Saturday, August 9, 2008
I'm afraid I find myself agreeing with more of this than I'd like.
I've been teaching college for nearly 40 years now, and while I find many highly motivated students in every class I teach, I can't say they're as well-prepared as they used to be. It's particularly astonishing when I come across a student who wants to be a writer but can't name the last book he's read, or a book that inspires him, or even his favorite author.
I know it's fashionable, and probably partly true, to say that the poor literary habits I see in my college students is due to their bad public school training, or their attraction to the Internet or to other new media. But I think a big part of it has to do with No Child Left Behind. Clearly, public schools have been forced to squeeze out much of the curriculum (meaning novels, poems, stories in English classes) and instead to focus the teachers' valuable time and the students' time on preparing to take a standardized test.
I can mark a dramatic change in my students that coincides with Florida's use of the FCAT which was an early version of the No Child Left Behind tests. Jeb started it. Must run in the Bush family. Holding teachers accountable is a bogus justification for such a radical shift in pedagogy. There are dozens of ways to make sure teachers are doing a good job without subjecting an entire generation of students to a mindless multiple choice test.
America education has always been notable in its emphasis on originality of thought and its willingness to challenge authority. To adopt a testing system that stresses uniformity and test taking rather than more creative forms of expression inevitably generates students who lose interest in school and education.
If I had been tested in public school the way students are today, I'm sure I would have gotten out of school as quickly as possible. I hate tests, don't do well on them, never have.
Anyone else notice
the worker bee,
assembly line imagery
of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies?
The way we compete with worker bees
is with creativity, not test taking.