Just so you’ll know, I’m not against assessment, testing, reading & math instruction, or even standardized tests. I believe that we must assure that our children are learning. It’s part of teaching. I do object to my government’s obsession with high stakes testing. It is a cheap and simple solution to a very complex problem that is critical to my country’s future.
It is an industrial age solution to an information age problem!
Several years ago, I was walking through downtown Chicago. I may have been there for the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC), or it may have been another conference. It was evening, but Chicago, like many cities, never seems to sleep. As I approached the old Harold Washington library building, I noticed a series of enlarged photographs that were lit up for display. Moving closer revealed them as fairly familiar photographs depicting child labor in the early part of the 20th century.
It is a point of pride in our study of U.S. History, that my country recognized the injustice of pressing children into labor for the sake of economic gain. Yet our children are now under more pressure than every before, working in straight rows, performing repetitive tasks, under close supervision! …for the sake of economic gain?
Child labor continues in the United States, as we steal the childhoods from our young.
Turning this injustice into a tragedy is the fact that high stakes testing has much more to do with political gain than economic gain.
- As our position of prominence in technological advancement and innovation are overtaken by other countries,
- As the intellectual infrastructure from which the Internet was invented continues to be crippled by devastating budget cuts,
- As education funding (especially technology) is slashed at the state and national levels,
we appear to sneer at our children and their future by measure the success of our classrooms based on skills that are more appropriate for the 1950s than the 21st century.
The unique inventiveness of my country, what we used to call Yankee Ingenuity, came not from highly regimented, accountability based classrooms. It came from an education system governed by professional educators who were free to teach, assess, invent, adapt, care, and celebrate in their students’ growth. It came from giving our children a childhood, where they could play, explore, experiment, and freely experience the wondrous world they lived in.
Our children have lost their childhood to the account and punish obsession of our government.
Instead of enjoying the rich childhood that I had,