Swickard: Testing centric schools are toxic to students

© 2016 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.  “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.” Albert Einstein
             The effort to kill curiosity in public schools is the problem in our educational system. Curiosity doesn’t survive the always testing public schools. Our nation takes normally curious young people and uneducates them by focusing on testing which is of no interest to students.
            Worse, we spend incredible amounts of money on testing and administrators. We are spending money to have a problem. The teachers know that the system is corrupt and does not serve the students but can’t be heard over the administrators feathering their nests.
            The new accountability numbers are out from the New Mexico Public Education Department and like all years before we in the public know nothing after seeing the numbers. To most people it is a list of monkey points that each school has earned with no understanding of what the numbers mean.
            Schools go up and down on the scale and it is the average of the school so it doesn’t really tell us anything about individual teachers or classes. After looking at the numbers I know nothing about any school.
            At the core is the notion that administrators can improve the education of students by making them spend most of their time learning how to juke the testing system. We see the administrators say that testing is only a couple of days a year which is false.
            Testing is every day and all day. It is the “Be all and end all” of every data meeting that teachers must attend. Testing holds no interest to students. Day after day, hour after hour students are preparing to take tests that mean nothing to them about subjects to which they are not interested.
            Teachers have a personal battle to try to keep something interesting in their classes while being pushed to only focus on tested material. Want to talk dinosaurs? Forget it, it is not on the test.
            If America had an enemy that got control of our educational system, they wouldn’t do anything different with American education since the administrators have made the enterprise as bad as it can be.
            What is maddening to thinking people is this thought exercise which I have suggested many times. Since there is the notion of testing the teachers by testing the entire school, let us swap all of the adults at the five highest scoring elementary schools with the five lowest scoring elementary schools in Albuquerque.
            Two years later the five highest scoring schools will still be the five highest scoring schools and ditto for the five lowest scoring schools. This is despite all new teachers, administrators, cooks, librarians, janitors and crossing guards. The adults lauded as the best become the worst by being moved to a different school. The whole testing mania is bogus.
            Just as bad is the new push to get every student to go to college, starting in Kindergarten. We need to give all students basic education and let them follow their dreams, not ours. Tell me this: when a smelly sludge comes back flowing out of your biffy what are you going to do? Call a plumber or a philosopher? The learners need to be in practical education if that is what sings to them.
            In junior high school I took six semesters with some practical education classes. One semester it was electrical wiring, one was woodworking, one was tools, one was metal work, one was welding and one was automotive. The rest of my life I have been relatively handy because of those three years. And it didn’t change that I got a Ph.D.
            Primarily we need to refocus education onto the students.
            Students every year need: first, engage their curiosity, next give them literate and numerate tools to satisfy that curiosity. Third, they must enjoy the passage of time in school. It doesn’t have to be a carnival but if they hate every moment, they will come away with little. Next, the education must be appropriate to their brain development and finally, they must retain their dignity at all times.
            School years in a testing-centric school environments are toxic for students. Let’s wake up and focus on the students.


The News Media and Public Education- Sowell Part 5

© 2016 Jim Spence - The volume of wisdom available to those who want to learn from Thomas Sowell seems almost inexhaustible. We begin part 5 of this series on Sowell having barely scratched the surface of the depth of this remarkable American. 
In the previous four parts we have spent time on what Sowell has to say about the current president and his would be successor in the Democratic Party. We have also addressed the folly of Obamacare. Most recently, we summoned Sowell's quotes to expose the utter cluelessness of Colin Kapernick, a high profile rube who embodies the failure of our education system as well that system’s partner in intellectual crime, the news media. 
It is time to tidy up these messes, at least intellectually, by considering what Sowell has to say about the likes of ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, NPR, MSNBC, and newspapers like the Washington Post and New York Times. In the following quote he explains how these institutions get away with poisoning the minds of Americans:
“The intelligentsia in the media can decide what to emphasize, what to downplay and what to ignore entirely when it comes to race. These may be individual choices, rather than a conspiracy, but individual choices growing out of a common vision of the world can produce results all too similar to what is produced by centralized censorship or propaganda.”
When you are a consumer of news and you consume with an awareness of the emphasis or lack of emphasis on facts, the most pathetic examples of bad news outlets trying to manipulate public opinion get exposed. Sowell recognizes perhaps the most egregious violator of basic journalistic integrity with this observation on the New York Times:
“The New York Times’ long-standing motto, “All the News That’s Fit to Print” should be changed to reflect today’s reality: “Manufacturing News to Fit an Ideology.”
Sowell has also had much to say about the public education system which he has a great deal of hands on experience with. Consider this observation:
“People are all born ignorant but they are not born stupid. Much of the stupidity we see today is induced by our educational system, from the elementary schools to the universities. In a high-tech age that has seen the creation of artificial intelligence by computers, we are also seeing the creation of artificial stupidity by people who call themselves educators.”
On the cusp of September 2016, we are two months out from yet another presidential election. We shake our heads at the so-called “choices.” How could it come to this? Eight years of Barack Obama and now his replacement will either be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Sowell explains:
“The fact that so many successful politicians are such shameless liars is not only a reflection on them, it is also a reflection on us. When the people want the impossible, only liars can satisfy.”
Or if you prefer, this will serve as a substitute.
I think we're raising whole generations who regard facts as more or less optional."
All of these observations and quotations on our public education system and our news media do serve a purpose. The problems with government, the economy, and social unrest are all tied to the failures of public education and the news media.
Above all else Thomas Sowell points out that America is being indoctrinated and conditioned. However, we are not taught the most basic things.
Want proof? Drive to work in the morning. You will find yourself surrounded by zombies. Nearly every day I encounter several idiots who do not maintain their traffic lanes on crowded thoroughfares. When I pull alongside to peer in their cars or trucks to determine who the hell they are, I can’t see their faces…..they have their heads down texting on their “smart” phones, only occasionally looking up to watch the road. They do this everywhere in America these days and they do so while they are operating machines that weight as much as 6,000 pounds, next to others doing the same. Our education system and news media cannot even convince millions of Americans that doing this sort of thing is insane. Accordingly, these institutions no longer serve an important purpose.