Brain Scams

In Douglas County Colorado, science gets the edupreneurial treatment…

brain kidsDear EduShyster: my child’s school has been spending a lot of time on something called Emergenetics personality profiling. Students take online tests to determine what color matches their style of thinking and behaving. I question whether this has anything to do with science and/or the brain and wondered what you thought. Signed: Worried in the West. ps: I won’t reveal the name of the school district, although you can probably guess…

Dear Worried: Color me cynical but I’d say that it’s never a good sign when the brain *science* on offer comes complete with a toll free number: the zombie-esque 1-888-8brains! Now let me attempt to harness my own brain power and see if I can deduce from whence you are writing. Fortunately, I don’t have to delve too deeply as Emergenetics® has helpfully provided a list of its education clients. Any guesses as to where we’re headed, reader?

scienceChoosy kids choose choice (and colors)
If you answered *the Choiciest District in America* you would be right. However, if you answered this place, not to worry as we will be paying a call there too. But first it’s time to do a little personality profiling. I hope you like science, reader, because things are about to get pretty scientific up in here. In fact, I recommend that you follow my lead and don a lab jacket and safety goggles for this portion of the post.

What color ® u?
Using the seven Emergenetics® principles, composed of four ways of thinking and three ways of behaving, we can gain understanding of ourselves in *all facets of life* as quickly as, well, Emergenetics® can process our $69 friends and family program payment. (Note: that’s more than 35% off the normal individual rate!) Do you like process and following rules and guidelines? That means you’re a *green* (and also an unlikely candidate for employment running the Douglas County schools). Or maybe you’re a *blue*, which means you’re interested in logic, data and the reasoning behind things. Perhaps you’re all about the big-picture, *visioning* and new ideas and hence, a yellow. What if you have an *expressed interest* in people and relationships? Well, obviously that makes you a *red.* Got it? Good, because it’s time to move onto the practical results of all of this sciency stuff.

STEPWhat am I thinking?
You see, Emergenetics® is about more than just pie-in-the-sky principles. At the heart of the Emergenetics® profile is the *thinking pie chart* which *shows what’s going on in a person’s head.* In the old days, teachers had no way of knowing what was going on in their students’ heads—or in their desks. But thanks to Emergenetics®, the mystery has finally been solved.

Summit View Elementary School fifth-grader Kelli Ell is primarily green, a structural thinker, which means she is practical, likes guidelines and prefers a hands-on approach.”It says that I’m a lot of green, but I think that I’m a little less because sometimes my desk inside gets a little messy,” she said.

Speaking of green, Summit View is one of 14 schools in Douglas County that has piloted the Emergenetics® profiling system among sixth graders. As of last year, the school district had invested more than $250,000 in profiling for adults and students, and Emergenetics® training for staff. Note: the former Director of Human Resources and Director of Elementary Education for the Douglas County School District is now the Vice President of Education for Emergenetics®, which, if I’m not mistaken, makes her a *red* for relationships.

colored brainBlack and white and red all over
The important thing is that Emergenetics® is helping the students of Douglas County achieve World Class Outcomes as they acquire the desired traits sought by the nation’s largest employers in search of the next *Game changer.  Risk taker.  Innovator.  Collaborator.*  Or something like that. When investigative reporter Trevon Milliard from the Las Vegas Review Journal dug into why the Clark County School District was spending $1000 a day to an Emergenetics® consultant to conduct profiles of district employees, he found a slick sales pitch but no science. The *science* of profiling to which Douglas County teachers and students have devoted weeks this fall has never been reviewed in a single peer reviewed journal. Why doesn’t Emergenetics® cite actual research? Because. There. Isn’t. Any. Instead the company relies on testimonials, like this one from Tori, age 17: *My most dominant trait is structure at 69%. Making lists prevents me from becoming overwhelmed, which benefits me as a student and athlete.* Or this one from Charles E. Harman, Chief of Staff, Office of United States Senator Saxby Chambliss: *Emergenetics was the best insight I have ever heard on who we are; how respect each other; how to use the “data” we have to better communicate; and how to work to our strengths!*

STEPBrain scams
Review Journal reporter Milliard—and the psychologists he interviews—leave little doubt that Emergenetics® is a scam, to use a non-scientific word. But there’s one key difference between Las Vegas, where the school district has spent wads of green to have employees’ color-coded profiles done, and Douglas County. In Las Vegas, the brain scam is limited to adults. So yes, Worried in the West, you are absolutely right to be concerned, and not just because your child has already lost days of the school year in pursuit of a highly questionable pursuit. You should be worried because apparently the people running your school district can’t tell the difference between *science* and a color-coded sales pitch from a company whose phone number is 1-888-8brains. 

