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“You Are Not An Equation” (And Neither Are Your Students)

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I’ve written a fair amount about the importance of being “Data-Informed” and not “Data-Driven.” In fact, I’ve posted The Best Resources Showing Why We Need To Be “Data-Informed” & Not “Data-Driven.”

The newest addition to that list is a short article, which includes a video, titled You Are Not An Equation. It’s about Emanuel Derman, who the article describes as “a Quant, one of the shadowy legion of mathematicians on whose models Wall Street relies to make trading decisions.”

Derman has become highly critical of the use of these kinds of mathematical models — not just for Wall Street, but for many other things, including data-driven schools.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece, though I’d encourage you to read the whole article:

Derman has coined the term pragmamorphism to describe our tendency to define people in terms of inanimate things – IQ tests, magnetic brain scans, income. Pragmamorphic thinking, says Derman, is dangerous because it creates a one-or-two-dimensional representation of a multidimensional phenomenon – human behavior – and presents that as the whole story.

It goes on to say:

Derman’s warning is powerfully relevant at this moment in history. Faced with the undeniable global and personal anxieties that characterize our age, we should be deeply skeptical of premature solutions based on science that cannot yet deliver what its sales representatives promise.

I wonder if any proponents of data-driven school reform will heed that warning…

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

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