Science or Not Science – That’s Not the Question!

Review of
Making the Visible Invisible: Willful Ignorance of Poverty and Social Inequalities in the Research-Policy Nexus. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312146550_Making_the_Visible_Invisible_Willful_Ignorance_of_Poverty_and_Social_Inequalities_in_the_Research-Policy_Nexus [accessed Jan 19, 2017].
“… The first paradigm shift was the replacement of moral philosophy as the primary discipline on which educational practice was based: The new belief was that education could be studied scientifically. Its chief proponents were psychologists whose views were shaped by positivist aspirations, which in turn shaped the zeitgeist within which educational ideas were debated. In the early decades of the 20th century, the ascendance of behaviorist psychological models, along with the emergence of social science approaches to the study of education, also influenced policymaking. The Protestant republicanism that shaped the expansion of the common school was being transformed by the incorporation of nascent scientific methods for achieving efficient education reform. The new tools of the science of education also shaped practices within schools. …

In our account we highlight positivism and the emphasis on measurement; the use of the White, middle-class male student as the implicit norm against which all other students were assessed and ranked; human capital theory; and culture-of-poverty arguments.”

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Dear authors,
I acclaim your concern about one-sided research which closes its eyes before poverty and social discrimination. I beg you to rethink your attack on the scientific approach to education: moral philosophy is not, never has been, and cannot be a replacement for scientific research into education. A rejection of science would impede the cause for which you and I are fighting. Your thesis, I am afraid, diverts the public’s attention away from the real cause for the neglect of poverty and class in many educational research projects and in educational policy-making. The neglect of poverty and other social factors is not caused by science and measurement. The real cause is the money-sickness of people, which has corrupted many politicians and scientists.
Yes, the “positivist” and “behaviorist” movement in psychological and social science research went wrong and this is linked to the problems which you describe. Behaviorists preach a false dogma: They are right in demanding that, to be recognized as serious science, we must demonstrate the truth of any psychological theory through visible, objective data. But they are  wrong by postulating that human dispositions do not exist and that they cannot be studied scientifically. Because of their ignorance, they rule that human competencies must be measured by using external, social standards but not by using people’s own standards. Thus they measure only how well people are molded into the expectations of the ruling class. But they do not measure how well people cope with tasks that they themselves are confronted with or want to cope with. This externalist dogma has precluded the development of real measures of competence. Studies show that achievement tests mainly tap social anxiety, not competence. These tests are actually mostly easy. They are made difficult through an overload of confusing text, and through extremely short timing. It has been shown that achievement tests favor self-confident middle and upper class students who dare to do guesswork, but scare lower class and immigrant students who take these tests serious. But this development is not the fault of science. Classical Test psychology (and modern, too) is no science. It lacks one of the core features of a real science: It cannot be falsified.
I have worked more than 40 years to resolve the unfortunate dilemma between objective, quantitative, behaviorist (but invalid) research on one side and valid (but subjective, ideologically biased) research on the other side. In order to make progress I had to move from pre-scietific, inductive (“dust bowl”) empiricism to real, hypothesis-testing experimental science. In the field of moral education, I have shown that some relevant propositions found in the literature can be shown to be clearly wrong, and some to be clearly right. (See my book “How To Teach Morality“, Logos, Berlin). On the base of this knowledge, I have developed a new tests which actually measures objectively moral competence using the participants’ own standards for morality. I also created an effective method of moral education — after two and half thousand years of failed attempts in moral philosophy and behaviorist psychology. We can prove that only a few hours of intervention are needed to considerably foster participants’ ability to solve problems and conflicts by deliberation and discussion instead of using violence and deceit. We found that such interventions also have a strong positive side-effect on academic learning. Our findings have been successfully replicated in many studies. My method of moral education is being applied successfully in many countries, even in China.
It is very sad that our findings and methods of moral education are ignored by both sides, by behaviorists and anti-behaviorists. Both deny, for different reasons, the fact that internal dispositions can be objectively and validly measured. This is very sad because through insisting on out-dated dogmas we miss a chance to strengthen the people’s’ moral-democratic competence and their ability to fight for their own cause. We “liberal” intellectuals tend to overestimate our ability to do this in behalf of them. We can pile up reason over reason, publication over publication. But people will only understand us and listen to us when we do a better job understanding their condition and improving their education.
Science cannot prescribe the aims of education, neither can moral philosophy. Only the people can do this as a whole. But education can be studied scientifically and this is needed to optimize the conditions and methods of education.
 
