An authoritative examination into the collapse of the scientific method in American education and intellectual life, and the resulting collateral damage.
Edmund writes with verve, and adds more than a dollop of spice by offering $100,000 to certain organizations that prove him wrong. He doggedly advances the notion that America’s egghead community–led by influential intellectuals such as James B. Conant (Harvard president, 1933-1953)–perpetrated a monumental blunder in denigrating the use of the scientific method. In turn, writes Edmund, Conant’s crowd opened the doors to the slipshod thinking that has ruined American education. Fads such as â€œlook-say reading instruction,” â€œnew math” and â€œnew new math” followed in a confusing progression that continues to this day in charter schools and the self-esteem movement. Edmund contends that researchers, using scientific methods, should have halted the process in its tracks by determining quickly the winners and losers among these trendy programs, rather than falling for the â€œdo your own thing” philosophy espoused by Conant and crew. Furthermore, the trial and error method taught by natural philosophers and used by classical scientists has not lost its relevance in a â€œdo as you please” world. Edmund is dumfounded by educators’ unwillingness to use testing and analysis to determine what works best in the classroom. Instead, he writes, the useless debate continues unabated, and the blunder continues its proliferation.
On the doorstep of age 90, Edmund has performed a national service.