RE: [xmca] Does Gum make us Smarter? RE: FREE TOEFLR iBT Practice Test!]

From: Russell, Donna L (
Date: Thu Aug 11 2005 - 17:20:56 PDT

hi everyone
the gum chewing research is an excellent example of how people view intelligence as a standardized test score- myself, i believe that human children attend to novelty- the gum chewing rise in test scores is perhaps the result of a group of kids who were suddenly allowed to chew gum at school and perhaps paid a bit more attention to the otherwise routine task of the test because of the novelty
it is the complexity and the singularity of the learning process that is the problem with these studies- how to describe, define and isolate the important aspects of the learning environment and correlate it to a test score- - and it doesn't make for a good news spot-
einstein once said that the study of physics is child's play in comparison to the study of a child's play.
Donna L. Russell, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Instructional Technology
Curriculum and Instructional Leadership
309 School of Education
University of Missouri-Kansas City
Kansas City, MO 64110
(office) 816.235.5871
(cell) 314.210.6996


From: on behalf of Tony Whitson
Sent: Thu 8/11/2005 3:55 PM
To: 'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'
Subject: [xmca] Does Gum make us Smarter? RE: FREE TOEFLR iBT Practice Test!]

Phil writes:

I just get hot under the collar when people talk about these tests in the same breath as talking about educational programs, especially educational outcomes.


Begging everyone's indulgence: After reading that, and since it also relates to the 'signs and tools' discussion, I felt impelled to share the following from an article I'm writing for Don Cunningham's special issue of Semiotica:


Does Chewing Gum Make Us Smarter?


KATIE COURIC, co-host: ... a couple of studies [indicate that chewing gum] may actually make you more intelligent. ....


JAMIE GANGEL reporting: .... according to this expert, they are...


Dr. KENNETH ALLEN (New York University School of Dentistry): Very smart people.


GANGEL: That's right. Two recent studies show chewing gum may make you smarter.


Dr. ALLEN: We found that the students who chewed gum did better on a written exam than the students who did not chew gum.


GANGEL: About how much better?


Dr. ALLEN: The difference between a C+ and a B, which is a significant difference.


GANGEL: Larger studies still need to be done, but more schools are allowing students to chew gum, especially during tests. ... . Even if it does make you smarter, many argue it will never look smart. But the gum makers are prepared to try.


What's interesting for us in this Today Show segment is how unproblematically being 'smarter' is equated with getting higher scores on tests. If we think of test scores as indicators, or as signs of someone's knowledge, understanding, or ability, we cannot jump to the conclusion that the gum-chewers are smarter, without first ruling out the possibility that chewing gum could have a direct positive effect on test performance, even without having an effect on the smartness of those who chew gum while taking the test. That question is not being asked here, however. This is a discourse that does not feature test results as (potentially useful, but also possibly questionable) signs of learning or intellectual ability, but simply and directly as smartness itself, in its objectively documented form.


Could this just be a case of overly glib journalism--or infotainment--that does not really exemplify serious discourse in and about education? Unfortunately, the problem here, far from being the exception, is a pervasive problem in the most serious discourses about education. Diverse examples are offered in this paper as exhibits of education discourse based on an implicit positivism, which is explained as a lived ideology dependant on blind faith in the fundamental positivity of meaning, to the neglect--if not denial--of the central and pervasive mediating role of sign activity, or semiosis.

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