and critical thinking. The highlights of American educational reforms are introduced starting with compulsory education and ending with the more recent No Child Left Behind Act. Along with reform we present a push for a new reform of educating our nation’s teachers. The present day classroom is then explored through classroom type, social interaction, and homework practices.

II. Introduction

In the following passage, pseudoscientific thinking within education will be explored. First, we must establish what pseudoscience is and why all of us fall prey to it. Secondly, it is essential to explore important elements of science and how we can combat pseudoscientific ideas within our everyday lives. America’s educational system is filled with both scientific and pseudoscientific reasoning and has since its inception. Traveling through our educational history, and its many reforms, will assist us in evaluating the hows and whys of our educational background. Then we will dissect each major decision and whether it is scientifically sound, or a systematic change based simply on flawed reasoning. This passage includes an in depth look at a few of today’s most relatable and debatable educational topics and reforms.

III. Why We Believe Weird Things

What is pseudoscience? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines pseudoscience as a system of theories, assumptions, and methods erroneously regarded as scientific (Merriam-webster, 2010). In layman’s terms, pseudoscience is the belief and/or procedure that attempts to legitimizes itself as something scientific. Pseudoscience is, at its core, a stagnant group of practices that refuse to advance due to their lack of proof through scientific experimentation. It relies on personal studies and statements, supernatural experiences, and continues despite blatant exposure to their false ideas and inconsistencies. These false statements can be seen all around us in our everyday lives. The media constantly surrounds us with phrases such as “clinically tested”, “proven to work”, and “it worked for me”; but can such statements be held as truths?

A. Non-Science

Non-science comes in many forms, and pseudoscience is just one of them. While we are now familiar with pseudoscience, it would behoove us to explore the other main ideas that construct non-science, as they may help us to better understand why we are so easily fooled. When someone speaks of a particular event that they observed, but their statement cannot be tested, we call this a construct. This is a very common route to take when falling into non-science, and it goes hand in hand with something called mysticism (Shermer, 1997). With mysticism, we hear statements made by personal insight that often claim to have external validation from other people. These ideas can most commonly be found through self-proclaimed mediums or psychics. They claim to see or experience phenomenon that cannot be tested; therefore they cannot be scientific. Another similar idea is junk science, or theories that are based off of what may be true instead of what has been empirically tested. We can also fall prey to non-science by listening to authority figures instead of evaluating the facts; this is known as dogmatism (Shermer, 1997). Dogmatism is an idea that begins early in life. We are often expected to believe what our parents or elders tell us. Unfortunately, those things may not always be true.
Fortunately for us, non-science is not always so easily disguised as purely scientific. An idea known as postmodernism is a very prevalent in the non-scientific community. While its distant ties relate back to some forms of science, in the form of physics, postmodernism is the idea that each of us creates our own reality. This fragmented idea believes that, because each of us is different and experiences the world in different ways, there really is no measureable external world. If humans observe reality as we know it, we will each come up with different conclusions because we each intake, record, and process the world differently (William, Chasse, & Vincente, 2004). While initially appealing, our comprehension of science eliminates this idea. As you will see in the following section, science is constantly self-correcting, and there for self-confirming, based on repeated testing and observable evidence. This is also a great example of junk science; a term found earlier in this section. Lastly, people just make stuff up! Some people will come up with anything for money, praise, attention, etc. Fraudulent science is just made up stuff, used by others to infect, persuade, and steal from the gullible people in our world.

B. Social Validation Rule

Humans never want to be wrong. Social comparison theory states that people have a drive to evaluate themselves and they wish to do so objectively. If they cannot find objective evidence, they rely on social comparisons to self-evaluate. If those around you are acting a certain way or believing a certain way, you are likely to follow their lead so that you do not appear to be wrong (Festinger, 1954). While this is likely derived through evolution as a survival mechanism, it also has the possibility to be harmful to humans in the present time.
The social validation rule is often the reason that some fall prey to cults and other radical groups. While this is undoubtedly one of the most drastic examples of social validation, it is still one to be aware of. Radical groups have often swayed good people into doing or participating in irrational, illogical, and just plain bad things. Cults and science have often been compared to one another when describing one’s philosophical outlooks. Taylor perhaps said it best, “The intellectual attitude of the pure scientist is, characteristically, hypothesis; the attitude of the pure cultist is unhypothetical conviction.” Amazingly, some 80 years ago, Taylor nailed down a solid definition for that of pure scientist. “The scientist, though living always in the presence of possibility, lives and works on the hearty basis of probability” (1930). Unfortunately, 80 years later we are still struggling with how to tell the world how to use these scientific methods.

