Chapter 3: Some Real Facts About Outcome-Based Education

Church Worker Handbook
What They Didn't Teach You in Bible College and Seminary

The pros of outcome based education (OBE) are itemized and explained as viewed from a conservative and evangelical perspective.

© 1996 G. Edwin Lint

Mechanicsburg, PA 17055


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Some Real Facts About Outcome-Based Education (OBE) of Special Interest to Evangelicals

Author's note: I wrote these facts originally March 10, 1993, while I was working for the Pennsylvania Department of Education as an education adviser. Now, I am retired from public education and working as an educational consultant. I still feel the same way. [For what it's worth, I'm a born-again Christian and a registered Republican.]
G. Edwin Lint, M.A. -- Feb. 5, 2012

* * * * *
Much has been written and said against outcome-based education from the political and theological perspectives. Now, consider the facts:

OBE Fact 1: Outcome-Based Education is a method for organizing how we run our schools.
There is no inherent evil in it, contrary to the beliefs of many evangelicals. The concept of OBE doesn't promote homosexuality, secular humanism, occult practices, immorality, the new age, or a new world order. Not by itself, it doesn't.

OBE Fact 2: Outcome-Based Education is nothing but a wheelbarrow.
You can use a wheelbarrow to haul fresh fruits and vegetables. Or, you can use a wheelbarrow to haul garbage. Outcome-Based Education can provide good education if the outcomes, methods, and materials are good.

Or-- Outcome-Based Education can provide rotten education if the content of the curriculum is poor (or evil).

OBE Fact 3: Just exactly what is OBE?
Outcome-Based Education is just what the name implies. Instead of being time-based, it is outcome-based. Students get credit for learning specific things-- which are known as learning-outcomes-- not just for putting in their time. For example, if a child can read at the third grade level on the first day of kindergarten, true Outcome-Based Education says that instruction should start at the third or fourth grade level-- not way down at the Fun with Dick and Jane level.

OBE Fact 4: With time-based education,
WHEN a student learns a skill or fact is more important than WHETHER or not he or she learns it.

OBE Fact 5: With Outcome-Based Education, time is irrelevant.
WHETHER a skill is learned is the important thing.

OBE Fact 6: If Outcome-Based Education is new, what is it replacing?
For over 100 years, public schools in the United States have been organized according to calendar-based and clock-based education. Most public schools are in session 180 days a year, five and one half hours a day, for 13 years, counting kindergarten. So, Outcome-Based Education is replacing Time-Based Education.

OBE Fact 7: Outcome-Based Education is driven by three cardinal laws of learning:

A. Don't teach a skill which has already been learned. This annoys students.
B. Don't teach a skill which will never be used. This bores students.
C. Don't teach a skill until the student is ready. This frustrates students.

Most children come to school loving it. What makes them start to dislike it? Being bored. Being annoyed. Being frustrated. We adults hate anything which bores, annoys, and frustrates us, too.

OBE Fact 8: Outcome-Based Education can be of particular value to students who attend private day schools or who are being schooled at home.
Since the critical issues are what is known, not when it is learned, students can move into or out of an OBE program without experiencing gaps or overlaps in their education.

OBE Fact 9: Gifted students may stand to gain the most from Outcome-Based Education.
The converse is true; gifted students may lose the most if it is not fully implemented. Consider the TV sitcom of a teenager who became a physician while still in his early teens. With Outcome-Based Education, any child could be a real-life teenage doctor if he or she has the mental ability to learn-- while still in the elementary grades-- the things a fledgling doctor needs to know in order to enter med school.

OBE Fact 10: Concerned parents can do some useful things to help a child's education, with or without OBE in place.
First, keep a close eye on WHAT is being taught in terms of the planned courses and the outcomes. Make sure that wheelbarrow is hauling fresh fruits and vegetables and not hauling garbage. And second-- get involved in what the school is doing. Go to PTA meetings. Don't miss parent-teacher conferences. Even offer to volunteer to serve as an unpaid teacher aid.

And if you smell garbage, yell loud and long!!!

