Saturday, April 28, 2012

Ridiculously difficult or just ridiculous?

Questions about a talking pineapple on a standardized test in New York has attracted criticism.

The passage is a parody on the famous  Aesop fable about the tortoise and the hare, but in this version a talking pineapple challenges a rabbit to a race. Because the pineapple can't move, the rabbit wins easily, so the other animals who bet on the winner eat the pineapple. 

Students were required to answer some baffling questions about why the animals ate the pineapple, and which animal was the wisest.

You can see the passage and the questions here

In response to the public outcry to this nonsensical passage and questions, the New York Department of Education announced that the questions would not be counted against students.

Governments have a vested interest in ensuring that these tests never see the light of day in the public. Oh sure, the government will tell you secrecy is needed for security reasons but this is at best a partial truth. Governments need standardized tests to remain a secret so that the public can't see how utterly ridiculous they really are.

In his article Confusing Harder with Better, Alfie Kohn explains:
How many of us need to know this stuff--not just on the basis of job requirements but as a reflection of what it means to be well-educated? Do these facts and skills reflect what we honor, what matters to us about schooling and human life? Often, the standards being rammed into our children's classrooms are not merely unreasonable but irrelevant. It is the kinds of things students are being forced to learn, and the approach to learning itself, that don't ring true. The tests that result--for students and sometimes for teachers--are not just ridiculously difficult but simply ridiculous. 
"It is not enough to be busy," Henry David Thoreau once remarked. "The question is, what are we busy about?" If our students are memorizing more forgettable facts than ever before, if they are spending their hours being drilled on what will help them ace a standardized test, then we may indeed have raised the bar--and more's the pity. In that case, school may be harder, but it sure as hell isn't any better.
Standardized testing is a relic from our primitive schooling past, and our race to nowhere via testing flies in the face of an old Chinese Proverb:
Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time.

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