C. Confirmation Bias

The confirmation bias stems from the idea that we somehow need to interpret evidence in a way that confirms our existing beliefs, schema, expectations, hypotheses, etc. (Nickerson, 1998). There are two types of bias that we are likely to fall prey to; both motivated and unmotivated confirmation bias. Though neither is done intentionally, both can greatly alter our route to becoming scientific thinkers. A motivated bias is an individual’s inherent drive to interpret evidence based upon their own beliefs. This is the most common form of bias, and is used so one can defend and maintain their current ideas about the world around them. People may also display unmotivated forms of bias. This is when someone favors the use of particular evidence despite their lack of interest in the outcome or the question (Nickerson, 1998).
It is still unclear why people form confirmation bias over questions they have no investment in. One possible theory is known at the primacy effect. When making a decision based on facts that we have acquired over time, the facts that we accumulated first are likely to hold a substantial amount of weight when making our decision (Sherman, Zehner, Johnson, & Hirt, 1983). Confirmation bias also follows the social rule known as consistency; if we take a position on a certain idea, we are likely to be radically consistent with that belief (Deutsch and Gerard, 1995). Not only are we likely to radically think along the lines of an idea to which me commit, but we are also likely to be willing to perform behaviors that go along with the given idea.

D. Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Many of us have heard some version of the self-fulfilling prophecy; by expecting a certain idea, we lead ourselves to act in ways that confirm our beliefs and change the world that we intake through observation. The reality behind this idea relies on human thinking and expectation. If we accept a situation as it is without thinking of what could have happened or how we could have acted differently, we are likely to fulfill our own expectations (Kida, 2006). There are both true and seemingly true self-fulfilled prophecies. Seemingly true fulfilled prophecies are examples of when we don’t allow ourselves to explore the other option(s). When looking at a self-fulfilling prophecy, we find that they usually exaggerate some form of truth. Also, negative prophecies are more easily fulfilled(Kida, 2006).
Madon, Jussin, and Eccles explore this process of the self-fullfilling prophecy in middle school mathematics classrooms. Their findings show that the teachers of the classes influenced the self-fulfilling prophecy. Teacher patterns predicted the achievement of low achievers more so than it did for high achievers. Overestimates by educators were also more likely to predict the patterns of low achievers than was underestimates (1997). This confirms our earlier statement that negative prophecies are more easily filled.

E. Other Problems in Our Thinking Process

While many of our faulty information processing routes have been studied in depth, not all of them have been coined with common terms. These items are important to mention, because you will undoubtedly think of many example of each. As humans, we want to find patterns in everything that we do. We do this naturally to ensure cognitive efficiency. Because of this, we tend to remember thinks that prove a certain idea, while forgetting the things that do not. If we cannot think of answer for a mystery or a statement, we tend to believe it to be true. Why? Because flawed logic believes that not being able to prove something false, means that it must actually be truth. Our desire to find patterns also causes us to compartmentalize and place ideas in one of two categories. For example, something must either be this or that; something must either be right or wrong; black or white. Our species does not deal well with the color grey.

IV. How Do We Eliminate False Truths

What is truth, what is fact, and what is science? We cannot simply rely on statements from the media, or authority, even if they claim to be scientific. Even some scientific statements may not always be truth or fact, but they are a step in the correct direction. Science is an empirically tested process that is self-correcting, and it is the clearest form of truth that we have. As more information and discoveries become available, current truths can be adapted and corrected to form a new, updated scientific truth. Essentially, it is both cumulative and progressive. This process is more commonly known as the scientific method. Because of the idea that not everything we hear is in fact truth, we must look closely at ideas such as chiropractic practices, astrology, homeopathic remedies, and psychics. Individuals in this realm often claim to be scientific, while also using scientific jargon to impress possible followers, but how many of them have scientific studies to back them up?

