The Washington Post published an email from an anonymous “veteran seventh-grade language arts teacher in Frederick, Maryland,” that I am only just stopping myself from quoting in full.
It’s all there. The relentless, crushing demand for less-than-mediocrity, the exculpation of the kiddies from every duty and responsibility, the insane parents (who waited too long to have their one precious) demanding not that their issue learn anything but are “awarded” high grades, insipid, cowering “leadership”, the reliance on educational fads recommended by “research,” the soul-sucking banality, the quest for absolute uniformity.
I think back to the Lower Permian to a music teacher I had in high school, a man who wouldn’t last a day in a modern school. He insisted we learned. He punished when we didn’t. He would glower and throw his baton in the air in disgust. He would not ask but demand the best we could give. He wanted perfection and though I can’t say he got it, he got something close. He’d be chased into the woods by a pack of rabid, grade-obsessed, raving parents today.
Maybe the biggest relevant difference between then and now for us is the insane lust for quantification, which are the quotes I’ll highlight:
In a world where I am constantly instructed to “differentiate” my methods, I am condemned for using different resources than those provided because if I do, we are unable to share “data” with the county and the nation at large…
Sure, using different resources and strategies among schools may make data sharing more difficult, but haven’t we gone far enough with data? Each child is not a number or a data point. They can only be compared to the developmental capabilities set forth by medicine, not education, and to their own previous progress.
Seems everybody has to have like data, else how can comparisons be made? If it can’t be quantified, Science says, it isn’t real, it hasn’t happened. So artificial constructs are created, one-size-fits-all tests which become the sole criteria for success. As Agnes Larson told us, just wait until the Feds—driven into action by panting do-gooders and hey-sounds-like-a-fine-idea-to-me-ers (yes, me-ers)—do the same to college which “accept” government money. Student loans, which the government now controls (thanks to Obamacare; remember how they snuck that in?), “accepting” money will be defined as taking the money given to students as loans.
In addition, teachers cannot and should not be evaluated on the grades of their students. Who then would try to teach the boy who will never progress past third grade due to a brain injury? Who then will teach the girl that refuses to complete any work? Who then would teach any special education classes? What stops me from skewing my grades to keep the world off my back? Education cannot be objectively measured. It never could, and our problems began when we came to that realization and instead of embracing it, decided to force it into a quantifiable box that is much too small and too much the wrong shape.
The doctrine of Unexpected Consequences dictates that as soon as teachers are paid by how well their students do, then all students will become A+ students. If there was a mania for “teaching to the test” before, that’s the only form of teaching that we’ll see in the future. Retesting, allowable or now, will be a regular feature. There have already been mini-scandals where teachers themselves have “taken” tests for students. Look for these to become non-scandalous.
Though I referenced Robert Greene Ingersoll formerly, Clifford Stroll has already addressed our country’s educational misgivings in a single sentence: “Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, and understanding is not wisdom.” It is time that we fall on our sword. In our rabid pursuit of data and blame, we have sacrificed wisdom and abandoned its fruits.
Amen, sister, amen.