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Insights: Politics

Arianna Huffington
From the Print Edition:
Rudy Giuliani, Nov/Dec 01

(continued from page 1)

The political establishment is a fashion victim of long standing when it comes to educational reform. Its gullibility in championing one too-good-to-be-true panacea after another is truly terrifying when you consider the vulnerability of their patients: our kids. This year's Dutch tulip craze is a scheme for elaborate standardized testing that will reward standardized thinking, a concept that most sensible people dared to hope had died with Josef Stalin.

Sen. Paul Wellstone, who is waging the good fight to derail the testing juggernaut, says "that testing, which was supposed to be a way of assessing reform, is now being treated as actual reform." Yeah. What he said. Taking one's temperature is not a cure for the fever.

But is testing an unreasonable place to start on a program of educational reform? Yes, because it will exacerbate the problem it seeks to address. Its conclusions will be rendered valueless by a quantum effect of observation: the obsessive calculation of just how poorly off our kids are will make them even worse off than before.

Why? Learning will be equivalent to quantifiable success on a standardized test. Effective teachers (according to the calculus of the standardized testing paladins) will be the drones who embed the information likely to appear on a standardized test in their students by rote. Forget individuality, flair and passion in teaching; your kids' "best" teachers will be drill instructors. Forget curricula outside the narrow tested canon -- like art, music and class discussion.

Surprise pop quiz time. Which of the following statements is true?

A) States will pay whatever it costs to have their students tested as comprehensively as possible.

B) Kind-hearted testing companies will charge the same amount to grade essay questions as multiple-choice questions.

C) Computers can grade subjective essay questions as well as people.

D) States will inevitably end up relying on multiple-choice questions instead of essays.

Sadly, the correct answer is D.

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