- Anna Brix Thomsen
The Paranoia of Standardized Testing (Pt.6) Fear and Boredom is the Recipe for a Stupidity Cocktail:
We have come to the 6. Chapter on our exploration and uncovering of the Paranoia of the Education System specifically focusing on the Paranoia of and within Standardized Testing as how it currently exists.
In this blog post we will discuss how children’s well-being is affected by standardized testing and what possible consequences manifest when children are forced into an ineffective education system that focuses on anything but education and exists only to serve the paranoia that is market capitalism
There has been written extensively on how children are affected by standardized testing: some are for, others are against – seldomly children themselves are asked.
So I will here look at a problem that specifically relates to the principle of competition that, as we have established in previous blog-posts, is the foundation of the paranoia of the market capitalist system in which the education system is embedded.
PROBLEM: Fear and boredom.
The ‘learning’ scenario that is created through the paranoia of standardized testing is one based on fear of failure and pressure to perform. Why? Because the children are taught from an early age that they must ‘get good grades’, that they must ‘get ahead in life’ if they want to grow up and be successful. They’re virtually being probed through tools such as standardized testing to become fear driven career-mongers (if they ever get that far that is).
Within this ‘learning’ scenario that we call school the students are also taught by teachers who mostly work to make a living in an easy way with good vacation plans – which obviously makes the whole scenario immensely boring because the teacher themselves are coming from a starting-point of paranoia of survival and have often little to no passion about the work they do. As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, this problem will increase as corporate market capitalism moves further into schools because it will push away the real teachers who no longer have a say in what or how they teach. Therefore the children will be stuck with people who became teachers because it is easy and who then gladly will handout ‘packages’ and tests because it makes their work easier and it requires a minimum of actual involvement or creativity.
Now – why is fear and boredom a problem for the process of learning?
Here I will direct you to a quote from a blog I read written by a fellow teacher on how children’s brains respond to standardized testing as they currently are presented in schools. (Remember also that I’m here not talking about all standardized testing being ineffective, but the point of paranoia that drives them currently.)
“The Science of Fun Learning Before we go into discussing the testing itself, we need to talk a bit about the tool used in such a task as learning — the brain. Don’t fall asleep on me, now. This will not be some high-minded lecture on neurology; I am not exactly an expert, but I have studied the brain as it pertains to learning. So here are a few things we need to know. The pre-frontal cortex of the brain, located near the forehead, is where we make our decisions based on reason; it is the executive part of the brain and keeps our impulses in check, most of the time. The limbic system, made up of the hypothalamus, hippocampus, and amygdala, has control over two other systems: the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. The sympathetic system deals with strong emotions, especially fear. It is the thing that tells us to flee or fight. The parasympathetic system is our “rest and digest” system. It deals with sleep mostly. Now, the pre-frontal cortex “talks” to the limbic system all of the time. The limbic system sending messages like “It’s OK. No monsters in sight. We are all good.” The pre-frontal cortex responds, “OK, cool. Keep it down then.” What happens, though, is when we are afraid, this connection is disrupted and all we can think about is being afraid (sympathetic system). Conversely, if we are bored, we get sleepy and the connection is also disrupted (parasympathetic system). Here is the kicker: Working memory is stored in the pre-frontal cortex; it is short-term memory. In order to store short-term memory as long-term memory, it must travel through the limbic system and work its way back to the cerebral cortex where long-term memory is stored. ” – Danny Keener. “Why the Current Education System is Failing Future Generations: A Note From a Teacher”
So the limbic system can interrupt the learning process but it can also stimulate learning if the child is placed in an environment that encourages enjoyment and self-expression and exploration.
So it is a fact that children learn better when they’re willingly engaged rather than forcefully probed with information. For this the child requires to also be an equal participant to the point of understanding the point with what they’re learning and being able to see the progress they’re making. If standardized testing is only done for the sake of competition between students, teachers, schools, cities and countries then there’s not much left for the students to actually learn from.
“Principals make it clear to teachers that test scores are paramount. From the president to the superintendent on down, math and reading tests are the only lens through which academic achievement and school success are interpreted. Adult jobs are on the line, and forced conversion to privately managed charter schools loom.” – Daniel Denveer, “School: It’s way more boring than when you were there.”
We can even see this in our own lives: Most of us has had teachers who disliked their jobs or their lives and therefore was nearly impossible to learn from. Or it was obvious that they would just parrot the same curriculum year after year without any interest in expanding their own educational process as teachers. And some of us has been lucky enough to have teachers who are passionate about what they do, about their field and about teaching. These teachers can engage children on any subject.
“Whatever the cause, bored students take notice and are not showing up to class — especially poor kids of color. A February 2011 report by Youth United for Change found that boredom was one of the greatest factors driving students in Philadelphia to drop out — just 63 percent of students graduate within six years. The students who conducted the survey use the term “pushed out” to highlight the forces driving young people out the door. “It’s so much time put into the testing, and it gets boring,” says Romeo Rodriguez, a 21-year-old who left a number of Philadelphia schools and a study author. “To sit there and read constantly, the same questions that they ask every year.” – Daniel Denveer, “School: It’s way more boring than when you were there.”
As I’ve discussed in previous blog-posts, what has to change first of all is the starting-point of why we’re even doing standardized testing. We got to take the paranoia and fear of failure out of our education systems. And to do that we have to stop market capitalism from being the directive principle that governs our lives and the politics with which we manage it. See – it’s a chain reaction where if the first pearl on the string is rotten, this rot will carry through to the next pearl and the next and no matter how many more pearls we stuff on that string, it won’t fix the problem because the problem was in the very starting-point.
This is why it is important to consider the Sustainable Basic Income System that we in the Equal Life Foundation are proposing. Because it will be a virtual ‘reset button’ for our economic, political and education systems from where we can start anew with establishing a real and effective education system. Standardized testing isn’t the problem. We are.
The rewards to stopping the paranoia of the market capitalistic system and thereby the paranoia embedded within standardized testing as it is currently used in schools is that we will be able to create an education system that in its very foundation supports what is best for all life and therefore functions through the best possible educational tools that have been subject to extensive research and cross-referencing where obviously teachers and students will enjoy the interactive process of learning – but what is even more important: we will be able to lay the foundation of a new way of co-existing together that isn’t based on fear but on self-expression and enjoyment and mutual respect and consideration for one’s fellow man and the planet as a whole. After all that’s what education was supposed to be: the process within which a child walks to become the best possible version of itself and thereby contribute to society in the best way possible.
In and from the next blog-post we will begin a new series on the Paranoia of the Education System where we will more specifically discuss education as a tool propaganda and indoctrination.
I suggest to in connection with this blog-post to take a moment to read the following blog-post on Basic Income and Teaching where the points I’ve discussed here are further expanded upon.
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