Wednesday, August 26, 2009

the Head and the Heart - Mutually Exclusive in the Context of Research?

Denis Doyle recently posted his feedback regarding the Innovation Summit in Tamaya, New Mexico, and drew a few conclusions about research. I diassembled the ideas to gain a deeper understanding, and pulled out the essence of Doyle's thinking, which you can read below. A response is on its way, but for today, find the context and conversation enclosed:

An excerpt from Doyle's latest post at

Take bilingual education – it is hard to imagine a more politically freighted issue. As a consequence there is little that research has to offer the debate. I support it for intellectual and cultural reasons, not pedagogical reasons which is why David Kearns and I argued in our book Winning the Brain Race nearly twenty years ago that every child in America (land of immigrants) should learn English and a second language. Research can help illuminate such a view, can help in deployment and implementation, can even help pedagogically, but it remains at heart an issue of what you believe.

Our conversation:
August 26, 2009

Dear Candice:
In response to your note, Q and A follows:

Q. Are you intimating that, perhaps, research is not an answer to the questions raised by education settings?
A. A partial and necessarily incomplete answer. For illumination, see Alfred North Whitehead’s famous essay The Aims of Education.

Q. Also, when you wrote "research can help illuminate such a view", did you mean that research could help the public come to the conclusion that every child should learn another language?
A. Yes, but the real argument is economic, political and cultural. See Paul Simon’s The Tongue-tied American, in which he makes the famous observation that “you can buy in any language, but sell only in your customer’s…” Or look comparatively at the Dutch, for example, 98% of whom speak English; why? They are a nation of merchants and the new lingua franca is English.

Q. You stated that research can help in "deployment and implementation", do you mean in general, or to a particular intervention, or to a child learning another language?
A. In general. And it should be in particular as well.

Q. When you wrote "it remains at heart an issue of what you believe", what do you mean?
A. The big decisions people make are normative (or ideological) rather than objective or scientific; they are informed by research, not driven by research.

Q. I would sincerely appreciate any help you could provide in breaking apart the last few thoughts of your piece, and additionally, what you believe the role of research to be in education, if any.
A. To cast light on vexing problems and to help guide right-thinking as Aristotle might have said.

I think education research should, above all, be practical and bear fruit; for example, solving the mystery of reading instruction should be within reach. So too should math and second language instruction.

A good example of education research-based practice is Rosetta Stone an IT-based language instruction program.

Finally, permit me to draw your attention to my latest book (co-authored with Stacey Childress and David Thomas, published Jul 14, 2009, by Harvard Ed Press) Leading for Equity: The Pursuit of Excellence in Montgomery County Public Schools, available from

Finally, finally, I’d like to post this colloquy with the View Point that inspired it, unless you have an objection.

I hope this is helpful.

All the best,

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