Welcome Wisdom & Instruction!
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
The more I read, the more confused I think I am becoming. I was asking my husband all sorts of questions and sharing quandaries in my thinking; not sure that any of it was connecting. My system 2 is on overload, I think.  But then again, maybe things are not as bad as I think and my thinking is getting better through this process. I am afraid to say, because according to what I am reading, either way, I am most likely to be wrong.  Do I sound confused and ready for spring break?
Author Bobby Duffy states, “There are all sorts of reasons why we’re fooled into believing things that aren’t true. We get some things wrong because others have fooled us – the media, our peers, politicians. But just as often, we’re fooling ourselves, leaning on wrongful or wishful thinking rather than on facts when considering the world around us. We are motivated to use those facts in a particular way, and it’s harder to resist that urge, it may seem.”  I am not a regular news watcher. I catch bits and pieces here and there. I find that the news is distracting and often misleading. I get caught up in the emotion of the injustices, hatred displayed, language toward other humans, and start to look at the world from a negative perspective. While I desire to know and care about the happenings around the world because it affects people, I also find that it can fool us into thinking that things are worse than they seem, and as Duffy shares that some things are actually getting better.  From How to Read Numbers by Chivers, “Often though, numbers in the news are presented without the context that you need to work out whether it’s a big number or not. The most important piece of context is the denominator.”  Knowing that not all of the perspectives or context are shared in the news, presented in an emotionally charged fashion towards one bias or another, makes it really difficult for observers to decipher what is true and believable. When presented, facts are complex and are contingent on a selective view of the underlying reality, especially the underlying view of the one relaying the facts. 
So what makes a fact true? Is only something determined by data, a fact? What differentiates a fact from a bias? Or a truth from a bias? Some biases are formed by truth, so if some believe that truth is relative, then. . .? If a bias were formed from truth, then wouldn’t that be a truth?
The author pointed out that when people are asked to estimate a statistic, it is either grossly overestimated or underestimated. We overestimate what we worry about as much as worry about what we overestimate. Why so? It appears to be caused by a phenomenon called ‘emotional innumeracy’. This is when we are subconsciously influenced by personal and societal fears and prejudices. I see this happen so often in education when data is released and the pendulum swings to another framework, strategy or model. While this is not all bad, I see how some throw out new ideas because the pendulum has swung again, sometimes to a way of instruction that was common early in their career.
Right now, there is much debate about how students learn to read. You may have heard of the Science of Reading.  The way reading is being taught in schools has shifted as new data is released on how students learn to read. In many educational environments, the way reading was taught looked more like a Reader’s Workshop model of instruction with learning to read through text immersion, repetition, relying on picture clues to decode unknown words and teaching reading strategies for decoding. However in recent years, this balanced literacy framework has been challenged as lead literacy researchers go after big names like Lucy Calkins (Columbia University) and Gay Su Pinnell and Irene Fountas. If you are interested, listen to the podcast “Sold a Story” about the current controversy.  The Science of Reading is redirecting educators to think critically about how students learn to read, focusing instruction more on the mechanics of reading (phonemic awareness, phonics, phonological awareness, comprehension, vocabulary acquisition).
In the state of Michigan, we have the Read by Grade Three Law. In 2016, the Michigan Legislature passed a law that requires schools to identify learners who are struggling with reading and writing. The law states that third graders may repeat third grade if they are more than one grade level behind beginning with the 2019-2020 school year.  More than three full school years into Michigan’s controversial Read by Grade Three law, 52% of Michigan’s third-grade students had a “reading deficiency” between first and third grade and the rates were higher among historically marginalized student groups, researchers reported.  The Read by Grade Three Law, caused a lot of panic for administrators, educators, school leaders, parents, and students. New developments to the law, post-Covid, are in the works as we speak, read. There are so many layers to how a child develops the identity of a reader that we must look at the bigger picture.
