Well, I feel as if Nicholas Kristof’s column yesterday on the need for academics as public intellectuals was pointed right at me, since I have fallen way behind in blogging thus far this year. For the record, Kristof is wrong on the trends but correct on the general need.
So, for this morning, a small something based on UC Riverside physicist John Baez’s Crackpot Index: a way to measure how much you may be contributing to education policy noise without making substantive contributions. The higher the number, the more you contribute to noise. Note: Asterisks denote carryovers from Baez’s Crackpot Index
- A -5 point starting credit.* (I.e., you get a few points’ leeway.)
- A -1 point credit for every full year as a classroom teacher. (I.e., more leeway with teaching experience.)
- A -1 point credit for every full year that a child of yours attended school… and you were the parent getting her/him/them up, fed, dressed, and out the door. (I.e., more leeway with active parenting.)
- 1 point for every undocumented factual claim that is widely agreed to be false by those with varying policy preferences.
- 1 point for claiming that a single empirical study is definitive proof of anything.
- 2 points for every statement that is clearly vacuous.*
- 3 points for every statement that is logically inconsistent.*
- 5 points for each such statement that is adhered to despite careful correction.*
- 5 points for each ad-hominem slur against someone who disagrees with you on policy.
- 5 points for each uncritical repetition of someone else’s false statement or ad-hominem slur.
- 5 points for rationalizing one’s ad-hominem slur, someone else’s ad-hominem slur, or a repetition of someone else’s ad-hominem slur by reference to free speech, the need to balance opponents’ views, or “starting a conversation.”
- 5 points for each claim that the anecdotal experience of a single school or school district represents universal experience or otherwise is proof of a policy claim.
- 5 points for each claim that a single figure or chart is demonstrable proof of a policy claim. (10 more for referring to such a figure/chart as an “infographic”)
- 5 points for each reference to an unreviewed paper that contradicts the results of a widely accepted empirical study published in a refereed journal.
- 5 points for each conclusory use of “disruption,” “paradigm shift,” “the new normal,” or any term that has appeared on the Lake Superior State University List of Words to be Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness.
- 10 points for each mention of “personalization” when the referent is the use of a computer algorithm.
- 10 points for any (other) reinterpretation of an existing word to mean the opposite of its recognized, ordinary denotation.
- 10 points for each new term you invent and use without properly defining it.*
- 10 points for each reference to a policy opponent as a “special interest group” or member thereof (10 more for describing one or more allies as pure-hearted, hard-working, etc., in the same piece).
- 10 points for each mention of “defenders of the status quo” to refer to opponents of any current policy/practice.
- 10 points for each mention of “corporate reformer” to refer to policy opponents who are not in fact employees of or direct recipients of support from a for-profit corporation.
- 10 points for each reference to current practices as “industrial-era education” (or similar phrasing).
- 10 points for having a PR firm or other non-academic proxy be the primary disseminator of an allegedy empirical paper.
- 20 points for each reference to an unreviewed paper that contradicts the results of a competent meta-analysis published in a refereed journal.
- 30 points for every use of a John Birch Society argument. (20 more for referring to water fluoridation or world government.)
- 40 points for comparing those who argue against your ideas to Nazis, stormtroopers, or brownshirts.*
I reserve the right to modify this list based on any absurdity that appears in education policy discourse.
Addendum: Parenting and teaching earn negative points, or credits against creating noise. My apologies if that was not clear.