08/04/2011

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Saying no to fads—in dieting and education reform In a new documentary film, Joe Cross, an affable Aussie, who after tipping the scales at 310 pounds and contracting a rare auto-immune disorder, decides to spend 60 days drinking only fruit and vegetable juices. The film follows Cross as he traverses America, Johnny Appleseed style, to inform patrons of truck stops and small town diners about the wonders of an all-juice diet. At first, Cross seems to be hocking yet another fad diet (unsuccessfully, judging by the puckered faces of juice drinkers) that’s based, like many fad diets, on a reductio ad absurdum: fruits and vegetables are good, so cut everything else from your diet. Other diets, of course, proclaim that protein is good, so eat as much meat as you want, just cut out carbs. Some food producers would have us believe that fat is the enemy, so eat what you want, as long as it’s fat-free (Voila! Guiltless cookies!). The truth, we know, lies somewhere between: with a balanced diet and exercise. Like the diet industry, education has had its fair share of fads, past and present, which similarly, have taken good ideas to their illogical extremes. Here are but a few: Too much lecturing is bad; therefore, no lecturing is good. Self-guided learning is good; therefore, classrooms should be completely open—free of uniform curricula, grade-level expectations, doors, and even walls. Good teachers help most kids learn more, so better teachers alone will ensure all kids succeed. Simply Better: What Matters Most to Change the Odds for...

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