Education: The Answer is in the Feedback Loop

August 7, 2008

When something is broke, the reason why can always be traced back to a problem in the feedback loop, at least that’s my theory.

There are a lot of studies out there that pin the troubles with education on this, that or the other factors.  But, the real problems are in the feedback loops. 

Recently, my brother and I discussed a study (i.e. statistical model) that showed that individual academic results could be best “explained” by household factors such as level of education as parents, number of books in the house, etc.  I put “explained” in quotes because statistical models don’t really explain anything, but that’s another discussion.

My brother and I were raised in the same house yet had different academic outcomes.  We pondered how our story fit with the previously mentioned study.  Having lived through that story, I know the answer.  My brother and I took the feedback we received from the education process (parent expectations, grade performance, teacher feedback) differently.  One of us decided early on what he wanted to do in life and viewed formal education as a distraction to achieving that goal.  The other responded much better to the feedback and altered performance based on that feedback (e.g. studied more, seeked out help from others).

Now, we’re both doing roughly the same in terms of economic output and I’d say have roughly the same potential for future economic production, so that might bring up the question why education is important at all?  I have the answer for that too.  If the one of us who didn’t have much need for education had taken it seriously, my bets would’ve been on him for having a much greater future economic potential.

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