In this post we’re a continuing with the series on the Paranoia of the Education System and more specifically the Paranoia of Standardized Testing. In the previous post we looked at how the Paranoia instigated by and of Standardized Testing has had the consequence of forcing schools to compete with each other. In this post we’re moving into the classroom and are looking more specifically at the consequence of Standardized Testing for the work of Teachers.
For context to what we will be discussing here, please read the previous two posts in this series:
THE PROBLEM WITH TEACHING TO THE TEST
‘Teaching to the Test’ has become a buzz phrase synonym for everything that is wrong with the current education system and no one (besides students) know this better than teachers themselves. Teachers in many schools now spend more time preparing students for the many various tests that are mandated by legislators than actual teaching with the consequence of teachers leaving their jobs – often being those teachers who loved teaching and for whom teaching was a passion and a calling. There has for instance been several examples of honored and respected teachers resigning from their jobs due to the current state of the education system, for example veteran Ellie Rubenstein whose story was shared here on the blog on DAY 23 and award winning teacher Ron Maggiano who quit his job as a teacher just four years prior to full retirement. In accordance with this, a five-year University of Maryland study completed in 2007 found “the pressure teachers were feeling to ‘teach to the test'” since NCLB was leading to “declines in teaching higher-order thinking, in the amount of time spent on complex assignments, and in the actual amount of high cognitive content in the curriculum.” [i]
A possible consequence of this tendency is that the teachers who love teaching will leave their jobs and find something else to do and their jobs will be taken over by people who has no interest in or passion about education but who see the teaching profession as an easy way to make a living. As an extension of this problem, students will come to school and attend classes without teachers motivated to educate and memorization and rote learning will take the place of any form of creative and participatory learning processes. Teachers no longer have to engage students or challenge their preconceived ideas because all answers will already be preconceived from the moment they enter into the education system and all teachers have to do is to pour standardized knowledge and information into the heads of students. Concordantly a 2010 College of William & Mary study found Americans’ scores on the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking have been dropping since 1990, and researcher Kyung-Hee Kim lays part of the blame on the increase in standardized testing: “If we neglect creative students in school because of the structure and the testing movement… then they become underachievers. [ii]
In such an education system, there is no room for mistakes, methods of learning-by-doing or trail-and-error type of learning. Knowledge and information has to be memorized without the students gaining any context as to why they are learning these specific numbers or dates or historical events or what the relevance is to life in general. One of the arguments has been that schools needs to focus more on ‘basic subjects’ such as math and reading to prepare children for higher education.
As such, a national 2007 study by the Center on Education Policy reported that since 2001, 44% of school districts had reduced the time spent on science, social studies and the arts by an average of 145 minutes per week in order to focus on reading and math. A 2007 survey of 1,250 civics, government, and social studies teachers showed that 75% of those teaching current events less often cited standardized tests as the reason. [iii]
The award winning teacher that I mentioned previously who quit his job, eloquently places how this type of education is problematic: “I think kids are learning a lot now, but they don’t know what to do with it. Life is not a multiple choice question, and the answer to life’s most important questions is not A, B, C or D.” – Ron Maggiano
So a tremendous problem is that teachers have to teach or rather induce children with knowledge and information in such a way that they themselves see is flawed and ineffective. And they have no choice because legislators have decided that standardized testing must be a priority in schools. Teachers know and are aware that what they are doing is not what real education is about and it places them in a position of being minions or henchmen for an education paradigm that they in no way agree to but that they’re forced to follow to not lose their jobs.
“Much of what is valuable in education cannot be measured in tests and league tables, just as the value of life is not only about prices and markets. It takes a real spirit of enterprise and self-confidence for a teacher to break free of the exam module and convey the excitement of what really brought them to the subject.” – British teacher David Willetts[iv]
A life, substance and value is slowly but surely being siphoned out of the education system and thus out of both teachers and our children. This is not so strange because our education systems reflect the general norms and values that are accepted and promoted in society and we are seeing the same thing happen in all areas of life on the planet. But nowhere is it as prominent and clear to see as in the education system.
When teachers have to teach preconceived curricular thought up by people in think-tanks and have absolutely no influence over the material or methods they use, they become virtually useless and with the course we’re heading it might not be long before teachers are replaced by teaching-bots or drones or even that all education is conducted remotely and digitally. It might sound extreme but the way that we are currently prioritizing what methods and content is important in school, this is surely not unrealistic. What is fascinating is that this development breaks with hundreds of years of research and philosophy done in various fields of education. Multiple studies find that people excel the most when they’re given autonomy over their work and when they are able to learning by doing. Yet the Paranoia that instigates the apparent need for standardized testing trumps any well-founded understanding of how a human being best learn and develop.
What is even more fascinating is that the Paranoia that has instigated the prioritization of Standardized Testing in schools, is unfounded but it even erodes and undermines it’s own declared intent of optimizing and making education more efficient.
This is the typical consequence of existing in acting on fear — we create and manifest that which we fear because we’re already living in an anticipation and acceptance of it.
As such, by introducing Standardized Testing based on Fear and Paranoia of not being effectively competitive on a global financial market, people actually become less effective human beings – because as studies have shown, it is when we’re able to be creative and make independent decisions without fear and in self-trust that we are at our best. And none of that exist in the current school system.
