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No News Would Be Better Than This News

The headline in the Baltimore Sun (10/16/2005) sounded interesting: "Getting the Brainpower Flowing." If only the article had stopped there, as once written desperate educators tend to jump on troublesome bandwagons.

For many years, the mathematics research community has regarded research in mathematics education as fluff, suspicious, and value-less. The current Federal administration's appeal to priority use of clinical research standards has not helped matters.

Now, in the Baltimore Sun's original article, Laurence Martle, founder of the National Academy of Integrative Learning, claimed that his review of medical literature showed that under-hydration impaired learning. For example, he noted that a school in Idaho made water accessible within classrooms and then saw a substantial drop in special education referrals.

Making the situation even worse is that such "research-based" claims are listened to by educators. For example, on hearing Martel's claims, George Lindley, a middle school principal, used a federal grant to put water coolers in every classroom, justified by his own notice in his school's newsletter to parents: "Providing water to our students in the classroom increases their receptiveness and ability to learn. Research indicates that our children need 4 to 6 ounces of water each hour in order to be healthy and comfortable."

What will educational research justify next? No wonder others outside the educational community dismiss educational research. Apparently Mr. Lindley does not care, as for him, the means justify the means. That is, he further claims: "There's a lot of good research out there to support what we're doing."