Cargo Cult Education — the idea that it’s enough to “find what works, adopt it and spread it around ” — is all the rage, writes Allison at Kitchen Table Math in response to Curt Johnson’s Eduwonk post on innovation vs. replication. She quotes physicist Richard Feynman on “Cargo Cult Science“:
In the South Seas there is a Cargo Cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes land with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they’ve arranged to make things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas—he’s the controller—and they wait for the airplanes to land. They’re doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn’t work. No airplanes land. So I call these things Cargo Cult Science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they’re missing something essential, because the planes don’t land.
Districts need to “understand what’s underneath the ‘lessons of the high performing school’” in order to make a difference, Allison writes.
Reading instruction — all strategies and no substance — is an example, writes Robert Pondiscio on Core Knowledge Blog.
Its entire point is to teach children “what good readers do” and the habits of mind that are reflexive to able readers. It’s the exactly the same thing – you teach kids to mimic the behaviors that lead to comprehension – but without the background knowledge that actually makes it possible.
The Music Man’s Harold Hill was ahead of his time. Buy the band uniforms and the instruments — look like a marching band — and you’ll never have to learn the notes.