The most pathetic thing is that up until two years ago, I counseled young people, “Come into teaching. It is a wonderful profession.” Now I counsel them to find something else because this is not the profession I would choose for myself (Wright, 2002, p. 28).[v]
Teachers are completely separated from that which they teach – yet they must comply whether they agree or not. That’s not the optimal use of a teacher. The people that are purposed to become teachers are those who are passionate about sharing their particular field of interest and who can transmit that in such a way that those being taught can understand the material effectively but also become equally passionate about it through the example of the teacher’s passion. But when our system is based on fear and competition, that is all that will be transmitted, both through the methods used, such as standardized testing and through the teacher standing as an example of someone who is powerless towards the power that be, who in many cases have given up, who themselves have become apathetic and dispassionate about what they do and who equally exist in fear of not having enough money or losing their job.
Everything that has to do with the test has been given such a high priority, that there is no priority any more but that … The bottom line question comes down to, “Well, what’s going to help them do better on the test?” And if it’s not going to help them do better on the test, well, we don’t have time for that right now (Wright, 2002, p.10).[vi]
What is fascinating is that the current ‘knowledge economy’ demands students coming out of universities with the ability to think creatively, independently and be able to corporate. Yet it is the same system that produces apathetic people who go on to find their only solace and experience of empowerment in the experience of being consumers. So is that what they purpose of standardized testing really is about? To drill us to become complacent and ‘happy’ consumers? Are the purposes of standardized testing perhaps then not even the tests themselves or the knowledge they are supposed to convey but the way they teach us to look at life? Aren’t all children left behind in a system that only cares about profit-maximization for the few? Aren’t all children left behind in a system where politics no longer serve the people but only acts as minions to the corporate world and in turn make teachers its henchmen?
The first thing that has to happen to sort out the problems teachers are facing in the current school system is that the Paranoia that the education system has been entrenched within has to stop. We have to realize that the global financial markets as a driving force for productivity and life on earth isn’t the only way to live, it isn’t a system that can’t be changed – but at the moment we’re living as though the only way to live – is through surviving in global capitalism, whether one is a teacher, a student or a representative for a nation. Although it is commonsensical that teachers operate based on some form of centralized curriculum they also require a certain level of autonomy to be able to transmit that which they know and are passionate about. Teachers must be included and active participants in the development of curricular as well as educational methods of teaching and evaluation – because just like in any other area in this world, they people who work with something every day are those who understand it the best. Because as it is at the moment, all teachers can be are lackeys for a system promoting fear and as such they become the henchmen of fear whether they like it or not.
We all want our children to be passionate about education. We want them to want to go to school; we want them to want to acquire knowledge or at least agree to and understand the purpose of their education. For that we require teachers who are passionate about teaching. That is not possible in the current system because the current system – the system that is created to transmit our values and norms to future generations – doesn’t care about passion or about understanding life in all its detail. Therefore it is obvious that once we make a democratic and collective decision to change the starting-point of our systems, and thereby also our values and norms, that the rewards in the education system will be tremendous. All the people who are currently either resigning from their work as teachers who used to love teaching wouldn’t leave their jobs. If teachers had a say in the development of curricular, there’s no limit to the creativity and ingenuity such curricular could contain. And that would have the effect – at least eventually – that our children would start being passionate about education. We would stop manufacturing apathetic consumer robots and would start supporting the development of a new kind of human being – a human being that is curious about life, a human being that trusts itself, even when it makes mistakes, a human being that doesn’t give up when things aren’t easy or simple, a human being that has the capacity to understand the multidimensionality of complex matters and of life on earth in general. We could develop awesome ways of testing our own skills in such a way that wouldn’t play on fear or paranoia and where the teacher stands in the role of being a transmitter of information as an example of what it means to be passionate about various areas of life on earth.
Standardized testing – because it is based in Paranoia – has the effect of eroding any and all substance and value that is supposed to be transmitted through the education system, because our education systems are always a reflection of the life we’re accepting for ourselves on earth. And right now – that is nothing but fear and paranoia using competition as a driving force while we’re busy eroding the very life force and source that makes life possible on this planet. It is of vital importance that we each reconsider our starting-point of how we’re living on this planet, because this fear and paranoia that exists in our government organs and in our education systems comes from nowhere but ourselves.
So please give yourself, your children and every future generation the opportunity to experience a system where your life and development is supported from the moment you are born through voting for an EqualMoney System.
For more information about Equal Money and Education, I recommend reading the following blogs:
[i] Bruce Jacobs, “No Child Left Behind’s Emphasis on ‘Teaching to the Test’ Undermines Quality Teaching,” Endeavors, Dec. 2007 and Linda Valli, and Robert Croninger, “High Quality Teaching of Foundational Skills in Mathematics and Reading,” drdc.uchicago.edu (From procon.org)
[iii] “Survey Finds Teaching to the Test Has Negative Impact on Use of News in Classrooms: Carnegie-Knight Task Force Urges More Emphasis on Civics Education,” www.knightfoundation.org (From procon.org)