A. Scientific Method

The scientific method is the process of steps that lead to thinking scientifically. These steps are there to guide us and help us to become more objective in our observations of the world. Though these steps are helpful, they are not always set in stone. Like many, the phrase scientific method may cause you to think of beakers, test tubes, and safety goggles. While these items can be used in the process of the scientific method, they definitely do not have to be. There are four basic steps or ideas behind the use of the scientific method. The first is induction, which includes the intake of existing data in order to form a general hypothesis. Next, based on the hypothesis, one must us deduction to make a specific prediction about the outcome of an empirical test. After observing or gathering data, one must use verification to test the hypothesis against all previous observations. This process will then allow for someone to either verify or falsify their initial hypothesis.
Easy though it may seem, the scientific method is a never ending process. Observations must be able to be replicated, and therefore scientists must be willing to share their data, and possible have that data discarded due to a flaw in their experiment. A good scientist accepts that possibility, with the hope that humanity will be one step close to the truth. This disinterest keeps them from being influenced by personal investments. Scientist strive to explore and understand for the good of man-kind, not themselves.

B. Skepticism

The thought of a skeptic in modern day society is often associated with someone who is not very friendly, likable, or open-minded. When asked about a skeptic, many would describe some grumpy old man who argued with everyone about every story that came out of their mouth. While it sounds like that old man may be skeptical, he is also a cynic. This is known as pathological skepticism (Shermer, 1997). A scientific skeptic is simply someone who employs the scientific method and always requests evidence for claims. While I can’t guarantee that all skeptics are friendly and likeable, I can say that a good, scientific skeptic is open-minded to new ideas. They are willing to change all of the world’s theories, laws, truths, and absolutes, as long as they have empirical evidence to support doing so. When presented with new information, we are likely to analyze it only if it differs from our current beliefs and expectations, but a skeptic has practiced evaluating all statements, despite their own interests and confounds.

C. Critical Thinking

We must employ both skepticism and the scientific method in order to call ourselves critical thinkers. A critical thinking takes all claims and passes them through a rigorous formulation of tests. When presented with a claim we must first realize that it must also have evidence. If evidence for the claim does not exist, we should be then formulate an experiment that makes the claim able to be falsified. If an experiment can be formulated, it must also be able to be replicated. Upon finding results of a claim, we must then analyze what was found. If multiple results can explain something with equal certainty, one should generally accept the simpler explanation. If two ideas seem to be associated to the claim, it does not mean that one of those ideas caused the other, or vice versa. If one can continue with research than they should do so; rarely is an idea exhausted within the realm of science.

D. Educational Reform

All of us are exposed to proclaimed truths every day. In a world full of anecdotal evidence, we must employ critical thinking on a regular basis instead of simply taking statements at face value. The predicament is how we educate ourselves to do this. From the day we are born, we are exposed to individuals who are trying to teach us things. Just like astrology and homeopathology, we must evaluate, through reason and scientific experimentation, what will accurately teach us accurate facts. The following passage explores scientific evidence, or lack thereof, within the backbone of America’s past and present educational systems. This includes support for some of our most beloved school events, and conflicting evidence for some of education’s most daunting tasks.
Educational reform is a phrase that many of us have heard multiple times throughout our lifetime, but what exactly does it mean? Reform is defined as: to change and improve something by correcting faults, removing inconsistencies and abuses, and imposing modern methods or values (Encarta, 2009). While the definition may be clear cut, the actual process of educational reform is not. Like any process, there are supporters and protesters, of every idea, at any given turn. From compulsory education to No Child Left Behind, our country has undoubtedly been subject to many phases of reform. As we explore the history of American education, we will take the time to dissect the scientific reasoning, or lack thereof, behind each of the major reformations. Hopefully, this will give us a better understanding of the position our educational system is in today and what we can do to make it more effective for all students.