Best regards
Georg
(Please excuse my bad English. It’s not my first language.)

The Meaning of Accountability

In a democracy, all citizens are held accountable by their moral conscience, and all government are held accountable by their citizens.

Period. Nobody must be hold accountable by third party profiteers. These are, to use a computer analogy, like Trojan horses which serve only one goal: to maximize their profits.

Their Trojan business plan is obvious by now:

Start with shouting things like “A Nation at Risk”” (if you have overspent the money of the taxpayers), or “No Child Left Behind!” (if your mother and y0ur brother invested money in the school and testing business), or “Race To The Top” (if you are so exhausted from the health insurance reform that you let your basketball pal do whatever he wants to do).

Then impede the learning at public schools by stepping up bogus testing in the name of “accountability,” forgetting to clarify who should be accountable to whom. Let this  “clarify” your private accountant rather than the constitution.

Then let “liberal” educators beat the drums for replacing worn out public schools by “alternative charter schools” which are free from this testing menace, until they find out that they have been your useful fools. They may have learned that there is no real alternative to a good, comprehensive public education.

Finally, buy up all schools and the whole education to suck money out of them — without being held accountable by anyone but maybe by your bragging community.

You think you are smart. No, you are sick. You suffer from money addiction and excessive self-love. You should turn yourself in into a special hospital for curing your illness.

As a first step toward health I recommend that you follow  Jesus (I heard that you pray a lot to him in public) and give your money to a foundation called public budget and let the people and its elected representatives use it to strengthen democracy, to build and renovate schools, to pay well-trained teachers, to supply free access to vocational and college education, to repair bridges and highways, to build railways and streetcars, to create jobs for jobless steel-workers and miners, to provide health care for everyone — and to fund education in all countries which cannot afford it. Eventually they will find out how to run a democracy.

This is what accountability really means. Lets work for it. This new business plan will help to create a better world for all people, also for you and your followers.

Flamonaires and Pooronaires

If you have made real great achievements in your life, like become billionaire and at the same time king of all flamers, you have rightly earned the infamous title of a Flamionaire.

The greatest of all is Donald II.

When we baby-boomers went to school, Donald Duck was a powerful teacher of us: For me he taught us to dislike people who sit on their gold.

This generation of school-children will be taugt by Donald II: Don’t care about math which tries to tell you that only a very few can make it. Don’t care about the suffering of the Pooronaires, the billions of poor people who live the life of slaves in order to make Billionaires possible. Rather lie and get rich! No, lie like hell and get rich like hell! And sit on your gold!

Both seem to depend on each other. In order to earn money with lies and get elected, the Flamonaires need poor people who have not been taught how to tell the difference between truth and lie. Therefore, to broaden their power basis, the Flamonairs will replace schools where you learn how to tell lies from truth, with schools where you can buy your grades and where you do not need to bother with learning and moral integrity.

In order to compensate their miserable life, Pooronaires need illusions provided by the rich. In the past such illusions were nourished by phantasy shows and phantasy billboards. Since the poor hand over their fate to flamionairs, the shows and billboards have become authentic. What a balm for the loss of democracy!

(For all of you who trust my words: This is satire.)

How to Make News More Trustworthy

There seems to be one unifying complaint across the political spectrum, namely the complaint that the media cannot be trusted. The only difference is what kind of media they trust and which not.