Behind the Scenes at a State Department of Education

The revised curriculum regulations spelled out in Chapter 5 of the Regulations of the [Pennsylvania, USA] State Board of Education made it possible to implement outcome-based education. When these regulations were published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, July 24, 1993, it caused quite a bit of consternation among many evangelicals. At this time, my duties at the Pennsylvania Department of Education included attending many of the training and implementation seminars designed to help put OBE into place. In addition, I was a member of a work group which drafted a section of the original required outcomes.

The e-mail messages which follow show the stand I took regarding the relationship of OBE to the mindset of evangelicals. Make special note of the comments made by my supervisors at the end of this section.

08:33am - Mon, Nov 30, 1992

To: Joe Bard [Then Commissioner of Basic and Secondary Education]
From: Ed Lint CC: Jim Tucker, Linda Rhen

This is in regard to the rumors I hear that Don Carroll [then Secretary of Education] is planning to debate Peg Luksic [then potential candidate for Pa. governor] on issues surrounding OBE. Since she is an evangelical (as well as a Republican), you and Don may wish to consider some relevant issues on how evangelicals view OBE. Since my January report on this issue to Jim Tucker, which he in turn forwarded to you, I have learned more about the ongoing controversy between evangelicals and the supporters of OBE. (I am attaching that January exchange to the end of this message, for your review.)

First, let me say I am certainly an evangelical. I was raised in an evangelical home and earned Bachelor of Science in Bible and Bachelor of Theology degrees from an evangelical college, before going on for a Master's in educational supervision and administration. Therefore, I am in a position to see both sides of the issue.

By definition, an evangelical believes in the Bible as the divinely-inspired word of God and in his/her responsibility to share the truths of the Bible with others. (Hence the term "evangelical"; the word "fundamentalist" is a media term which is not used inside the evangelical movement.)

Second, I firmly believe in the merits of outcomes-based education. Bill Spady [a major national author on OBE] says the one-room school was the forerunner of modern OBE concepts. It may not be a total coincidence that I spent 5.5 years of my 8 elementary years in such a school with eight grades in one room and one teacher. (Northumberland County, 1940-41; 1944-48.) I further believe that WHETHER rather than WHEN is the primary issue in all education.

Next, let me give you an update on the situation in my own church. I met with the "God and Country Committee" and presented my view that OBE is not out of harmony with traditional evangelical values. At first, my fellow worshippers had a hard time believing that a born-again Christian could be a professional educator working in the Department of Education. Once I established my credibility, we went on to have a fruitful discussion. I emphasized the importance of getting involved with the local strategic planning groups as well as the curriculum development committees working on school district planned courses. [In Pa., all curriculum must be in "planned course" format, including lists of outcomes and means to achieve those outcomes]. I didn't change everyone's mind but the fire left their eyes and we were able to talk rationally. I had a subsequent meeting with the education subcommittee of this God and Country Committee and that was positive also. At that time, they asked me for a list of districts in the region by strategic planning wave so they could start getting involved in the process.

Let me move on to some comments about evangelicals and their concerns about public education.

1. Evangelicals include blue-collar workers or professionals in some field unrelated to education. They tend to favor stressing the 3 Rs and are not interested in affective areas, as a rule.

2. There is a concern that values-free sex education will be more prevalent under OBE, including condom distribution.

3. The use of the term "lifestyle" is a lightening rod. To an evangelical, this term conjures up visions of alternative lifestyles which are not consistent with traditional family values. The solution: we should stop using this term.

4. There is fear of the occult. This probably comes from other states ... which have had tinges of the occult creeping into the curriculum. This spring, I heard Chuck Colson on the radio trashing Pennsylvania's OBE thrust. He may be an excellent lawyer and an effective minister in prisons, but he clearly lacked facts on OBE. He seemed to be influenced by things which are happening in other states where there is evidence of supernatural powers such as witchcraft in curricular materials .... With many nationally-syndicated radio and TV programs aimed at evangelicals, the thinking and philosophies by people like Chuck Colson are evident in their own philosophies.