E. Compulsory Education and Cultural Literacy

Compulsory education is the legal requirement for student to attend school. Most countries establish this requirement by age; our country allows states to determine at which age students are required to attend . While children start school at age five in most states, the legal amount of time that they must stay in school differs greatly. Some states, with written permission of the parent, allow children to leave school as early as age 14. Others are require students to stay until they are legal adults, despite any wishes of the parents that may exist (Nolan, 2010). While there isn’t much scientifically sound research on the area of compulsory education, it has become a norm across the westernized cultures of the world.
The idea of cultural literacy is based on the idea that it is a country’s duty to educate its citizen to a certain criteria of facts. For nearly a century, this idea has been the underlying reason for the United States’ push towards an educated society, but in the late 1960’s education began to take a nosedive. During his presidency, Ronald Reagan wrote “A Nation at Risk”; a book that helped spur an educational reform that nearly eliminated the national office of The Department of Education. States became more dedicated to the ideas of mandated standardized testing and specific cumulative curriculum, including emphasis on mathematics, language, and science.

F. Scientific Education

Perhaps the most pertinent and influential reform of our century is that of the push for scientific education. Educational professionals, before the 1950s, were adamant about preparing their students for everyday life. American began to realize their scientific prowess was lacking when the Soviet Union began to push our country into a competitiveness of scientific discovery in the mid to late 50s (Nolan, 2010). The study of science in schools became of increasing importance. By the 1980s science began to encompass modern technology, and classrooms around the nation were equipped with computers. Computers were used to implement ideas to individual students and their own pace, help with teacher’s lesson plans, and provide educational resources to an entire classroom at once. In the 1990s, the spread of the internet led to the easy access of vast amount of knowledge (Nolan, 2010).
Standardized testing has the best proven track record for accurately selecting individuals for a positions, than any other means out there. Unfortunately, there is a high level of group differences among most standardized, objective, tests. Because test scores are used to select individuals for a determined position, we are unable to accurately assess how effectively those who fell into a different range of scores would have performed if given the opportunity to do so. This idea is known as the missing data problem. We would hope that standardized testing accurately chose the correct candidates for a given job, school, or project, but the reality is that not all standardized exams are free of bias.
Many standardized exams generally have one low scoring group. The higher the cut score for the test, the higher the discrepancy will be against this particular group. A group that is usually most affected by this test bias is African Americans. During the 50s, this problem was not recognized due to the high level of racism still employed in our country. While standardized testing is a great scientific advancement in our educational system, it does have its problems, and they still continue into today’s most common reform issues.

G. Gifted and Talented

As early at the 1970’s schools in America started to realize that students who excelled faster than others were not being pushed with the current educational standards. During our country’s push towards the cultural literacy of science, more gifted and talented classrooms were made available to students. School districts, though mostly focused on the general education of the average student, realized that the current system was neglecting the brightest group of individuals (Nolan, 2010). The realization of neglecting a group of students, though seemingly small, has led nearly every major reform since. Lack of equality is an issue that our educational system has been trying to tackle since banning segregation. While many thought we had resolved the issue with the end of segregated schools, finding that there were still inequalities among students has led us to a continuous cycle of reform.

