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

Monday, October 13, 2008

Challenging the Intellectual Genocide of Today's Testing Factories

In the coming months there will be a renewed conversation about education. Here is a good start from J. E. Robertson at Food for Thought:
. . . .Standardized testing has a role to play, but it is blind because it ignores, necessarily, the human element. Its role is to do that. But if we make it the centerpiece of our education policy, then we strip from our educational system the very thing most valuable about it: the goal of making for each student an optimal future, in which she can shape her own destiny.

There has to be a person-to-person experience, in which the content of an educational process is humanized, impassioned, made to come alive, in which one mind engages with another, and the student learns not just about the question-and-answer process, but also about what makes that intangible quality that is the intellect, what empowers the individual to apply what is learned and to interpret the abstract terrain of thought and consequence.

Our educational system cannot be about programming students for testing. Aside from the fact that this is nothing more than building a system designed to cheat itself —the tests are supposed to examine cognitive ability, not test-taking preparation—, it undermines the most necessary aspect of a successful educational system: that of cultivating intellectual curiosity and the willingness to test the world's claims against one's own judgment and comprehension.

This may be one of the most fundmental areas in which we need to reform our common culture: we are not educating test-takers, we are educating human beings. And a free citizen, capable of accessing all the benefits of a free society, must have at the core of his self-awareness, an intellect that knows it can be applied, that it can assess, relearn, inquire, challenge and distinguish between ideas, the less good and the better.

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