Disconnect on STEM and Common Core: The Sunk Cost Fallacy.
Recently Michael Petrelli of Fordham Institute appeared at a Missouri House Interim Committee meeting at the behest of Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro. She had been directed to appear to answer questions about Common Core. The commissioner and other DESE officials refuse to meet with the public and legislators in citizen meetings and accountability for the department’s Common Core decisions has been absent. The legislators wondered why DESE will not send representatives to these meetings and there was no definitive answer from the commissioner on DESE’s disinterest in meeting with citizens on common core issues.
What did come out of this hearing is the admission from DESE and Petrelli that Common Core will not make students ready for 4 year universities and Common Core educated students will not be STEM ready. These were the original selling points on these untested, non-researched claims on why states should adopt Common Core. If a product has been f0und to be defective and not producing a desired outcome, then why keep the product?
Common Core proponents have repeatedly stated that states can’t abandon Common Core because so much money and so much time has been invested. All that money will be wasted:
Get ready for the new talking points from the proponents of Common Core. The first comes from the Indiana PTA (already repeated by Missouri DESE) in that because we’ve spent money on unproven, non-researched standards and teacher training that may or may not be good educational practices, we need to keep spending more to “see if it works”. Maybe if Ford had gone along with that line of thought the Edsel would have been an even more expensive boondoggle.
From theindychannel.com and Indiana PTA joins discussion over Common Core standards, pushing for implementation:
“Indiana PTA says some school districts have already spent two years planning and making purchasing decisions based on the implementation of Common Core, and it’s too late to turn back now.
“Let’s follow through with what we’ve started and let’s see how it plays out, instead of switching mid-stream and causing the school systems to have to go out and spend even more money to switch curriculum again,” said Sharon Wise, president of Indiana PTA, which represents 24,000 parents and students.”
The National PTA has received over $1 Million from Bill Gates to push CCSS. This line of “we’ve already spent money and time in teacher training” was used in the latest DESE video from the principal Beth Houf.
Here’s a response to that argument of “sunk cost fallacy” from Julia Galef, President of the Center of Applied Rationality.
So I want to introduce you to a concept known as the sunk cost fallacy. Imagine that you’re going to the store and you’re halfway there when you realize, “Oh wait, the store is actually closed today.” But you figure, “Well, I’ve already come ten blocks. I might as well just go all the way to the store, you know, so that my ten blocks of walking won’t have been wasted. Well, this is a transparently silly way to reason and I doubt that any of us would actually go all the way to a store that we knew was closed just because we’d already gone ten blocks.
But this pattern of thinking is actually surprisingly common in scenarios that are a little bit less obvious than the store example. So, say you’re in a career and it’s becoming more and more clear to you that this isn’t actually a fulfilling career for you. You’d probably be happier somewhere else. But you figure I’ll just stick with it because I don’t want my past ten years of effort and time and money to have been wasted. So the time and money and effort and whatever else you’ve already spent is what we call the sunk cost. It’s gone no matter what you do going forward. And now you’re just trying to decide given that I’ve already spent that money or time or whatever, what choice is going to produce the best outcome for my future.
And the sunk cost fallacy then means making a choice not based on what outcome you think is going to be the best going forward but instead based on a desire not to see your past investment go to waste.
Once you start paying attention to the sunk cost fallacy you’ll probably notice at least a few things that you would like to be doing differently. And maybe those will be small scale things like, in my case, I now am much more willing to just abandon a book if a hundred pages in I conclude that I’m not enjoying it and I’m, you know, not getting any value out of it rather than trudging through the remaining 200-300 pages of the book just because I don’t want, you know, my past investment of a hundred pages, the time that I spent reading those hundred pages to go to waste.
And you might notice some large things, too. For example, I was in a Ph.D. program and started realizing, “Gee, this really isn’t the field for me.” And you know, it’s a shame that I have spent the last several years preparing for and working in this Ph.D. program but I genuinely predict going forward that I’d be happier if I switched to another field. And sometimes it really does take time to fully acknowledge to yourself that you don’t have any good reason to stick with the job or Ph.D. or project that you’ve been working on so long because sunk costs are painful. But at least having the sunk cost fallacy on your radar means that you have the opportunity at least to push past that and make the choice that instead will lead to the better outcomes for your future.
Note this comment from a reader:
the point of a fallacy is a break down in logic using some logical principle. If you know it won’t benefit you, you ought not do it anymore. If you don’t know it won’t benefit you, then you should probably continue. It is only a fallacy when you know for high degree of certainty you are wasting your time to continue.
So the question legislators and school boards should be asking Chris Nicastro (and Michael Petrelli should he appear again) is why is DESE and local districts insistent on implementing Common Core? If the stated original goal of making students STEM ready and ready for colleges in which STEM is offered won’t be accomplished by implementing Common Core, why should money be appropriated to this reform from the legislature or school districts?
DESE and Common Core proponents are wasting their time, our taxpayer and our students’ education to continue with these privately held standards and assessments. There is a “high degree of certainty” via CCSS proponents Nicastro and Petrelli that it is indeed a waste of time to continue with this failed educational reform. It will not make students STEM ready for STEM colleges. It is a sunk cost fallacy that must be revealed and stopped by the Legislature and school boards.