H. Special Education

Previous to instating the American Disabilities Act of 1990, Americans with intellectual disabilities did not legally have rights of their own that were equal to those of the everyday American. Because this law was not in place, those with intellectual disabilities were discriminated against in schools, the work place, and in everyday settings such your local grocery store. Discrimination of this intensity led to negative attitudes and outlooks about those who were victims of intellectual handicaps. Seeing the need for change, the United States government passed a law in 1990 called the American Disabilities Act. This act was instated so that those with mental handicaps would have equal civil rights such as equality in classroom or workplace. “The American Disabilities Act of 1990 is estimated to apply to 43 million individuals” (Berry & Meyer, 1995).
Being immersed in an environment where there are those with intellectual disabilities may help us to have a better understanding of their day to day struggles, and may increase our amount of positive attitudes towards them. This idea is most commonly known as inclusion. Inclusion is the act of integrating those with intellectual disabilities into everyday life. This idea also applies to the adaptations of everyday individuals to those with mental handicaps, and how they both interact with one another. Unfortunately, not every American has had or will have the opportunity to experience those with intellectual disabilities and what they have to offer our society.
Since the passing of the American Disability Act our country has been fortunate enough to experience higher rates of inclusion between the disabled and those that live an ordinary American lifestyle. A study conducted by Krajewski suggests that because of this idea of inclusion negative attitudes towards those with mental handicaps are declining (Krajewski & Hyde, 2000). In Krajewski’s initial study students from an area high school were tested using the Mental Retardation Attitude Inventory Scale. Eleven years later Krajewski and a new colleague, Hyde, used a revised version of the Mental Retardation Attitude Inventory Scale to survey another group of high school students from the same high school (Krajewski & Hyde, 2000). The results of their study suggest that the amount of negative attitudes was reduced over time, and that the main cause for this decline was the amount of inclusion the students encountered (Krajewski & Hyde, 2000). Another study performed by Jaffe (1967) reinforces this idea. After surveying 119 high school seniors, it was determined that 52 had previous contact with someone in the intellectually disabled community while the remainder (67) had not (Jaffe, 1967). The 52 students that had experienced some form of inclusion prior to the study were more likely to have a greater number of positive outlooks than someone who had no previous contact with anyone who had a mental handicap (Jaffe, 1967).
Unfortunately, a study performed by Robert Loo (2001) also suggests that the general public still has an overwhelmingly negative attitude towards those with intellectual handicaps. Loo used the Interaction with Disabled Person’s Scale to record factors including fear of the unknown and threat to security to help measure the general attitude towards college undergraduates with intellectual disabilities. He specifically used college undergraduates that were studying a form of management in order to see their likelihood of hiring someone with an intellectual disability to their program, firm, or company staff. While many of the themes measured reflected positive attitudes such as sympathy for unfair treatment, or admiration, the negative attitudes are still something to pay close attention to. Many claimed fear of unknown situations would keep them from hiring a person with an intellectual disability . Also, the idea that they would have to give preferential treatment to someone with a disability was also a turn off for employment (Loo, 2001). This study suggests that despite the increased rate of inclusion since the installation of the American Disabilities Act, the overall attitudes of non-disabled Americans towards those with intellectual disabilities is negative.

I. No Child Left Behind

The signing of the No Child Left Behind Act via Wikimedia Commons
The signing of the No Child Left Behind Act via Wikimedia Commons

