The ABCs of OBE:Whats Wrong with 'Outcome BasedEducation' (IP-1-1994)
January 1, 1994Issue Paper
Throughout America, the federal government is imposing a new educationalprogram called "Outcome Based Education" (OBE). Under OBE, students nolonger earn grades based on their mastery of a curriculum. Instead, studentsare evaluated on whether they have attained various "outcomes," many of them vaguely-defined.In this Issue Paper, education analysts Dwight Williams and Edward Ledermanbreak through OBEs layers of jargon to explain what OBE really means. PartOne, by Williams, analyzes OBE in detail. Part Two, by Lederman, puts OBE inthe context of the education consultation complex.The weight of the evidence suggests that OBE degrades student learning.OBE prohibits successful students from moving on to more advanced materialuntil every student in the class has mastered the current material. Althoughtheoretically intended to promote group learning, the effect has been to slowadvanced students, while slower students slow down even more.OBE denigrates traditional motivations for learningsuch as test scoresbecauseunder OBE no student is allowed to fail.OBE is often presented to parents in a disguised form, under a variety of names, such as "standards-based" education.OBE proponents such as Mrs. Clinton and Labor Secretary Reich see educationas the production of group-oriented, other-directed corporate employees,rather than well-informed, skeptical, individualist citizens of a republic.Although OBE jargon uses attractive terms such as "critical thinking," thoseterms are redefined to mean their opposite. For example, "critical thinking"means the use of emotion, rather than logic, to make politically correctdecisions.To pay an army of OBE education consultants, schools divert vast resourcesinto retraining teachers to use a program of no proven effectiveness.