Wednesday, December 15, 2010

(very little) Room for Debate

The New York Times invited at least 7 people to contribute to their latest Room for Debate on the topic of Stress and the High School Student.

Evidently there is less "room for debate" in the New York Times than some would like to believe, as only six posts were authored as a part of the discussion.

One name was left out.

Susan Ohanian.

Apparently her 300 words on the lunacy of standardized testing and her real world example of the harms done to children was deemed inappropriate for the given "room for debate". (Here's more on how this played out)

Here is Susan Ohanian's post that the New York Times should have posted:

"Race to Nowhere" accurately portrays the heartbreaking stress schools place on children. The fear of "not being good enough" now begins with standardized requirements for Pre-K. Although the Times review emphasized the pressure felt by suburban students preparing their resumes for the Ivy League, a Vermont high schooler with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) wrote six pages of expletives on his federally-required test. 
You f_ _ _ ing a_ _holes. 
I have been taking these f_ _ _ing tests since first grade and I am f_ _ _ing sick of it. I know I can't spell. You know I can't spell. I have more important things to do than this bulls_ _ _ test... This is a f_ _ _ing waste of time. You could spend this time teaching me something. 
Suspended for inappropriate behavior, this youth missed out on the lumberjack test he'd planned to take the next day. The state of Vermont owes him an apology for going along with federal mandates insisting that one size fits all. 
The pressure will get worse. The US Department of Education bribed states to accept Common Core Standards and has dished out over $300 million for tests to accompany these standards. Wordsworth and Jane Austen for all. 
Parents and teachers must fight for childhood. Say "No!" to Barack Obama, to Thomas Friedman, to Ben Bernanke, to Oprah, and to everybody else who mouths nonsense about educating workers for the global economy, trying to put the blame for our economic woes on the backs of schoolchildren. 
We need artists, bakers, lumberjacks, manicurists, welders, and yurt builders, as well as people who study math and science in college. Let's respect the variety of skills needed in our communities and make sure everyone receives a decent wage. Talking about "Race to Nowhere" is a good place to start. 


  1. Indeed they should have. It may not be absolutely politically correct, so some readers may choke a little on it, but it's so **** important it should have been posted never the less.

    Thank you for sharing.

  2. I am a teacher and feel the same, but I really do not know what to do. The group that loves to make the kids take tests and study for hours on end seem to always be in control.

  3. Agreed that this should have been posted. Gareth, though I don't necessarily know your particular circumstances I would recommend starting in your own small way. Perhaps by eliminating needless testing within your own classroom. Seeing what results the students produce, and then using that evidence to talk to administration etc. Again though, I am not aware of your individual circumstances and whether that would be a possibility.

  4. Susan Ohanian's ending comments talks about moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach which is forcing all kids to graduate using a similar curicullum. Kids could then follow their interests , vocational training etc and graduate without pressure. Charles Murray says that a big proportion of kids are not capable of producing the results policy makers want and their policies are doomed to failure. We could then focus on teaching kids to think and question using a curiculum based on their interests

    Reassuring parents, teachers, adminstrators that test prep is not the way to go to improve USA standing on international test scores is in my humble opinion an important challenge - Joe , how about a post on this issue

  5. I live in Switzerland and we do not have a one size fits all approach. You can be totally middle class and a hairdresser, eventually own your own salon, take ski holidays, etc., all without ever having gotten near a college. Same goes for mechanics and the like. People get real training and classroom work to prepare for a host of different careers. HOWEVER, what complicates things (in my view) is that students take a test in Grade 6 (age 12) to determine which sort of high school they will attend, which in turn determines whether or not university is even a possibility. Yes, you can retake the test at 14, and yes, as an adult you can slide in sideways if you are prepared to work really, really hard, but -- basically, where you are at 12 determines the rest.
    So my quesiton is--how to preserve this wonderful variety of educational possibilities--college prep, apprenticeships that lead to meaningful work, etc., without relying on a super high pressure test somewhere along the way? Should we let parents (ha!) or students do the sorting? or teachers, based on classroom performance without any "objective" criteria to weed out biases? Help!!


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