In 2001, the United States government enacted a bill called the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). NCLB claims to base itself of four solid pillars. These pillars include giving states and school districts more choices, giving parents more choices, using proven educational practices, and gaining more accountability ("Four pillars of," 2004. This modern reform is something that many of us have been bombarded with over the past decade. While there are many praises and complaints of The No Child Left Behind Act, it is imperative that we explore the initial purpose of the act, and what possible suggestions may cause it to become more successful.
The No Child Left Behind Act requires states to implement accountability systems for all students and public schools. The state must challenge students in grades three and eight in both reading and mathematics to ensure all students reach a level of proficiency within their 12 years of schooling. Assessment results and objectives must be broken out by poverty, race, ethnicity, disability, and limited English skills to make certain that no group is left behind (Nlbc, 2004). Schools that fail to make adequate yearly progress toward their states proficiency goals will be required to make improvements, by corrective action and reconstructing measurements, in order to get them back on track to meeting the standards of their state. Schools that meet the adequate yearly progress objectives, or considerably close achievement gaps, will be eligible for Academic Achievement Awards (Nlbc, 2004).
NCLB concentrates on the statistics of groups (ex. By grade, school, district, county, and state), instead of looking at the individual assessment of students. Again, we must touch on the area of standardized testing, as that is a major strong hold of the NCLB act. Not all children test well. If you are a bad test taker or have severe test anxiety, the test score may not accurately reflect your actual knowledge of a given subject. This may give unclear assessments, such as when a student passes the class but fails the test. A test does not assess all of the students’ specific needs. Because everyone learns differently, everyone also portrays the amount of knowledge they have obtained differently. A complaint of NCLB is if you are going to base assessment solely on a test, the test should have different areas that measure the different ways that people learn. Standardized Testing may cause teachers to “teach to the test”, and, in turn, this may cause them to bypass some important things that may help students to understand the required test material better. By giving a standardized test that measures a student’s ability to retain specific information from a particular area, those subjects may automatically become more important to educators while other subjects take a back seat. Unfortunately, there is no way to accurately and efficiently access which teachers are skipping important subject matter. Aside from skipping over important and specific information some worry that teachers may find themselves skipping daily breaks so that they can be sure to squeeze in all of the test’s subjects. Exhausting our teacher’s will only continue to hurt their performance which most likely will affect the performance of their students.
If we are going to force our students to reach a certain standard we should also make our educators meet one. Teachers should be well knowledgeable in the subject that they are teaching and should also be required to take some form of assessment to make sure that they are staying familiar with the information. While university teaching programs do have student teaching practicums, additional environments of side by side teaching should be required so that teachers can learn from their fellow co-workers, become familiar with multiple possible environment that they will be teaching in, and have more effective strategies for teaching and dealing with classroom situations. Teachers should also be equipped to pass a more strict academic and verbal ability test in order to be considered for a university education program. While we are in desperate need for good teachers, lowering the standards of those we accept, will do nothing but hinder the children of our future and lower the overall quality of the American educational system.
Without a multitude of empirically based research, we can only make assumptions about how to improve the No Child Left Behind Act. A standardized test should not be all that measures the ability of America’s students. We should try to create a formula that includes a student’s GPA and/or classroom achievement along with their standardized test scores. All students learn differently. We must employ different teaching method to incorporate the strengths of individual students, not just teach to a test. If the government allowed for more federal funding we would be able to research many of the previous ideas and put them into place so that education, as a whole, in our nation can increase. Unfortunately, there is very little scientific research in the area of education today. If we employ this as necessity now, we are likely to forever change the outlook of education and continue the nations push toward scientific prowess.
Perhaps most importantly, a standardized curriculum would not only help the national government to equally test all states, but it would raise the overall education of our county so that everyone is set to the same standard. The problem with a standardized curriculum is that it is currently illegal in the United States to have a flat line standard for education (Nlbc, 2004). Not only would we have to pass new laws to do so, but also the national government would have to come up with significantly more money for education. As long as the local/state level is paying for most of their student’s education, they are going to want the most say as to what their students are being taught.
After exploring the lack of research and the purpose of the No Child Left Behind Act, it seems clear as to why our government considered it a practical fix for the need of our country’s youth at the time. Now, after many years of seeing the NCLB program in place at our public schools, it is apparent that it is not working as it was fully intended to. It seems reasonable for the government to consider researching the flaws of NCLB in order to explore ways to make the program not only better, but to appeal to parents, students, educators, and government all at the same time. While the program needs a big makeover, there is still hope for the original purpose. With the correct re-evaluations and improvements, NCLB can be a program that can actually work to better our educational systems and the people in them.

