Friday, May 15, 2015

Dispatches from the SHAMscape... May 15, 2015

I passed (up) the test!! As background for this news item, I invite you to read or re-read Chapter 10 in this most excellent book someone told me about. I believe it's called SHAM. If you don't have a copy, now might be a good time to order one or check it out at the library. But read it, please. It's like a cheat sheet for everything we do here. The specific chapter I'd like you to look at is titled "I"m OK, You're OK... How Do You Spell OK again?", and it's relevant to our news item. Seems that in today's perpetually helicoptering parental culture we will do almost anything to protect our kids from having to face up to their own failures (or even before that, protect them from being put into a position where they might fail). The latest expression of this is the broad parental rebellion against a new generation of standardized testing (a rebellion that increasingly includes teachers, because the test scores reflect on them). Although our kids' second-rate performance in international tests has been well documented (as you'll know if you've read the chapter in SHAM and/or looked at more recent metrics), many parents tend to shrug that off, since in most cases little Matt and Muffy aren't competing head-to-head with their counterparts from India or Korea...at least until they begin applying to elite colleges and get rejected. But getting an ugly score in some standardized test right here in the good old USA, where others might even find out about it...Quel embarras! It didn't used to be like that. Once upon a time parents wanted to know what their kids were learning, really learning. But back in the 1960s, when the emphasis in education (and culture-at-large) began to shift from genuine excellence to self-esteem-building, it became more important for Matt and Muffy to feel good about their math skills than to be able to add 2 and 2 and get something like 4. (This is also when schools and even some youth leagues stopped keeping score in games. We can't have winners, for that implies losers.) If you do wider reading about today's anti-testing movement, you'll also see all this hand-wringing about the terrible stress and anxiety we induce in our kids by putting them in situations where, horror of horrors, their performance might actually be measured. I don't know. Perhaps we do at times invest too much meaning in numbers. But isn't that the fairest way to evaluate people in a society where there's also nonstop concern about bias and profiling and rater subjectivity?

1 comment:

whistle said...

"Perhaps we do at times invest too much meaning in numbers. But isn't that the fairest way to evaluate people in a society where there's also nonstop concern about bias and profiling and rater subjectivity?"

Just because they're numbers, doesn't mean they're fair. It's not like we're measuring mass or velocity.

I think standardized tests are one great way to measure performance. But they have been given way too much prominence (both in measuring the student and in measuring the teacher/school system).

On the other hand, parents 'opting their kids out' is just dumb.