Our view of reality is as much shaped by our concerns as the other way round. In the book, How to Read Numbers, authors Tom and David Chivers reminded us that the most important piece of context is the denominator. Is 52% a big number? What’s the denominator? Or as Duffy challenges, maybe not everything in our version of reality is actually real and that we need to be open to consider that we might in fact be wrong. We can learn a lot from our wrongness.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
 Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013). Bobby Duffy, Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything: A Theory of Human Misunderstanding (New York: Hachette Book Group, Inc., 2018),
 Ibid, 153.
 Ibid, 230.
 Tom and David Chivers, How to Read Numbers (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2021), 63.
 Ibid, 66.
 Ibid, 115.
 Amplify, What is the Science of Reading, https://scienceofreading.amplify.com/
 APM Reports, Sold a Story Podcast, https://features.apmreports.org/sold-a-story/
 Michigan.gov, What is the Read by Grade Three Law? https://www.google.com/search?q=read+by+grade+three+law&rlz=1C5GCEM_enUS1015US1015&oq=Read+by+Grade+Three+Law&aqs=chrome.0.0i512j0i22i30j0i390l3.6932j1j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
 Jennifer Chambers, “Study finds more than half of Michigan students between first, third grades had reading deficiency”, The Detroit News, February 14, 2022, accessed March 20, 2023. https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2022/02/14/michigan-third-grade-reading-literacy-deficiency-study/6757938001/
13 responses to “Welcome Wisdom & Instruction!”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Cathy, you have given me/us so much to chew on here. Your perspectives within the educational construct are really fascinating.
You mentioned how in education “when data is released…the pendulum swings to another framework, strategy or model.” I have noticed a similar dynamic within evangelical circles, as well as within leadership thought. So often, we (pastors and leaders) will turn on a dime depending upon the latest book, seminar, “it” church, etc. etc. I can recognize this propensity in me, especially when I was younger in ministry, and I can so clearly see it in other younger pastors. We have an adage on our staff in regards to mission statements, discipleship pathways, etc: “If we are getting sick of it, the average person is just starting to get it.” This keeps us from swinging the pendulum so quickly and often.
Within education, do you have mechanisms in place that help keep the system from swinging like this?
I wish that I could say we have a clear mechanism for evaluating shifts like this. It is a tricky mix of: data, varying interpretations of data, teams of staff that evaluate our current practice and measuring whether or not those practices align with our system goals, budget and more. There are many layers. While it is helpful to one degree, having so many layers becomes tricky when decisions need to be made, often taking longer than anticipated and losing momentum in the process.
I enjoyed your post, and especially your thoughts about childhood reading; such a nuanced situation that is hard to solve by broad brush policies.
I found I zeroed in on your comments about not consuming news, and I understand the rationale. I have heard similar sentiments from others. I am curious, though, where do you go when you need to make informed decisions?
Thank you for asking! Much of the decision making process is tied to reading data, collecting data, and evaluating that data in light of our needs. We have a school wide Data Hub where student data is stored and frequently visited to see shifts in our student population need.
I find your post fascinating as an Oregon resident where the educational leaders have taken many, many risks with K-12 education. Oregon school systems (except for a few) are rated low nationally because of these risks taken. I am curious how your learning in our program is impacting your job as you coach teachers? Especially in light of your post.
At this point in the program, I see much of the changes in my career happening in me. . . I now know I am wrong about nearly everything. 😀. But in all seriousness, much of the change in me has been internal.
Thanks for giving us a peek into the world of education. It seems it’s a world that is very much concerned with truth and facts and at the same time very susceptible to misperceptions, manipulated statistics, etc.
Given all we’ve learned about misperceptions and statistics, I’m curious how you would talk to the teachers you lead (or maybe even the parents?) about these issues. I wonder where you could bring this new knowledge to bear in your conversations at work?
Education is a world very much concerned by facts and and often follows trends. How have you experienced/witnessed education as being susceptible to misperceptions and manipulated statistics?
Much of how I talk with teachers looks like listening and asking reflective questions. I find that the cultural relativism that exists in our culture and leaks into every environment to be so concerning. For example. . . . When a parent argues with the Office Professional about marking their child tardy, arguing that time is fluid and there is no purpose to an end and start time to the school day (the child was five minutes late to school).
