There is a vast and wonderful dissection of the role and practice of education in modern culture over at the Washington Post by education reporter, Valerie Strauss.
I say “vast” because the piece, which cites disenchanted veteran Kindergarten teacher, Susan Sluyter of Cambridge Public Schools, in her resignation letter to the district, as well as her lengthy letter to Strauss emphasizing and further broadening her disenchantment with modern teaching methods, is so detailed and lengthy that I can only say “read it yourself” because I do not intend to deconstruct or summarize its contents in a small blog post here.
In the teacher’s letter to Strauss, she opens:
When I first began teaching more than 25 years ago, hands-on exploration, investigation, joy and love of learning characterized the early childhood classroom. I’d describe our current period as a time of testing, data collection, competition and punishment. One would be hard put these days to find joy present in classrooms.
Sluyter continues to write about the schizophrenic and robotic march of today’s teaching methods which are centered around the concept of “assessment” (which it bears noting was repeated in the piece about 25 more times). She points out what we all know, but only some of us apparently detest: our educational paradigm is constructed to churn out legions of faceless consumerist automatons who embrace academia merely as a path to future extravagance and wealth as defined by pop culture’s dictum of how the top rung must live (and by extension, we as we all should, or at least strive to, and what better place to start than in school).
Our public schools do not emphasize wonder and individuality. They are assembly lines cranking out 18-year-old widgets groomed to enter the world and spend, spend, spend, buy, buy, buy, while concomitantly, learning the skills required to sate this consumerist zeal.
Sluyter’s apparent fatigue at the the “data” aspect of “assessing” our children’s performance mimics that which I’ve mentioned in my Moneyball post a few years ago. Data. Data is king, data is handily accessible thanks to evolving computing power; we are creatures of data. Sluyter speaks of it in the academic realm, but data is everywhere. Data steers commerce.
Egghead bureaucrats fetishize data collection and interpretation. Stupid-ass bureaucrats with as-long-as-it’s-Apple fetishes gape at technology with the blank stare of a mowed deer, and the blanker the better for they are happiest to hand over control to data gathering and interpreting algorithms for this means there is less thinking and intuition required of them. Thus freeing them to go play on their iPhone or whatever it is Peons of Intelligence do to kill time.
Data manipulation and harnessing is alive and well and it will only get worse. Let’s measure the fuck out of everything, even children!
Let’s measure and measure and test but we’ll call it “assessment” because it has a much milder, academic sound but the keystone to our method is continuous, torturous assessment.
Assessment is the idiot’s tool to quantify that which he has no skill to articulate, and nowadays, even the brightest people seem to have lost the ability to articulate. So they test and data mine and assess.
It’s easier to throw rows of figures at you than actually compose lucid thoughts and systemic portrayals.
Speaking of Apple and all things fan boy, coincidentally, this story appeared in the Los Angeles Times today. For today is the first day of Common Brain Death.
Schools across California are set to begin administering new standardized tests Tuesday that are designed to demand more of students and offer a clearer picture of how much they are learning.
More than 3 million students will be tested in English and math through June 6, and for the first time, everyone will take the exams on a computer — either tablet, laptop or desktop. All public school students in grades 3 through 8 are supposed to participate, along with some 9th and 10th graders and most 11th graders.
The new tests are linked to state learning goals that have also been adopted by 44 other states and the District of Columbia. The tests and learning standards have raised philosophical and political questions across the country, but the next few weeks will probably be dominated by pragmatic issues as schools struggle with a new process.
“It’s time to more forward,” state Supt. of Schools Tom Torlakson said Monday during a visit to a school in Culver City. “I’m confident that students in California will embrace this. They’re already embracing technology, not only for taking tests, but for learning.”
I knew this was coming because my son is one of the millions of students who will have to sit in front of a computer in order to take this “standardized” test.
The tagline of this story (thanks to the capitalist-propagating company-owned LA Times) is The exams are designed to demand more of students and give a clearer indication of how much they’re learning. They’ll be the first to be administered entirely on computers. The party line is there to greet you even if you don’t read the story. Indoctrination tools.
Demand more of students?
Anyone who has raised a child in the past decade can attest that a lot is demanded of them already. A lot of bullshit, that is. Personally, I have no idea why algebraic radicals are required knowledge to enter college, yet most high school graduates are unable to write a coherent essay…independently.
I had this “discussion” with my ex-wife recently about the utility of higher math requirements. She attempted to argue that Algebra 2 is useful in most work environments. I balked. Who the fuck uses Algebra 2 in the office?
Who in the world uses anything above geometry, or even Algebra 1, in the real world? Engineers and astrophysicists are a world unto themselves. They cannot be cited. If you insist that higher mathematics are an intrinsic element of a well-rounded education, dream on. If other academic subjects were as proportionately advanced as what is expected of “normal” non-science students in mathematics, we would require all students to write a 300-page novel in their Senior year.
Schools are in the the business of manufacturing little mass produced Tiger robots with all the inadvertent desires to be part of the consuming, pop cultural herd.