Letter: Overcrowding leads to poor educational outcomes 


To the editor,

Researchers placed a small goldfish into a reasonable-sized tank, fed him as needed and bubbled oxygen in the water. As expected, over time he grew to quite a large size.

Using the same tank, many, many small goldfish were placed inside, given adequate food and plenty of oxygen. Plenty of time was given. None of this multiple collection of fish grew at all. Why? Did this crowded environment create a stress which prevented growth?

Now, let’s go back to the same tank, now void of goldfish and place again one small goldfish; plenty of water, routine food and oxygen. But this time, the tank was surrounded all over by mirrors. Everywhere the fish swam he saw a heck of a lot of goldfish, even though it was only a reflection of himself. He felt the stress of a crowded environment. He never grew.

In many parts of the inner cities, the crowding is substantial. The brain may sense a stress, which translates into dissatisfaction, sometimes crimes and very poor social interactions.

Scientists successfully sequenced the genome of the human body, but the brain — the controller of all of senses, thoughts and motion — was not done because the government didn’t want to spend the money to do it. How can we understand the stress of crowding if know so little about the brain?

Teachers for decades have fought for the costly small class size. Statistics have shown that jamming students by huge numbers into classrooms does not produce a good educational outcome.

Does the stress of crowding translate, at least partially, toward a poorer outcome? Remember the goldfish.

John Tietjen