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The Cognitive Dissonance Of David Brooks

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New York Times columnist David Brooks, as I’ve written here before on numerous occasions, can be extraordinarily insightful.

However, each and every time he’s written about education issues, it’s amazing how coherence and thoughtfulness just seem to disappear from his consciousness.

His column today, Heroes of Uncertainty, is about psychiatry, not education. In it, he questions whether psychiatrists and their profession should really be viewed primarily as a science:

Psychiatrists are not heroes of science. They are heroes of uncertainty, using improvisation, knowledge and artistry to improve people’s lives.

The field of psychiatry is better in practice than it is in theory. The best psychiatrists are not austerely technical, like the official handbook’s approach; they combine technical expertise with personal knowledge. They are daring adapters, perpetually adjusting in ways more imaginative than scientific rigor.

The best psychiatrists are not coming up with abstract rules that homogenize treatments. They are combining an awareness of common patterns with an acute attention to the specific circumstances of a unique human being.

Brooks’ points all make sense to me. What astounds me, though, is his cognitive dissonance — he relentlessly promotes that schools and teaching should be evaluated through the “science” of standardized testing, and doesn’t seem to recognize that the same thing he is saying about psychiatry can be said about teaching.

I’ve still got to wonder: Why Do So Many Ordinarily Thoughtful Columnists “Lose It” When They Write About Schools?

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

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

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