I come from a family of educators. My mother, aunt, both uncles, and my grandmother have all been teachers in some fashion. My youngest brother is currently studying to become an educator.
Being familiar with education, my family has never been supportive of the testing craze currently dominating our education system. It stresses a limited range of skills and specific types of learning. And in the end, all we’re really doing is teaching our students how to take a test.
Education is the way by which Americans will compete in the increasingly global economy. It is also how we can understand the world in which we live, our place in history, and our responsibility to it. Unfortunately, we are falling further and further behind in this regard.
I really don’t understand why education isn’t a higher priority–actually, I do. It’s this austerity bullshit our politicians are trying to force down our throats. They want to gut education to justify tax breaks for billionaires.
I honestly believe the Republican party–and to a lesser extent the democratic party–has a long term goal of creating a 3rd world economy here in the United States, with a super-rich, elite ruling class, and a docile, ignorant, working class majority that has limited opportunities outside of whatever jobs the elites make available at whatever wages they deem acceptable.
They want no mandatory health care programs, no collective bargaining rights for workers, no Social Security, no Medicare, no minimum wage, no child labor laws, no government regulation of business, and enough education for workers to perform skilled tasks, but not enough to think critically. They want a flock corralled by religion, conditioned to endure hardship, and never question authority.
The best, most effective way for us to recapture control of our future is with a broad, robust education system; one designed to maximize the potential in each and every student–not meet standardized testing requirements.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that powerful nations crumble from within long before they are conquered from the outside. Approaching education with the same attitude we have about our military–that we will be the best no matter what it takes–would take us a lot farther toward ensuring our security than we could in building another squadron of fighter jets or ballistic missile platform.
We have an outdated, industrial-age education system that promotes discipline, routine, and rote memory. Yet we have an information-and-technology-based economy that stresses initiative, critical thinking, and problem solving. We need a system that to develops the ability to manage, evaluate, and understand information–especially with the myriad ways information comes to us. But more than that, we need a system that fully develops whatever abilities a student may possess.
In this we are failing ourselves and future generations. But it doesn’t have to be this way:
So do not buy into the Republican voucher program talking point–the voucher will not be enough to send your kid to a good school. Do not support politicians who want to cut education funding, including college grants. Then let’s call for an education revolution. Tear it all down like the Romans did Carthage, “leave not one stone upon another.” Get away from the testing mania. Begin rebuilding with evidence-based (i.e., proven teaching method) pilot programs that integrate technology and stress active learning (as opposed to passive learning in which students sit and listen to a teacher lecture) to find the most effective teaching methods. Dramatically increase teacher pay, especially for grades K-5. Make it a more prestigious position to attract even better candidates. Then we’ll be ready to start building a 21st century education system.
Our future literally and critically depends on it.
P.S. thanks to my mom for help with refining the technical jargon and conceptual whodjamawhatsit. You can visit her blog here.