We read, in a recent Atlantic article by Olivia Judson, that Sam Bowles, the economist turned evolutionary biologist, has shown that groups of supercooperative, altruistic humans could indeed have wiped out groups of less united folk.
Bowles’s analysis "suggests that individuals who could not conform, or who were disruptive, would have weakened the whole group; any group that failed to drive out such people, or kill them, would have been more likely to be overwhelmed in battle. Conversely, people who fit in—sharing the food they found, joining in hunting, helping to defend the group, and so on—would have given their group a collective advantage, and thus themselves an individual evolutionary advantage."
I thought of the No Excuses school, where students have to conform to the values of the group or not be allowed to remain in the group. Here in Bowles work we find evolutionary precedent for the No Excuses learning environment. The so-called No Excuses schools, such as the MATCH School, Academy of the Pacific Rim, Roxbury Prep, and a number of others, all Commonwealth Charter Schools in Boston, seem to have achieved a definite "collective advantage," at least as measured by results on standardized tests, over other Boston public schools with similar student bodies in regard to economic and ethnic background. Is it because in these schools the disruptive individual is not allowed to remain in the group?
It’s a fact that too many of our schools have allowed the disruptive individual to remain in the classroom and thereby more or less undermine the real learning that might otherwise have gone on. Why is this so? In the name of what do we go on sacrificing the best interests of the group to the "worst" interests of the disruptive individual?
In this regard see two recent letters appearing in Ed Week in response to a Commentary piece by Jonathan Kozol. While explaining the flight of the young teacher from the inner city school Kozol seemed to ignore the effect of the disruptive student attributing the teacher’s flight solely to the influence of No Child Left Behind.
Perhaps this situation, as incomprehensible as it is in many respects, results from our refusal to turn anyone away from our public school classrooms, seeing this all tolerant and all inclusive attitude as representing a kind of higher morality than one where only those individuals, willing and ready to fully accept the learning conditions of the classroom and school, are allowed in.
For the moment too many otherwise intelligent and thoughtful educators don’t see our undisciplined school environments as a threat to our very survival whereas evolutionary precedent is suggesting that is exactly what they may be.