Send tips and colorful comments to tips@haveyouheardblog.com. 

6 Comments

  1. This seems absurd of course, but how different is it that the stupid DAT test I took in 8th grade that told me I shouldn’t go into clerical work or the PTSD test or whatever that personality test is or Howard Gardner and his types of thinking. It’s all bunk to me.

    1. I’ve never done an Emergenetics® profile – I asked if they’d let me fill one out for free but got no response. A few years ago, though, I had to take a similar test as part of a project I was working on. My personality came back as *sunny show-off* (my words, not theirs), which was not entirely a surprise as I’d *enhanced* my answers in hopes of scoring a particular way. We were then grouped according to our *personalities,* meaning that I spent the rest of the day with other sunny show-offs, which caused me to become even more obnoxious than I already am! My then colleague came back as a *bean counter,* and asked the session leader if he knew whether bean counters were more likely to marry other bean counters. *They end up alone,* somebody yelled out from across the room. OK – it was me… Draw from this important lesson what you will.

  2. As a DCSD parent, for the past 2 years I have opted my children out of this crap. I did get a lot of push back from my school principal, but I eventually won and kept my kids home on the day they were taking it.

    DCSD does NOT stop there with the pigeonholing of our children though. My 8th and 9th graders are taking pre-ACT tests as well. (http://www.act.org/explorestudent/) My 8th was supposed to take it before going on a recent field trip, but she was opted out. I refused it, as well as all standardized tests. The test is designed to tell kids where they should be concentrating for a future job or career. So basically the staff at school told the kids to go to this career/college fair and concentrate ONLY on what they tested well in. If the test came back and said that they wouldn’t be a good candidate for college (in 8th grade mind you), then the students shouldn’t waste their time talking to colleges, but instead should talk to the cosmetologists, real estate/insurance agents, plumbers, electricians, etc that were there.

    What happened to “you can be anything or do anything you set your mind to??”. I told my daughter, since she didn’t take the test, to go explore whatever her heart desired or whatever interested her at the expo. There were tons of employers, technical colleges, Universities and specialized schools (culinary, beauty, etc). I don’t believe in our school district placing our children in ‘boxes’ and telling them at 12-14 years of age, that they should be giving up on their dreams because they didn’t test well enough for them. That’s just stupid.

    I’m 44. I went to College and I felt like it was a time of exploration. I went in with one idea of what I wanted to do, but then changed my major twice after taking courses that excited me! That’s what life is all about. Experiences and figuring it out as you go. I don’t want any of my kids deciding their entire lives now, while they are in 7th, 8th and 9th grades. That’s just a ridiculous notion. Douglas County School District is ridiculous. Emergenetics and ACT Explore, are ridiculous. DCSD needs to stop wasting our precious school resources on all this bullsh*t.

  3. Wow, looks like reform may usher in a new Golden Age for snake-oil salesmen. Where are the grown ups’ vaunted critical thinking skills when we need them? And why aren’t our young Common Core-trained students seeing through malarkey like this? The truth is, the education world has been prey to shysters like these for years –I’d say most education gurus’ prescriptions are about as sound as this garbage is. When the discipline deals with invisible matters, as education and religion do, charlatans abound.

  4. “Note: the former Director of Human Resources and Director of Elementary Education for the Douglas County School District is now the Vice President of Education for Emergenetics®, which, if I’m not mistaken, makes her a *red* for relationships.”

    Actually, that kind of politically and economically incestuous relationship, one that might warrant a spot on a state level version (if there were such a thing) of the Opensecrets.org revolving door database really deserves its own, unique, dark, Emergenetics color.

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