J. Educating our Educators

Educators in America come from all walks of life, and it is this diversity that helps to accommodate all types of students in our educational system. Before we segue into an ordinary day in American education, it is important to end our look at reform with the current methods in which we are teaching our educators, and what the research says about their achievements and downfalls in educating our students. Perhaps our next reform will take a dig deeply into enhancing and guaranteeing a solid, well rounded education for our nation’s teachers.Perhaps the most important issue that is plaguing the American educational system is our educators’ lack of education in the area of pseudoscience. Eve and Dunn explore the prevalence of pseudoscientific beliefs in our society and then attempt to find a source. They pinpoint academia and the beliefs of science teachers in the average American high school as the launching pad for pseudoscientific beliefs. While such beliefs may arise from ones upbringing, the ability for a “scientist” to give credit to such idea may be what makes it concrete to an individual.
Knowing that it is a large portion of educators who begin and fuel these beliefs, what can we do to protect ourselves from nonsense? While there is little academic research in this area, it is safe to say that even educators need educating. If those trained in recognizing the differences between science and pseudoscience can lend their expertise to other educators, we can begin to spread a wealth of accurate information to generations of thirsty students.
If you remember back to our timeline of educational reforms, gifted and talented education sprouted up in the 1970’s with a desperate plea to enhance the learning of students who were not being challenged with the average curriculum. In a recent article, Reis discusses our current need for gifted and talented programs throughout the United States. One study took over 7000 public and private elementary school educators and randomly asked about their education. Sixty one percent of them had never had any form of training for gifted and talented students (2010). A study conducted at The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented in 1993 found that, over a period of 92 days, gifted and talented students experienced no differentiation in their curricular tasks or instructions 81% of the time (Westberg et al., 1993).
The previous studies give us clear, scientific proof that there are flaws in the educational process for teachers. The problem arises when searching for scientifically sound remedies for our educators. One study suggests the usage of case methodologies on students in order to better prepare them for situations that may occur in their future classrooms. It is the view of the researcher that one cannot truly be prepared for a situation without first experiencing a similar situation (Lengyel & Vernon-Dotson, 2010). These issues also hold true in other reforms like special education. Jenkins and Sheehey explored the benefits of service learning in a special education setting. Students who went on to graduate and teach in a learning and/or physically disabled setting were more likely to receive higher recommendations from co-workers and higher approval ratings from parents and students (2009). This study describes special education as an effective instructional strategy for teaching course content and social values. The results of the study indicated that the service learning techniques implemented with the students indicated that the researches had successfully built a framework for knowledgeable and caring educators (Jenkins & Sheehey, 2009).
Every educator in the country must obtain, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree in the field that they wish to study. Each education department at a university is bound to be different, but hopefully with studies like that of Lengyel and Vernon-Dotson, we can employ case methodology and more practicum opportunities for students who wish to become educators. Luckily, states administer exams following graduation to ensure that all educators reach a standard, set forth by the state, that hopes to create a unity across all school districts in that given state.
It may be beneficial for state education leaders to research some of the studies we’ve covered in order to increase the demands of education and competency in their state. If we can create higher standards for education, we can guarantee that teachers are educated in all appropriate fields, and therefore hope to eliminate the issues that the research has presented.

V. A Day in the Life

A typical day in the life of today’s students is fairly easy to imagine. They get to school, study different subjects for roughly an hour at a time, get a few breaks, eat some lunch, gain a pile of homework, and head home, just to do it all again tomorrow. Either you are someone who does not miss it or cannot wait for it to be over. As routine as these days seem to us, it has not always been that way. While we will explore the changes of a one-room schoolhouse to classrooms packed with too many kids, it is all pertinent to evaluate the flaws in the monotony we find so familiar.

A. Traditional vs. Open Classrooms

The idea of open classrooms has been around since the inceptions of American education. In our beginnings, students of all ages would come together, in one school house, in order to get a better education. Somewhere in the mid to late 1960s, the idea emerged that coming back to this single or open classroom idea would push students and promote creativity. Students in open classrooms are also supposed be more well disciplined and less likely to misbehave. Solomon and Kendall studied this idea back in 1975, and what they found is much different than the previous assumptions. While children from both open and traditional classrooms perceived the same relative amount of disruptiveness among students, it was actually the teachers who’s perceptions were skewed differently. Educators in the traditional classrooms were not more critical of their students, but perceived there to be more student disruptiveness than that of the open classroom educators (Solomon & Kendall, 1975).
Despite knowledge that was acquired 35 years ago, there are still a multitude of schools that revolved around the open classroom concept. There was a huge push for schools of this kind in the early 1980s, and the steady decline of their production has been slowed by none other than the No Child Left Behind Act. Because of NCLB, school districts are focusing their money, time, and attention into products and processes that will better help their student perform well on governmental standardized testing, instead of reformatting the classroom.Excessive noise is another complaint of open classroom settings. Shield et al. assessed the current noise conditions of open classrooms. Though the classrooms all met international noise guidelines, the level of noise recorded was still reported as distracting (2010). Along with intrusive noise, lack of privacy is also a factor of open classrooms. Because of this open plan, finding places to conduct private meeting and conversations become difficult for faculty, staff, volunteers, students, and parents (Shield et al., 2010).

