Skoolboy’s Platinum Law of Educational Research

If this post’s title sounds like a blast from the past, well, it is.

I found myself missing eduwonkette’s blog and wondering what was posted on that blog five years ago today. I overstepped; there wasn’t anything five years ago, but four years ago there something was.

It was a post by skoolboy (Aaron Pallas). In it he collegially disputes eduwonkette’s “Iron Law of Qualitative Research in Education:” namely, that the number of participants in the study should exceed the number of authors on the paper. Very funny, he says, but not quite right. He proposes a Platinum Law of Educational Research: “Poorly designed and conceived research is poorly designed and conceived research, regardless of the sample size.”

Both eduwonkette and skoolboy were skeptically eyeing a study of the role of emotions in “socially just teaching.” The study concerned one teacher. Skoolboy explains what, in his view, is wrong with this study—and it isn’t the sample size. It’s the poor reasoning overall: the lack of a theory, the lack of justification for the methodology, and more.

I miss eduwonkette’s and skoollboy’s explications of education research. I also miss their intellectual playfulness. By intellectual playfulness I don’t mean lack of seriousness. I mean, among other things, the zest for turning ideas this way and that.

In education discussion, over the past few years, we’ve gotten a little grimmer, a little more intent on making statements and taking sides. But then again, there are many exceptions (such as Michael E. Lopez, whose posts I have been enjoying). I might be overgrimming things.

In any case, I enjoyed the return to eduwonkette’s blog.


  1. Perhaps the reason you see things having “gotten grimmer” is that five or six years ago, there began to be a clear sense that things weren’t really working. That not only was NCLB not really working, but the achievement gap wasn’t closing, that all the idealistic moves of the early 90s, finally coming to full-bore, were leading to a devaluation of AP, an elimination of honors classes, and far fewer choices in high school.

    So this struck progressives/liberals as problematic, and they were open to discussing a wide range of possibilities. Over time, as many of those possibilities have been eliminated, the progressives have gone back to being defensive.

    At the same time, the testing/reform side (conservatives and liberals both) are being challenged not only by progressives, but still another side, which says that both sides are nuts.

    So there are now three sides to the debate, rather than just two, and the “open” nature that progressives temporarily came to in the early 2000s has closed down, now that they see there aren’t any appealing answers.

    80,000 foot answer, no specifics, just a general sense of the trend.

  2. Coming across your post was a pleasant surprise, Diana. I hope that the next time that you revisit the blog, it’ll be on a date that eduwonkette posted, since it was her acumen, wit and personality that drove the show.