A point about test scores, human versatility, and climate change

Published online 6 December 2013.

This diary entry is for parents, teachers, students, and anyone involved with America’s public school systems.  When reading Diane Ravitch’s short post of December 3rd in Huffington Post I saw this stunning short paragraph criticizing our national education system’s obsession with test scores:

The more we focus on tests, the more we kill creativity, ingenuity, and the ability to think differently. Students who think differently get lower scores. The more we focus on tests, the more we reward conformity and compliance, getting the right answer.

And from Ravitch’s blog, from a short piece on why Asians do well on tests:

“This should not be considered a pride for us, because overall it still measures one’s test-taking ability. You can have the best answer for a theoretical model, but can you build a factory on a test paper?” asked Xiong Bingqi, a Shanghai-based scholar on education.“The biggest criticism is that China’s education has sacrificed everything else for test scores, such as life skills, character building, mental health, and physical health,” Xiong said.

You know, China, where they’re obliged to breathe filthy air because capitalism.And something I said back in July is intimately relevant to the No Child Left Behind/ Race to the Top Federally-mandated obsession with test scores in our nation’s public schools.  Our future depends upon the cultivation of human versatility, because we will need all the versatility we can get if we are to survive abrupt climate change through this century.  How are we cultivating human versatility if we participate in the national public-school obsession with test scores?  Ravitch, for her part, seems pretty firmly focused upon the cultivation of human versatility.  From the same article:

Lesson 3: Improving the quality of life for the nearly one-quarter of students who live in poverty would improve their academic performance.

So, as regards her conclusion:

If we continue the policies of the Bush and Obama administration in education, we will not only not get higher scores (the Asian nations are so much better at this than we are), but we will crush the very qualities that have given our nation its edge as a cultivator of new talent and new ideas for many years.

wouldn’t a test boycott be a better learning experience?That is all.


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