B. Social Interaction

Recess. I am hoping you got a little excited at the mention of this word. We all remember the days of staring at the clock, counting down the minutes until we were able to escape the confines of the classroom and head out to the great unknowns of recess. Maybe you cannot quite remember back far enough for recess. How about counting the seconds left until class was out and you could escape to the hallway? Maybe you remember the minutes left until you could feed your starving adolescent body and socialize in the cafeteria. These were the moments that we wished we had more of in school, but it seems like, in today’s society, these memory makers are fewer and farther between. After all, the more time we spend in the classroom, the more we are going to absorb, right?
While recess has been a part of our educational system since its inception, it is a vastly understudied concept due to its variability. Recess usually takes the form of a break, either indoor or outdoor, where children are able to interact with one another, and freely choose an activity that best suits them (Pellegrini & Bjorklund, 1997). We have known, for over a century, that humans and some animals learn more information, at a faster pace, when presented with a distributed task instead of one that is concentrated. Despite this well-known fact, educators today are trying to eliminate or greatly reduce the amount of free time given to students in order to give them more time in the classroom, and in turn, more time to increase learning. Given the evidence presented, we should allow students breaks between stages. This brings us to another important reason for taking breaks in an educational setting; because of the cognitive immaturity of most students, taking breaks from structured cognitive teaching may, in fact, reduce cognitive overload and interference (Pellegrini & Bjorklund, 1997).

C. Homework

Homework. Your stomach just got a little queasy at that dreaded word didn't it? We all remember the days when our teachers would hand us stacks of assignments to complete overnight and hand in the next day. For some of you who are reading this, that is exactly what you are doing right now. I am sure you have heard, time and time again, that the more time you spend doing homework and the less time you spend out tending to your social life will only make you more intelligent. In fact, many Americans would regard this as common knowledge. Is this idea scientific fact, or simply an old wives tale?
Homework is defined as “Tasks assigned to students by school, teachers that are meant to be performed during non school hours” (Cooper, Lindsay, Nye, & Greathouse, 1998). Trautwein discusses the threats to validity associated with previous correlational studies of homework and achievement. These include how homework can affect the classroom and how it can affect the individual student, how many previous studies do not control for confounds between different schools, and how much research specifically deals with the amount of time a student spends on a homework assignment (2007).
Trautwein, among others, has separated effects of homework assignment and their completion, to find that students who spend more time on their homework do not out perform their peers. While it is important to point out that homework frequency and increased homework tasks does improved achievement, actually time spent does not. One study found that teachers who have poorer achieving students, and students who scored lower on standardized test, in their class are likely to give more homework to improve achievement (Cooper et. Al, 1998). While this may be beneficial, depending on the number of homework tasks given, educators should be careful to keep from simply increasing the amount of time spent on tasks.
Patall et al. explored the effects of choice on students’ homework tasks; they broke students into two groups; one group was assigned a specific homework option while the other group was given the choice to pick from multiple homework options. These groups were then switched for a within groups designed experiment (2010). Researchers found that students who were given options for their homework assignment had higher levels of intrinsic motivation, assessed themselves as more competent of completing the tasks, and scored higher on an ending exam, compared to when they were not given an option. This information can tie into our previous assessment of standardized testing. By giving students options, teachers can allow for different types of learning styles and reinforce information by presenting it in multiple forms (Patall et al., 2010).

VI. Conclusion

This passage takes an in depth looking into the pseudoscientific thinking of the American educational system. Unfortunately, confounds of education are difficult control for, and therefore there are extremely small numbers of scientifically valid studies for us to explore. Luckily, by establishing what pseudoscience is and the possible ways our world and brain can fool us, we have taken the first and most important step to discovering fallacies within our world. After we establish what we deem to be fallacy (with our newly found skepticism), we can then use what we have learned about the scientific method to test the possible fallacy against scientifically sound truths.
A journey through America’s educational time-table assisted us in covering our history’s major reforms and how they molded our outlook on today’s educational practices. By exploring the most recent practices that we are also most familiar with, (and which there is the most empirically based research) we are able to get a glimpse of the many facts and fallacies that face our education system today. Hopefully, this passage will not only highlight the mass need for scientific educational studies, but enlighten others to take a second look at not only what they are being taught, but how those teaching them are going about doing so.


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