This  szenario is typical for an autocracy, but it is a worst case szenario for a democracy. When big portions of society live in their own echo-chambers and have their own sort of truth, how can we ever live together peacefully? How can we cope with problems and conflicts through open discussion, instead of violence and deceit?

It is very unlikely that we can convince our opponents to do something about this. But how about doing something about this ourselves? I think that we can learn here from scientists. I do not mean from their findings or research methods. I mean from their  standars of reporting their research:

  • In order to be trustworthy scientists must funnel their report through a peer reviewing process. On a smaller scale but also very evectively, journalists and bloggers could have a second person read the news before publication, or, if this  unfeasible. let at least sit their text for a short while and read it again like a foreign piece.
  • Scientists must not only reason but they must also demonstrate the truth of their claims in such detail that the reader can validate the evidence through own research. Good journalists and bloggers do this already, too. But too many  confine their evidence on single case studies, e.g., by interviewing a few, accidentally or intentionally sampled people. If they have no other evidence, they should soften their claims.
  • Scientists usually make claims which need more support than they can provide with their own studies. In this case they refere to evidence from other sources, and, most importantly, give complete bibliographic information for theses sources so that the readers can retrieve and read them. With a few exceptions, newsmakers don’t care about this at all (an exception is, e.g., is Le Monde diplomatique). In many news media readers have little, and sometimes no, chance to find out about the truth of the author’s claims. When I dig out the sources through extensive internet search, I sometimes discover that either the media report or the original source was incomplete, fact-distorted or even completely biased.

Yes, we can do something in order to make news more trustworthy, at least our own news.

When Education is Withheld from Citizens, Democracy Declines

In her blog, Diane Ravitch hints at “a post-election analysis by Nate Silver. He is a numbers guru who has an interesting website. I followed him during the campaign, and he was more cautious than other pollsters but still predicted a Clinton win. By analyzing voting patterns, he discovered that the best predictor of votes for Trump or Clinton was education. Where there were high levels of BA degrees, Clinton won. Where there were the lowest, Trump won.
Trump was right when he declared during the GOP primaries:
‘I love the uneducated!’ ”

The finding that education is decisive for voting for or against “lout-speakers” like Trump, is no surprise for me since I have been studying the dependency of political cultural on moral-democratic competence since four decades. We define moral-democratic competence as the ability to solve problems and conflict through free thinking (!) and respectful discussion (!), instead of through violence, deceit and power.

Many studies show that people with no or very low such competence have a high risk of offending against the law and of becoming psychologically disturbed to a point where they need psychiatric treatment or, when this is not available, treat their uncontrollable emotions with excessive drug consumption. I know of no studies of their voting behavior but studies consistently found high correlations of lack of moral-democraric competence with authoritarian and rightist political attitudes.

In sum, as I argue in my book “How to Teach Morality”, people without a minimum of moral-democratic competence are overwhelmed by the task of self-government. Although they appreciate the moral ideal of democracy like everaybody else,  paradoxically they have no choice but to fight democracy or to elect politicians who promise to do this on their behalf.

This means that the only effective and sustainable way to defend and to develop democracy is to provide a free and good education for all citizens, as already Thomas Jefferson, Alexis de Tocqueville and many others have argued. General education is important but not sufficient. It needs to be supplemented by modern methods of moral-democratic education which easily fit into existing curricula. Permanent testing and grading, in contrast, has a devastating effect because it keeps our kids from using the frontal part of their brain, where moral-democratic competence is located. Like all parts of our body, it degenerates when not used.

Finally Peace in Colombia!

Dear friends,

today we have something to celebrate: Peace in Colombia (see e.g., Guardian)!

I feel personally much relieved. After being engaged in Colombia for almost twenty years in the field of moral-democratic education, Colombia has become my third home country (beside my native Germany and the US, where I have many close friends since when I graduated from high school there).

I also feel a little proud that the Colombian president won the Peace Nobel Prize.