5. There is fear of the New Age movement. For the last 2,000 years, we have been in the Age of Pisces, the dispensation of Jesus Christ. The "new age" is the dispensation of man (secular humanism) where there are no moral absolutes. This is the true meaning of the song, "This is the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius." Evangelicals are opposed to anything which hints of New Age or secular humanism. The bottom line of all this: Although there is no real evidence to support it in Pennsylvania, evangelicals feel there's a real link among OBE and New Age, Secular Humanism, and the occult. Some states with so-called progressive education ideas have had hints of these elements. Therefore, some people have extrapolated this to mean that because OBE is new, it will lead directly to contamination by these things which are feared.

When I speak to groups of concerned parents, here's what I say:

If you fear unwanted intrusions into your schools' curriculum, you should look to planned courses. This is the community's real line of defense. In Pennsylvania with it's commitment to local control, nothing can be taught legally unless it is supported by a planned course. If it's not in the planned course, it shouldn't be in a lesson plan. And if it's not in a lesson plan, it shouldn't be taught. OBE or no OBE

Now here's a copy of my e-mail message in January, 1993 to Jim Tucker, the director of my bureau:


This is in follow up to our table conversation at the awards luncheon January 10. At that time, we were discussing the recent radio talk show programs regarding public reaction to Chapter 5 [the curriculum chapter of the revision to the Regulation of the Pa. State Board of Education].

Since then, I have been alert to what's going on in the community in this regard. On January 16, I picked up a copy of an open letter in the foyer of our church (Christian Life Assembly in Camp Hill). This letter talked about the church's concerns pertaining to revising Chapter 5, specifically in the area of the Learning Outcomes. I scheduled an "unofficial" meeting with two of the Associate Pastors in an attempt to learn more about the nature of their concerns. At this meeting, I told them:

A. Chapter 5 with its emphasis on outcome-based education rather than traditional clock-hours and credits was at the cutting edge of what is good about the national concern for improving our schools.

B. The language of Goal 11 (Appreciating and understanding others) was as close to the teachings of Jesus Christ regarding interpersonal relationships as a public education document could come.

C. The local school district, through its Strategic Plan and the subsequent planned courses, had total control of the actual instruction which would be presented to the students.

D. A complete education for a student of any age includes the affective as well as the cognitive domain. At first, one of the associate pastors took a strong position that the school had no business teaching in the affective domain and that this was the sole responsibility of the home and church. Later, his opposition seemed to boil down to concerns about such terms as "lifestyle".

Let me suggest that during the revision of the learning outcomes which relate to the affective domain, we include recognized representatives of the evangelical movement, in general, and of the Christian day school and home-school movements in particular. It's better to have these people in on the discussions from the ground up than to have them seeing words like "lifestyle" as an issue of contention later on.

E-Mail Comments From Joe Bard And Jim Tucker (Note Dates)

*** Comment from JAT - Tucker, James A.; 01/23/92 02:16pm:
Ed, this was a very proactive and positive step to take, and I appreciate it. I will share your experience with Commissioner Bard.

*** Comment from JFB - Bard, Joseph F.; 01/23/92 02:32pm:
I second your comment, Jim. Ed's comments were cogent and intellectually substantive. How would he like to be our Coordinator of Sectarian Relations?

*** Comment from JAT - Tucker, James A.; 01/23/92 05:25pm:
Ed, your work did not go unnoticed or unappreciated; I feel certain that it may go yet further up the chain of command. Thanks again.

*** Comments from JAT - Tucker, James A.; 10/22/92 03:20pm: Ed, again I commend you for a thoughtful and provocative presentation that should be a real help to both Joe and Don in their deliberations. Thanks for sharing this with Joe and with me.

*** Comments from JFB - Bard, Joseph F.; 10/22/92 02:56pm:
Ed, Thank you so much. This is very helpful information to have from an evangelical perspective. It certainly helps me respond more understandingly rather than riding roughshod over concerns I have trouble validating.



This is a summary of the OBE workshop which Spady [a national OBE author] and company presented at Hatboro-Horsham School District May 14-15, 1992:

1 Spady's OBE stresses two key concepts: WHETHER is more important than WHEN, and education is the process of preparing persons for adult life.

2 This version of OBE is consistent with what good ... educators have been talking about for years.

3 Spady uses three key terms to describe "curriculum". In descending order of value, they are:

4 Spady emphasizes the importance of designing curriculum from the top down and delivering it from the bottom up.

End of OBE Chapter

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