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Scanning Brains for Success

Scanning Brains for Success

You can often hear the most interesting things on talk radio, particularly at the height of campaign season. This afternoon, Eduflack was surfing the AM stations and came across and interesting tale from primary season in Indiana. As he is barnstorming for his wife in the Hoosier State, former President Bill Clinton spoke on education. More importantly, he spoke on scientifically based education.

In what I’m guessing was a detour from the approved stump speech, Clinton told the audience that there were now machines out there that could scan the brains of everyone in the audience. With those scans, he continued, we could get every person (except those with diagnosed learning disabilities) to learn and achieve. If we can do it, why aren’t we getting our children to learn?

If I didn’t know any better, the Clinton campaign is now advocating for scientifically based education research. For those in the trenches of the reading wars, we’ve long heard the impact of such scans and brain patterns on learning. Just take a look at the work from folks like Sally Shaywitz, Guinevere Eden, and many others, and you can see the power of the scan. It is just amazing to see how brain activity changes as students are stimulated with scientifically based instruction.

For many, learning is just as much art as it is science. And that’s unfortunate. In the past decade alone, we have seen significant quantitative research on effective instruction. We know what works. We know what we can prove (and we know what we can’t). Scientifically based education is about getting what is proven effective into the classroom. It’s about ensuring that every child can indeed succeed in the classroom.

Bill Clinton is right. We can scan the brain, and use the technology to improve instruction and classroom success. The research is clear. Scientifically based education research works. Maybe those steadfast opponents of scientifically based research need a quick run in the old scanner themselves.


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