"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Creeping Fascism?

Some food for thought from this veteran teacher for those who still think the problem with No Child Left Behind is that it is not fully funded.

Memorization, Standardized Tests, and Official Policy
By Jack Blatherwick, PhD truthout/commentaryl
Thursday 28 December 2006

Teaching answers to standardized tests should not be called "education," especially when problem-solving will be the most important tool for a generation of students destined to inherit the incredible problems we will leave as our legacy.

To repeat the answers we feed, is at best, preparing future "patriots" for greater acceptance of official policy. The consequences of this blind trust have become painfully apparent. Our government spent millions of dollars on propaganda to sell a peace-loving populace on an illegal invasion of a sovereign country.

Of all the multiple-choice reasons for this invasion, the one remaining is that Iraq sits in a strategic position for our military to control Asian oil. Imagine the mark this answer would have received on a government-generated standardized test.

In our name, and with our unwitting approval, the United States has aggressively squandered a peace that was earned by the blood of generations before us. We the People unknowingly "agreed to" torture of prisoners, non-compliance with international treaties, destruction of the environment, and proliferation of a nuclear arsenal that was already excessive for its insane, outdated, imaginary purpose. We've widened the gap between the wealthy and the less-fortunate; denied affordable access to health care, and - to avoid any sacrifice - we've left our children with the tab.

We acquiesced, because to dissent would have been unpatriotic, non-supportive of the troops,
and part of a far-left agenda. Standardized tests have just as little room for dissent, and might be the perfect preparation for naive acceptance of creeping fascism. After all, many neo-conservative leaders believe THE problem in our country is a lack of patriotic indoctrination at the elementary levels of public education.

Rote memorization of answers to tests will not prepare anyone for this mess we leave. Furthermore, it defies logic to insist that our answers are the ones that should be memorized. Many of our answers have been abject failures, and those of our government have been criminal.

Better we teach our children no answers - only questions and suspicions, courage and insight to detect official ideology. They will need wisdom beyond ours to rebuild our trusted position of leadership in a peaceful world - to restore environmental health to a wounded planet - and to redefine concepts like patriotism, democracy, and morality.

They will need an extraordinary education, not short answers. Testing and retesting is no substitute for investment in education. We wouldn't consider cutting the budgets of failing governmental services that affect our own quality of life. If the military needs more money, it is appropriated, as it would be for police, fire, or highway departments if we thought their product was substandard. But, if irrelevant tests suggest that schools are struggling, our solution is to cut funding, rather than to give them what they need.

Will our generation be remembered as the most self-centered in history? Or will we recognize the problems we've created and leave the one thing we can - a quality education? Our ancestors sacrificed proudly to provide for us - with hammer and saw, they built the best schools in the world.

We, as custodians of this tradition, might even have to raise taxes to pass our own final examination.
Jack Blatherwick has been a physiologist and teacher for 40 years.

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