The world is full of things that don’t work, or maybe a better way to put it would be that they don’t work well for long. When I say long, I’m talking twenty, fifty, or a few hundred years. Let’s take for example prohibition, lasting from nineteen nineteen until nineteen thirty three (Prohibition by Jennifer Rosenberg, About.com). In those fourteen years the volume of alcohol consumed per capita by American citizens increased; prohibition also created a huge illegal underground of rum runners and speakeasy’s. Slavery, now that is a good example of things that don’t work. Slaves were first brought to the colonial Americas in sixteen nineteen; 1857 Dred Scott Decision The United States Supreme Court decides, seven to two, that blacks can never be citizens and that Congress has no authority to outlaw slavery in any territory; in the Emancipation Proclamation President Abraham Lincoln decrees that all slaves in Rebel territory are free on January 1, 1863; 1865 the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution outlaws slavery (Posted by Sherol on August 12, 2010 in Black History, www.africanaonline.com). This disgusting practice lasted for two hundred and forty six years, but eventually good hearted and thinking people changed our country.
What will our decedents do in two hundred years when they realize that those hard won changes were wasted on us? Have we not learned that the past can only help us if we allow it? No child left behind, the brain child of the George W. Bush administration, was implemented in two thousand and two. It is based on outcome-based theories education that high expectations goal-setting will result in greater educational achievement for most students (Pros & Cons of the No Child Left Behind Act, By Deborah White, About.com). N.C.L.B. is a collar around the necks of our education system and our teachers. Every two years the children in my school growing up had a test, for weeks before the test the teachers would stress the importance of them, as if our future depended on filling out those hollow black outlined ovals. All those growing robots with their No.2 pencils fill those bleak ovals, never straying outside the lines, bleak and empty ovals deciding the worth of a child and teacher. Why do we hire men and women to educate our children and young adults, and then hamstring them with tests that limit the way they teach, why not allow them to teach, and not regurgitate sometimes flawed information.
"Standardized tests can't measure initiative, creativity, imagination, conceptual thinking, curiosity, effort, irony, judgment, commitment, nuance, good will, ethical reflection, or a host of other valuable dispositions and attributes. What they can measure and count are isolated skills, specific facts and function, content knowledge, the least interesting and least significant aspects of learning” (Bill Ayers). I probably don’t agree with Bill Ayers often but in this he and I walk hand and hand.
Having worked in many fields over the years, and having untold number of co-workers I have learned that just because you can take a test on the relevant material does not mean you can put it into practice. A few years ago I had a painting business and I needed help on a project. I hired two young men to help me with the work. While interviewing them the first told me he had not done well in school, but he was good with his hands, this was ok because for the first position I didn’t need an educated person; the second stated that he was an excellent student, and he had been reading up on paint application and procedure. This was the first job for both young men, and I had a feeling that they would both work out well; they did, just not how I thought. Within a week, even though they both worked hard, I had to switch their positions. The young man that worked well with his hands was able to problem solve with little direction; the other needed to be babysat, even though he worked hard, he could not make what he read work for him.
Where in the standardized tests do they look for learning disorders? In the second grade my teacher and the principal decided that I needed to be in class with the special needs students based on my lack of understanding and a test I took at the end of the first grade. In those days special needs meant slightly to severely retarded. I still did not do well, and I was the only one not wearing a helmet! Luckily enough one of the teachers decided to give me a newer style of test that included an I.Q. section. I hit a home run. After learning this, my teachers decided that I wasn’t slow I was just a “problem child”. This wasn’t their fault; they were taught that the test is the answer and the guide, if the student doesn’t fit inside the box (or oval) they are not trying.
Ok I have painted a bleak picture of our education administration, and in some circumstances it is. It is for that small minority that I speak, the children that need to sit in round desks with oval backs and triangle tops. I have had teachers that taught from their own conscience; allowing their children to write outside the lines, and to question, not to accept everything at face value. With those teachers I grew. I am one of the few; they don’t make a box in my shape, or a test. As an adult I have a responsibility to my children’s future, also their teachers’. Without thinking and good hearted people leading the way, a good portion of our students and teachers will be left behind.Chris McQueeney 5/8/11