Education Reform as Religious Cultism

Numerology is pseudoscience involving numbers. Lots of Americans, for example, believe in what they call angel numbers—what you see when look at a clock and it reads 1:11 or 2:22 or 3:33, etc. Each of these repeated sequences of the same number is supposed to have some Deep Spiritual Significance—is supposed to be “the universe telling you something.” LOL. Well, yeah. The universe is telling you that, according to your clock, it is eleven minutes after one. Angel numbers are faddish contemporary superstition in the West. They are numerology.

Numerology is ancient. It was practiced in the earliest civilizations. It was “science” before there was science. Pythagoras discovered that harmony could be produced by dividing a string or the inside of a flute into fractions. Then he decided that the heavenly spheres must have fractional relations to one another and must produce a “music of the spheres.” He created a cult based on stuff like this and on not eating fava beans. Astrology is a variety of numerology. So are so-called “lucky numbers” and “sacred numbers.” So is the so-called “Bible code,” in which hidden messages are supposed to be encrypted into Biblical texts based on numbers assigned to letters of the Hebrew or Greek or Aramaic or Latin alphabets.

Schizophrenics often start thinking that numbers that they randomly encounter have significances that they don’t have. This is one kind of a logical fallacy or, in severe cases, pathology, known as apophenia–seeing in random input patterns that aren’t actually there. Math is about patterns. Seeing mathematical patterns that aren’t there is numerology. The visional analogue of this is paraidolia—seeing visual patterns where they don’t exist—images of Jesus on your toast, ghosts on the moor.

It’s sometimes claimed that “you can argue any point of view with statistics.” That’s a claim that statistics is a pseudoscience, that it’s numerology. But that’s wrong. You can argue any point of view with accidentally or intentionally FAULTY statistics.

Just wanted to get that clear. Numerology is mathematical pseudoscience. Sometimes it’s superstitious belief. Sometimes it’s just chicanery, a flim flam, a scam. Well, you wouldn’t understand this. It’s very deep. It involves numbers, but what it says is that you should send me $100,000 in cash to invest for you, and you can’t lose. Here’s a PO Box in the Cayman Islands.

And that’s what current “Education Reform” is. It’s numerology. It goes by the name “data-driven decision making,” and it’s the brainchild of Billy Gates. All you have to do is to try things, give standardized state tests to see if they work, and then tweak what you’ve done based on the test results. Oh, and fail or advance students based on their test scores, and replace schools and teachers and administrators based on those scores as well.

But—and here’s the rub–if the “data” aren’t valid, then the decision making is just bullshit. Garbage in, garbage out. This is why the methods by which the “data” collected by standardized testing really matters. Every time a state releases its standardized test results, journalists write breathless screeds about how this or that is failing or showing success because of the test scores. And they NEVER—at least I have never seen this in the hundreds of such news reports I’ve seen over the years—stop to ask themselves whether the state test scores can be trusted, whether the tests measure what they purport to measure–are valid–and whether they do so reliably–in repeated trials.

They don’t. The state tests don’t validly measure what they purport to measure, and so the “decision making” based on those scores is a type of numerology. It’s bs. It’s a variety of pseudoscience. It’s angel numbers and astrology.

Follow this link to find out why:

In the essay linked to above, I treat only the ELA tests. The math tests have a whole other set of problems, but they are somewhat better than are the state ELA tests, which are abysmal.

JOURNALISTS; Don’t be so freaking naive! Don’t simply assume that the “data” provided by the state tests are accurate. They aren’t.


About Bob Shepherd

interests: curriculum design, educational technology, learning, linguistics, hermeneutics, rhetoric, philosophy (Continental philosophy, Existentialism, metaphysics, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, epistemology, ethics), classical and jazz guitar, poetry, the short story, archaeology and cultural anthropology, history of religion, prehistory, veganism, sustainability, Anglo-Saxon literature and language, systems for emergent quality control, heuristics for innovation
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2 Responses to Education Reform as Religious Cultism

  1. Excellent explanation!
    Far too many, almost all, in public education accept that numerology. The first time I heard of DDDM in education was in the mid to late 90s. Having worked with numbers/statistics in business I I told the principal at the time that what he was pushing (as in drug pushing) was bogus. “But that is the way everyone is doing things these days.” Typical adminimal response. Sad.

    And it’s the students who have paid the price for the adults’ idiocies and idiologies.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. sherlockmarie says:

    Absolutely spot on, Bob, thank you. Children are being turned into ‘data’-producing machines, and the data so produced is garbage. It’s a tragedy all around.

    Liked by 1 person

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