Many Colombian citizens have been engaged in the peace process in all parts of the country. I got to know some of the  Colombians who have relentlessly worked for ending the longest civil war in modern history. It started in 1948 when the popular political leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán was murdered during his campaign for presidency.

I believe that without the rigorous democratization of the Colombian constitution, this peace would not have been possible. Since 1991 the president, the governors and the majors are directly elected by the people without any pre-selection by political parties and primaries which favor the rich and the influential people. In Colombia nobody decides whom the people are allowed to vote for. The new constitution has made it possible for  man and women of high moral integrity and democratic competence to enter politics. The economy is soaring and will be doing even better now, since the country is fully freed from warfare.

Antanas Mockus, for example, a former professor of mathematics and philosophy ran as an independent for major of Bogotá with not more than 800 Dollars campaign money, all his own. After being elected he was indebted to no investment bankers and no associations but only to the citizens of Bogotá. Good government, he believes, rests on three pillars: traditional administrative power, the arts, and morality. He changed many things to the better, as I could witness: The waste in the streets was removed. On Sundays he closed the big streets for cars and opend them for pedestrians and bikers. Friday nights became ladies night: men were not allowed in bars. Bus drivers were taught by colorfully dressed mimes to stop blocking the traffic. Taxi drives learned to obey traffic laws by citizens who showed them the “red card”, which Mockus had let distribute. He let a TV station film him when he took a shower in order to show the citizens how to save water. He offered the police officers of Bogotá free summer school at an elite university. When the parlament of Bogota refused the money for putting up lights in the streets, he asked the people to donate extra money when they paid their tax bills, and many did, so that he could make the streets a safer place. …

Surely, sometimes there are crooks among the candidates and some get elected. But as far as I know they were eventually driven out of their office. By and large, I feel, the voters in Colombia have a good sense of the candidates’ decency. I think that the voters in our countries have such a good sense, too — if their sense was not distorted by an undemocratic voting system.

We can learn a lot from Colombia as far as democracy is concerned.

GL

Best wishes and more…

Dear friends of the KMDD and the MCT,

the world does not seem to be favorable for science and scientifically based moral education. Some people even claim that we live in a “post-truth” (post-faktische) world now. I think that this is an exaggeration, as much as the opposite believe that we have lived in an age of science and truth before is an exaggeration.

As individuals we cannot change much. Nevertheless, I believe that there is always a slight chance that we have an impact if we are dedicated, serious, truthful and humble — in other words if we continue our scientific endeavors.

Researching and fostering moral-democratic competence is a specially complicated field. We have to solve a big dilemma: How can we foster individuals’ moral competence without infringing their moral rights? How can we teach them without taking away from them the responsibility for their own learning?

These dilemmas have been before my eyes ever since I became engaged in moral psychology and education in the early 1970ties. And these dilemmas are still before my eyes today. The Moral Competence Test and the Konstanz Method of Dilemma-Discussion have both been developed with these dilemmas in mind. To my knowledge, the MCT is the first objective psychological test which uses the participant’s standards for right and wrong for scoring instead of the researcher’s standards. The KMDD also, I believe, breaks new grounds by reserving most of the instruction-time for the participants’ thinking and talking, instead of for the teacher. I do not think that this does not fully resolve the paradox of democratic education, but I think that we opened a big door for it.

If you are involved in research on moral competence, on its nature and on methods of fostering it, I would be happy if you would let me know and send me your research reports (in English or German). I will add it to my online-list. I also want to encourage you to share your research with the world-wide research community by attending conferences and by joining “Research Gate”: https://www.researchgate.net

I wish you peaceful holidays and all the best for 2017 !
Frohe Weihnachten und alles Gute fürs neue Jahr !

Georg Lind

Leviathan: Current Tests are Mistaken and, When Stakes are High, Undermine Democracy

We ought to think about high stakes psychometric tests in a wider contexts than we usually do, namely (a) in the context of human functioning and (b) in the context of human rights and democracy. Then it will become apparent that we have to abandon current psychometric tests and look for alternatives.

