PROTESTS AND BOYCOTTS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM: THE ISSUE? STANDARDIZED ...May 8, 2016
Many of our regular readers in the United Kingdom sent me this story, and I need to pass it along. The reason is that Britons are waking up to the dangers of standardized testing, and to the government's plans to expand its usage:
There's an interesting and hidden assumption lurking in this article, and I found it disturbing. Here's where it occurred:
The government of England has made significant changes to the country's educational system as it now gives the National Curriculum Test to six-year-olds. This move has prompted the parents to join in the nationwide protest against the said changes.
The parents of year two students were the ones who started the campaign against letting their children join the National Curriculum Test at the mere age of six or seven. The campaign is called Let Our Kids Be Kids.
Parents have noticed that the required test has placed significant anxieties on their children and thought of the exams as too much and too soon for their children. Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, said primary pupils are being pushed to learn concepts that are way beyond their age and capability. But the government firmly believes that the test will not place their child in a stressful situation.
As reported by BBC, the new test known as SAT was made in order to assess' children's grasp of the introduced primary school national curriculum which is much harder than the previous one.
According to The Guardian, the revised curriculum which was introduced in 2015 is more demanding on subjects like English and Math. This is a part of the government's drive to add rigor. Six and eleven-year-olds need to memorize five and ten minute's tables as well as the use of fractions
Notice what's occurring here, for it's a pattern that Americans are well familiar with, for the pattern was used to destroy American education: (1) the government wants more "rigor" in schools, and wants to hold students to a "higher standard" for academic achievement and performance. (2) It has therefore extended the use of national standardized tests to an earlier age to measure whether or not that "rigor" has been met.
The assumption here is that standardized tests can measure that - or any other - academic requirement at all. Here the chief issue is what it has always been: no one is allowed to present their process of reasoning for their answers, i.e., no one is allowed or required to argue and demonstrate their answers. One only selects from pre-selected answers prepared by committees of anonymous "experts" who prepare the tests. And as my co-author Gary Lawrence and I show in our Rotten to the (Common) Core, in many cases the "experts" are themselves not exhibitting standards of "rigor," but merely of rudimentary competence. THus, oftentimes their questions punish the finer mind, and reward the more mediocre one, and - yes - in many cases the the answers on questions are simply wrong, and illustrate that the test-preparers themselves have not properly understood a concept.
The result is that standardized tests can not only conceivably punish the "finer mind," but the "finer school," which then will appear, ala the "scientific and objective" results of the standardized tests themselves, to be failing. At this point, the familiar "American pattern" takes hold, repeats itself ad infinitum, and the result is a gutted and worthless educational system: as schools start to "fail," teachers are blamed. This will be "fixed" by arguing that teachers spend even more time learning "education"(whatever that is), and less time learning the actual discipline they want to teach. In the mean time, corporations will buy off politicans and convince them - through hefty "donations" to their campaigns - that the way to document teacher/school failure and to measure the success of this or that government program or kooky "methodology" theory dreamt up by a "doctor of education" is to have more standardized tests, so that the teachers (who are already "failing", you'll recall) are required to teach "to more and more tests" (which, you'll recall, are prepared by oftentimes incompetent committees, and which do not allow students to argue or reason through choices, nor to generate their own answers). This means they'll teach less and less in depth in their subject disciplines, and the system gradually declines, until....
... you wind up with a general population as stupid (and, I might add, barbarous, narcississtic, and shallow) as the general American population. Don't believe me? Well, I've been saying for years that the result of all this "educational success" in the USSA has been a political class, an elite, that is itself profoundly stupid and self-absorbed, disconnected from the people and therefore incapable of offering any solutions for the good of the nation: just look at the current American presidential (s)election and you'll see what I mean. Bernie, Hillary, Donald... this is the result of American education: and the "solutions" you heard them advocating are actually the level at which they, and the voting population, thinks(or rather, exhibits the facsimile of thinking).
The real problem with all this "standardization" is that it is almost completely antithetical to the tradition of British education. For example, the last I heard, I don't recall hearing that Oxford undergraduates were sweating a week's worth of standardized tests in the Examination schools, or that Cambridge undergraduates were sharpening number two lead pencils to fill in ovals on their tripos. What they were sweating was the fact that they'd have to answer questions, both as to fact, and as to form; they were sweating the fact that they'd have to write, to argue their own answers, and convince actual scholars in the field that their answers were worthy of consideration. The system had its flaws to be sure, but producing illiterate students wasn't one of them.
The bottom line for me is what it has always been: standardized testing is an overall failure, and needs to be abolished - along with the whole certification system - completely. No amount of money, or tinkering, will fix what has been a lengthy and failed experiment. As one reader of this website reminded me, the educational system is a complex system, and complex systems cannot be fixed by tinkering with this or that part; they must be completely set aside. Of course, getting rid of all of this sounds impractical, unachievable.
But I suggest that, like the radicals who gave us this mess in the first place, we keep our eyes on the goal, and chip away in the meantime, by questioning every politician and corporate "testing" representative, how "more" tests, "more" money, "more" homework, "more" school hours and days, automatically translated into "better results." Then, one at a time, we'll start removing this test, that test, this certification requirement, that certification requirement, this "pro-testing' administator, that principal, from the process, as we simultaneously restore the all-important and necessary human factor: to allow kids to have their "down time", rather than to sweat a stupid test, prepared by greedy stupid people, adinistered in the name of government programs concocted by a greedy and stupid political class. Of course, the secret here is that eventually someone will form an educational corporation basically advocating the "old methods", trivium, quadrivium, and teachers who've positively avoided "ceritifcation" and "education" and "method" and "pedagogy" classes. Then they can go to corrupt politicians with a "new program" (which is really a very old one), and offer competition to the Mon(ster)santos of education: the testing and textbook corporations.
Or to put all this country simple: we doff the hat to those British parents that have said enough is enough.
See you on the flip side...