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

Thursday, May 07, 2015


By Mork the Orkan

I bet you didn't think I was still around. I guess I “egged” you all on to believe I left Earth in 1982, but I have been here all these many years masquerading as a series of your loser presidential hopefuls. I thought I was rather funny as Michael Dukakis. The tank looked so much like a rove ranger on my native planet, Ork.

My apologies for being elected president in 2000. Who knew Chad could be so important. I thought it was a nation in Africa.

I have to admit I still actually read print newspapers like the New York Times. It makes me a bit anachronistic, but I like having multiple ways of accessing information. I was trained to learn foreign languages to save my life, so I can say I am multi-lingual, and now I can also say I am “multi-medial”.

The past few days I read three articles that taken together add to my frustration understanding of some issues I have noticed you attempting to deal with the past few years. Unlike many of you, I try to read pieces from all sides of the ideology spectrum so I have a wider range of ideas and facts to form my own opinions. I know to some humans (what I would label myself here, I suppose, if one must be labeled) that might be anathema, but it is what I was taught in Orkan schools.

Richard Atkinson and Saul Geyser’s The Big Problem With the New SAT, David Brooks' What Is Your Purpose?, and Eduardo Porter's What Debate On Inequality Is Missing and my observations of your society for the past 37 Earth years have led me to some rather rather dramatic conclusions.

Says Porter, “Over the last four decades the debate in Washington about poverty and inequality has been bogged down in a somewhat pointless, often surreal debate about the size of government and the amount spent on behalf of the poor.”

Says Brooks, “Public debate is now under moralized and over politicized. We have many shows (I guess TV?) where people argue about fiscal policy but not so many on how to find a vocation or how to measure the worth of your life. Intellectual prestige has drifted away from theologians, poets and philosophers and toward neuroscientists, economists, evolutionary biologists and big data analysts. These scholars have a lot of knowledge to bring, but they’re not in the business of offering wisdom on the ultimate questions.”

Practical wisdom should always rule knowledge, not the other way around.

Finally, says Atkinson and Geiser,  “Norm-referenced” exams [are] designed primarily to rank students rather than measure what they actually know. Such exams compare students to other test takers, rather than measure their performance against a fixed standard. They are designed to produce a “bell curve” distribution among examinees, with most scoring in the middle and with sharply descending numbers at the top and bottom.”  

“Shazbot.” Is that a test or a roller coaster?

“Test designers accomplish this, among other ways, by using plausible-sounding “distractors” to make multiple-choice items more difficult, requiring students to respond to a large number of items in a short space of time, and by dropping questions that too many students can answer correctly.”

That is “Namnulicy”. (Idiocy.)

Remember, I was sent here by the BIG GIANT HEAD to evaluate you. What did I find?  Instead of understanding the best of humanity and trying to find ways to maximize everyone’s personal potential and personal satisfaction, you debate about power and money and as a result do exactly the opposite.  I believe one of your fine historians called that folly. She defined that as "Pursuit of Policy Contrary to Self-Interest."

I have to report that you are the most foolish group of beings from another world I have ever come across.

How odd you are. You test children so if 10% know 95% of the information asked of on a “norm-based” test, and they get the lowest score (say a 95), they automatically are labeled failures. So too those who scored below an arbitrary “cut score” of, let’s say 97%. 

So rather than saying how smart these children are and how creative and innovative their teachers, educational institutions may have been, they are all failures. These are the results of psychometrician-developed exams. That is incredulous.

I am shocked to learn that you grade these tests to emphasize speed and recall as opposed to careful thought and problem solving over time as demanded by long term projects that ask students to solve real problems.

I am more shocked to see how fundamentally primitive you are in believing that these one size fit all tests are suitable for everyone because I know how important it is for all children to have what you call an Individual Education Plan for only a very few students, and what Orkans call nurturing. Why are these plans only for those you call “Special?”

I wonder why, in the USA, you want everyone, everywhere, to be the same. In our most primitive times, a hundred “krell” ago, we progressed past that point and recognized the value of the individual. Our society learned how to bring out the best of each future adult to ultimately succeed by stressing what they can do, not what they can’t.

Ultimately I have to ask, why do you “American humans” exist? Why do you choose leaders that make these asinine decisions that hold back your society? Look what happened when you elected me. As a joke, I tried to sell you a bill of goods I called No Child Left Behind, and you took it seriously.

Why can’t you create laws without someone you call a corporation profiting. (I still don't understand how your laws call them individuals with all the rights of humans.) Why is your major concern finance and not humanity and/or morality?

You guys crack me up. No reference to that other Orkan, Humpty Dumpty though.

Your predisposition to think that anything futuristic (in your quest to be like us) is based on the idea that neuroscientists, biometric specialists, economists, and computer operators using “Big Data” should rule your world, especially in how we educate our children is ludicrous. 

We are so over that primitive and barbarian idea.

I am totally disgusted with your bad behavior towards each other, your ill tempers, your inability to listen and learn from each other, and your avoidance of what matters most: a meaningful life.

Will your society survive, I often ponder, if you cannot interact more personally, and ask, “Why the hell are you doing this to yourselves and your kids?”

Finally I examined your bizarre and obviously restrictive class structure. Surely you cannot continue to have so few exist so lavishly at the expense of so many. Surely you must recognize what rapidly growing class inequality and inequity has done to your society. It seems to me that this testing craze and what you call Common Core may be at the heart of this.

·      Why aren’t the children of the wealthy subjected to the same inhuman forms of testing and this Common Core thing as the children of the working classes?

·      Why do you not respect the working people on whose shoulders your society is carried?

·      Why do you revere those who make huge amounts of money and nothing else?

·      Why do you care more for corporate foundations than workers unions?

·      Why is finance and real estate more important than intellect, human life, and intellectual creativity?

“Geezba.” I pity you.

·      Will you not learn from your own history and not follow the path of folly?

·      Why do you pass laws to protect the few members of your society that profit from them while you fool the people into thinking these laws (that actually limit them) are to maintain freedom?

·      Why do you not pass laws to allow for regular individuals to “live long and prosper” (as my Vulcan buddy, Spock, used to say)?

·      Why don't your institutions pass laws to better distribute wealth rather than limit the opportunities for 90% of you to gain it?

·      Why don't you pay attention to truly futuristic and knowing humans like Anthony Atkinson of Oxford University when he proposes, “strengthening unions and creating a ‘social and economic council’ where representatives of labor and civil society could have a say in policy, offering a counterweight to corporate power”? 

Atkinson is right when he says of your kind, “We are stuck in a narrow set of ideas.”

All I can finally say is for you to look what you do to your own children.

Your cruel testing schemes will only prepare your children to be robotic servants of the universe while those barbarians among you who author Tom Wolf sarcastically called “masters of the universe” continue to defile your society.

After 37 years I must finally leave you. My final report to THE BIG GIANT HEAD is that unless you quickly change your ways you are not worth the effort to save until you learn to save yourselves. “Shazbot.”

Dedicated to Robin Williams.

No comments:

Post a Comment