Sunday, January 8, 2012

Measuring Human Behavior

“Measuring” Human Behavior
P. Schultz
January 8, 2012       

You have got to love economists and other social scientists engaged in attempts to “measure” human behavior. Below is a link from the NY Times to a study, no, a “large study,” of how teachers can have a life long effect on the lives of their students. Excellent teachers, the study shows, have a much greater impact than has been thought – by whom is not said – in the past. Those who experience excellent teachers are even less likely to get pregnant than those who don’t. I am guessing here but I imagine this measure only applies to females!

            This is a wisecrack to be sure but one with a point, viz., that these economists are studying those they label “students,” a phenomenon that only exists in the imagination and can only exist there by dehumanizing people by turning them into an abstraction labeled “student.” Of course, these students all go to “schools”, which is another abstraction as schools exist not in some nether world but in particular places like Harlem, Metuchen, Worcester, Boston, etc. In fact, even “Worcester schools” is an abstraction as Doherty is a very different place than Bancroft.

            Which brings me to another aspect ignored by the study: Which do you think has a more important impact on one’s life, growing up in a family that can afford to pay about $30,000 a year for high school or growing up in a family that cannot even afford a new Mac?

            Oh yeah, let us “test” students and then we will no doubt find some “researchers” who will “prove” that these tests measure something important, while ignoring a host of other, obviously more important “variables.” I have an idea though: Want to improve public education? Really want to do that? Here is a simple but not easy way: Abolish or outlaw all private grade and high schools and force everyone, even the Bushes for example, to send their children to public schools. But of course this will not happen because, well, because we prefer to think that class does not matter, gender does not matter, money spent on education does not matter but saluting the flag does and saying prayers does!

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