I felt so validated when you wrote, “I am not a regular news watcher.” I was afraid to disclose that in my post, but I have to limit my intake and stick to a few headlines and a bit of local news. One of the most challenging things for me in returning to the states has been the bombardment of all bad and contradicting news coming at me from multiple sources, and the polarization that seems to create. It has been a hard transition. My news sources were vastly different in Asia. Ranging from a 15-minute news report in Special English on Voice of America to a 20-minute international news program in English on the local television station. We had go to a hotel to watch CNN International or the BBC World News for a number of years before cable TV was common place. Twenty minutes of news from a global perspective is just enough for me.
I love that you have such a unique perspective on how we learn starting in childhood! I am humbled daily when my children ask for help with homework and I only know how I was taught and their strategies for figuring out problems are so much more open, varied and complex all for the better, but it sure does humble me when I can’t help them:). I have read and re-read your statement on biases and I’ve heard you talk about it , I am struggling so I’m going to humbly ask can you speak more into this process of thinking? Not because I think you are wrong, but because I need more education.
you said “So what makes a fact true? Is only something determined by data, a fact? What differentiates a fact from a bias? Or a truth from a bias? Some biases are formed by truth, so if some believe that truth is relative, then. . .? If a bias were formed from truth, then wouldn’t that be a truth? ” say more for me please, help me.
I totally understand about working with kids on math. . .when my girls were learning partial sums and new methods for solving division, it really through me. I needed a course for myself. 😀
My brain exploded (read probably more like vomited) with all sorts of thoughts around biases, facts, truth, etc. While desiring to be aware of biases and how they impact my thinking, I don’t think that all biases are to be thrown out as illogical but rather there should be checks and balances to those biases from Scripture when a person maintains a Biblical worldview (believing that absolute moral truth exist).
For example, Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” Because a person (who sees the world from a Biblical worldview) might believe that as Truth, is it a bias (an inclination for something/someone)? Yes. Is it possible that that bias is also a fact?
I am not questioning Jesus’ words but how those words impact our thinking and acting. Recently, a child whose biological upbringing was Muslim and attends Kid Zone (our children’s ministry program) with his foster parents asked me “Ms. Cathy, when Jesus said “I am the way, the Truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me. . . does that mean that Jesus is the way to heaven not Alla?” Keeping in mind the child and context, I explained that as followers of Jesus, Christians, we believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father in heaven except through Jesus. We talked more about faith and believing. Then our conversation ended with the child saying “I love Jesus.”
Hear in my thoughts an underlying caution for myself and those I lead . . . a caution of conforming to current ideologies and trends of thinking instead of being transformed (Romans 12:2).
Cultural relativism is a real concern. It is the idea that all beliefs, customs, and ethics are relative to the individual within the person’s own social context. (from Carl R. Trueman’s book: Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked The Sexual Revolution). Much of the research related to cultural relativism and its effects on our culture today illuminates a journey of thinking that involves a current theory of expressive individualism.
When I think about biases, facts, truths I wonder how the appealing and subtle allure of expressive individualism can deter followers of Jesus to conform away from Truth? Jesus’ words from John 15:18-19, didn’t make following sound necessarily appealing or easy.
Jana. . . sorry for the long response. Lots of thinking and pondering going on. . . not sure I shed any light into your questions. 😌
Cathy, first of all I love how you often (always?) bring us back to Scripture in your posts. That honestly helps keep me spiritually grounded as we analyze all of this dense information. Thank you.
Second, I want to affirm your statement “maybe things are not as bad as I think and my thinking is getting better through this process.” I know my thinking is getting better even though sometimes it feels like I have no idea what I’m doing and I would encourage you that you are a great thinker and write compelling analysis that helps the rest of us to grow.
In short: Not as bad as we think… and we still have a long way to grow!
Amen to that, Tim. I have a lot of growing to do. I’m feeling the growing pains. 🙂