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8 Sivan 5761 - May 30, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Deficiencies in Tests for Learning Deficiencies

by R' Zvi Zobin

Science is the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation and theoretical explanation of physical phenomena using the physical senses. Scientists, by observing and measuring, try to find order and regularity in the physical world. If a scientist finds what might be an explanation for a type of physical behavior, he calls it a theory. If the theory withstands the tests of universal application, it becomes a Law. By definition, a scientist does not believe. Either he knows something to be a fact or he conjectures what might perhaps be a fact -- but he will agree that it is only a theory. If someone believes in science, then it ceases to be a science but becomes a cult.

This means that no one is obliged to accept anything from the world of Science if it contradicts what he knows to be true. However, there have been many scientists who have believed in theories even though they contradict common experience.

For example, for hundreds of years, people believed that the earth was flat, even though common experience demonstrates that it is curved. In more recent times, when scientists regarded light to be purely an electromagnetic wave, scientists held that the universe was full of ether through which the electromagnetic waves traveled. They held that this ether was an all pervading, infinitely elastic, massless medium, transparent and formless, yet had a tensile strength greater than the strongest steel.

Even though common experience testifies that it is not possible for there to be such a thing as the ether as they describe it, nevertheless, it was considered to be true and they taught and wrote about it in textbooks. And nowadays, scientists scoff at the very idea that such a notion could even have been considered...

In our own time, many scientists still believe in the theory of evolution, even though religious Christian scientists raised objections to it as soon as the theory was announced and these objections have never been answered, and the theory continues to become more incredible as science advances.

Another problem which discolors the authority of scientific research is that often, tentative postulations made by researchers will be presented to the public as established fact. Suggestions prefaced by expressions of modest surmise, such as, "It might be possible that..." in the original research papers become revamped by textbooks into tenets of belief.

Psychology is the study of the psyche, whatever that means. Since you cannot isolate the psyche as a physical entity, measure it or observe it under the microscope, psychology cannot be regarded as a science. Rather, because it is a study of human behavior, it is a branch of the Humanities or Social Studies.

It is pertinent to note two laws of physics which relate to testing.

The Heisenberg Principle of Uncertainty is based on the fact that the very process of observing affects the behavior of what is being observed. Therefore, it is impossible to determine anything with absolute certainty.

The Butterfly Effect shows that in an extremely complex system, a very small change can eventually cause a large effect. The classic example given is that a butterfly flapping its wing in Tokyo can initiate a change in atmospheric conditions which can eventually cause rain to fall in Paris.

Therefore, accurate and reliable testing is only possible when there is a simplistic relationship between the test and the target of the test and when the procedure is shielded from all outside influences during the test.

It is not possible now to even begin to describe the power and complexity of the human brain and the way this power and complexity manifests itself in issues such as intelligence, behavior, mood, relationships and any of the other manifold aspects of personality and human activities. Suffice to say that it is impossible to relate to any aspect of human behavior in the simplistic way of physics or chemistry or any of the natural sciences.

Herein lies the danger of attempting to reduce education to the level of a science and a technology.

Testing might "prove" that a child has certain limited capabilites, yet a mother can know from her own experience with the child that he has much more potential than the testing shows. Time after time, children and youngsters who have been declared to be of only minimal potential have blossomed and developed into regular people once the "right way" has been found to help them.

People are not machines and education needs to be an art which never loses sight neither of the foibles of the human personality nor of the potential of the Jewish neshoma.


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