(a) All tests which are based on classical test theory (CTT) and its off-springs (e.g., item-response-theory, Rasch-scaling) are mistaken. The hidden psychology of its statistics is at odds with our knowledge of psychological functioning underlying human behavior. These tests are built on a very questionable postulate which says: each and every human response (Y) to a test is determined only by one disposition (X), namely the competence or personality under consideration, except for some degree of random measurement error (e) which can be easily minimized by repeating measurements (Gulliksen 1950):
Y = X + e
Modern variations of classical test theory (Rasch scaling, Item Response Theory, etc.) follow the same logic, except that they deal with continuous dispositions (variables) instead of dichotomous variables.

Common sense as well as psychological research agree that a response to a test item is rarely, if ever, determined by a single disposition but mostly by several dispositions. Moreover, the mixture of determining dispositions is different from person to person. Hence a single response to an item is ambiguous and does not allow to make any valid inference on a particular disposition. If data falsify this believe they are mis-classified as “unreliable.”

Moreover, repeated measurement is mostly not possible with human subjects. Repeated questions have to be varied, and the more we vary the items/tasks of a test in order to reduce “error” or “unreliability,” the less valid a test becomes.

Better methodologies for psychological measurement exist. Egon Brunswik’s (1955) “diacritical method” gave an hint how to solve the problem. But he did not develop a workable methodology. In the 1970ties I used Brunswik’s hint to develop a new, multivariate experimentally designed measurement methodology, called Experimental Questionnaire (EQ). With EQs we can single out the disposition(s) determining an individual’s responses. EQs produce pattern of responses to orthogonally arranged pattern of tasks that let us analyze the degree to which the hypothesized internal factors are at work.

The Moral Competence Test (MCT), designed as an EQ, is in use in many countries since over 40 years. It has produced a great wealth of new findings which would not have been found with classical tests (Lind, 2016). Of course, such tests require much expertise and also much money, probably more money than the private test industry is able to provide. This seems to be a task for the public research facilities like our universities.

(b) High-stakes testing violates human rights and undermines democracy. The frequent evaluation – year by year, month by month, day by day, and sometimes even hour by hour – of students violates their basic rights and, indirectly, also of the rights of their teachers and parents. This inhumane practice has nothing to do with well reasoned and well designed assessments required before taking over a responsible position in our society. Neither has this practice anything to do with test-based studies concerning the efficacy of teaching methods and educational policy-making. Such kinds of test usage are too rare. We would get a much better education if we would select teaching methods and school policies on the basis of efficacy studies, instead of focusing exclusively on selecting students and teachers..

Frequent high-stakes testing is also a threat to democracy. It restricts students’ opportunities for practicing thinking and reflection. It leaves too little opportunity for the development of moral competence. It produces “subjects” not citizens of a democracy. As many decades of research into the development of moral competence shows, that the extreme proportion of time absorbed by the preparation for evaluations and other activities required by authorities prevents students from developing the ability to solve problems and conflicts through thinking and discussion instead of through violence, deceit and power.

Later, as adults, they will be unable to solve problems and conflicts through thinking and discussion, but will have to rely on violence and deceit. Citizens with a low moral competence require, as Thomas Hobbes has pointed out, a “strong state” and an dictator to keep violence, deception and power within bounds. In contrast, morally competent citizens do not need a “Leviathan” (Hobbes).

References

Gulliksen, H. (1950). Theory of mental tests. New York: Wiley.
Lind, G. (2016). How to Teach Morality. Promoting Deliberation and Discussion. Reducing Violence and Deceit. Berlin: Logos publisher.
Wilson, M. (2005). Constructing measures. An item response modeling approach. Mawah, NJ: Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

Konstanz, Oct. 25, 2016

*Contact:

Dr. Georg Lind, Prof. em. of Psychology
Schottenstr. 65
78462 Konstanz, Germany
E-mail: Georg.Lind@uni-konstanz.de
Internet: http://www.uni-konstanz.de/ag-moral/