The Need for a Culture of Evidence for Students

This webpage provides:

§         Context of Traditional Scholarship

§         Context of Civics and Justice Sandra Day O’Conner

§         Context of the Student’s Practical Realities

§         Context of Evidence as a Possible “Keystone Habit”


Context of Traditional Scholarship

“Quoting other writers and citing the places where their words are to be found are by now such common practices that it is pardonable to look upon the habit as natural, not to say instinctive. It is of course nothing of the kind, but a very sophisticated act, peculiar to a civilization that uses printed books [and other documents], believes in evidence, and makes a point of assigning credit or blame in a detailed, verifiable way.” [Bold added]

Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graff, The Modern Researcher,
5th ed. (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992), 273.


Context of Civics and Justice Sandra Day O’Conner

For the practical realities of having the republic survive, we need what Justice O’Conner has expressed.

In the last years, Justice Sandra Day O’Conner added to those expressing concerns: “We face difficult challenges at home and abroad…. Meanwhile divisive rhetoric and a culture of sound bites threaten to drown out rational dialogue and debate. We cannot afford to continue to neglect the preparation of future generations for active and informed citizenship.”

Entering the bolded phrase in an Internet search results in many websites quoting Justice O’Connor.


For more on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, click here: For information on her efforts to reduce the problems, see

Justice O’Connor: “One unintended effect of the No Child Left Behind Act, which is intended to help fund teaching of science and math to young people, is that it has effectively squeezed out civics education because there is no testing for that anymore and no funding for that,” she said. “And at least half of the states no longer make the teaching of civics and government a requirement for high school graduation. This leaves a huge gap, and we can’t forget that the primary purpose of public schools in America has always been to help produce citizens who have the knowledge and the skills and the values to sustain our republic as a nation, our democratic form of government.”[bold added]

New York Times; author Seth Schiesel – interview with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor


“Former Justice Promotes Web-Based Civics Lessons” (Read online)


Context of the Student’s Practical Realities

Some of these students need to know other methods for reading, thinking, and writing. Although some are not trying, many are trying hard to do things that no one could make work. Their “magical hypotheses” about how to study, about what evidence is, and about bosses and professors mean by writing mean that they are:

§         Wasting their time on busy work that could never help anyone learn

§         Trying hard to do things that an Einstein could not make work


For students to succeed, they must not only stop habits of work that are useless, but also begin to recognize that evidence must be “verifiable, usable”—not just opinion or pretty words. To put it simply, they must read accurately and understand what they read in a common sense way:

§         If they need to make a personal or financial decision

§         If they want to get and keep a job that pays well
Few company would (or could) pay for workers who have to be told each action that they are to do and can’t read on their own.

Context of Evidence as a Possible “Keystone Habit”

Look at the link with student issues that may reveal the system. Notice how many of the problems could not continue in a world where students could not just assert that something was true, but had to show evidence.

I learned about O'Neill's history when I was writing my book, The Power of Habit, which explores the science of habit formation. I was interested in Alcoa's story because people had told it was an example of a certain kind of habit -- a "Keystone Habit" -- and it's power to transform lives and organizations.


So how did O'Neill make one of the largest, stodgiest, and most potentially dangerous companies into a profit machine and a bastion of safety?


By attacking one habit and then watching the changes ripple through the organization. By targeting Alcoa's keystone habit.


"I knew I had to transform Alcoa," O'Neill told me. "But you can't order people to change."


"That's not how the brain works. So I decided I was going to start by focusing on one thing. If I could start disrupting the habits around one thing, it would spread throughout the entire company."


O'Neill's success at Alcoa is just one example of a keystone habit, a pattern that has the power to start a chain reaction, changing other habits as it moves through an organization. Keystone habits, I found in writing my book, can influence how people work, eat, play, live, spend, and communicate.[bold added]

Charles Duhigg, Reporter, The New York Times

“How 'Keystone Habits' Transformed a Corporation” Posted: 02/27/2012

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business




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