Friday, February 11, 2011

Is there a test to assess how bored the kids are?

At the PTA meeting at our elementary school tonight, the principal and PTA president told us the “wonderful news” that we should “be excited” about: Our school’s aggregate test scores on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills this year were very high -- at or above the ninetieth percentile on many measures.

I’m not celebrating. The news reminded me of that old punch line, “The operation was a success, but the patient died.” Since raising standardized test scores officially became the sole goal of education, our school has gone a long way toward transforming itself into a combination test-prep center and obedience school. In my opinion, it’s a worse school than it was even five years ago -- worse in terms of providing a humane, intellectually stimulating, emotionally healthy environment for a kid to spend years in. But hey, the standardized test scores are looking good, and that’s all that matters, right?

I’m afraid the kids are learning these lessons even better than they’re learning math and reading skills:
Learning is boring.

Intellectual activity is something you would never choose to do voluntarily.

Adults are there to judge you and boss you around.

Being good means being quiet and obedient.

You will get in trouble if you argue with or question an authority figure.

You should believe everything you are told.

Kids aren’t really full-fledged people. (Maybe some other groups aren’t full-fledged people either.)

The reason to be well-behaved is to get rewards.

It is more effective to bribe people than to reason with them.

Your own interests, desires, and inner life are unimportant; what’s important is what others expect from you.
I’m not surprised that no one ever tests the schools’ effectiveness at inculcating those beliefs. Never ask a question that you don’t want to know the answer to.


sarah said...

Maybe merit pay should be based on non-compulsory attendance. LOL

Chris said...

sarah -- funny but with a grain of truth. If it were up to me, there would be much less compulsion, and much more willingness to give the kids choices about what to do and what to study.