One of the slides that struck me most at a recent conference was one that showed that, in education, theories are followed that are known to bring no improvement. The slide shows one of the attempts that were made at the beginning of the pandemic to create a vaccine. It was widely reported in the press, money was raised, a debate was generated, but when the researchers were unable to present scientific evidence that it improved health, nobody talked about it anymore and all efforts were focused on vaccines that do improve health.
The same slide contrasted with the way many education policies and schools still operate today. There are “theories” that have been used as a reference for decades without scientific evidence that they improve educational outcomes. Only by abandoning these theories and focusing on those that do demonstrate improvements in outcomes can we not only move towards the real right to education, but also achieve the prestige that education deserves in the scientific community and in society as a whole. These theories include the reproductionism of Althusser and Bourdieu, postmodernism, the genealogy of Foucault, the deconstruction of Derrida, liquid modernity, the systemic perspective, complexity.
It is very common to defend these theories that do not improve anything by praising their intellectual level and saying that those who do not follow them do so because they do not understand them. However, at that congress clear evidence was presented of the very low intellectual level of all these “theories”. For example, we could see how already in 1904 manual workers in Asturias were reading books like The Odyssey or The Divine Comedy, while Bourdieu with his “theory” of “Distinction” in 1979 was still unaware of it.
It also became clear that the basis of this sociologist’s contributions was the elementary confusion between correlation and causation: “if those who come from poor families are more likely to fail at school, this means that schools reproduce social inequalities”, a statement that can only be maintained if one ignores or hides the fact that there are schools where students from poor families do not fail. This failure is as if, in 2020, it had been seen that most attempts to find vaccines for covid had failed and, from this fact, it had been deduced that vaccines do not work to overcome covid. Fortunately, health does not follow those with such elementary errors, and neither do more and more education professionals.