Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fraser Institute: Data mongers

I was reading Student awards cut to foster teamwork in B.C., Alberta when I came across this:

“Competition is a mechanism by which to encourage excellence among students and to equip them with the real-life skills of getting used to the idea that in various aspects of their lives they will be competing and that some will win and some will lose,” said Peter Cowley, an education policy researcher at the Fraser Institute in Vancouver.

It is important to note that the Fraser Institute is to schools as a vulture is to the living. Peter Cowley and his cult of data-mongers feed off pitting schools against schools, and ultimately, children against children.

Just like the ring leader who spurs on the animals and spectators during blood sports, Peter Cowley and the Fraser Institute want nothing more than to perpetuate the zero-sum game that defines competition. Schools duke it out in an attempt to get high scores on bad tests, while The Fraser Instittue profits from the sidelines.

Ken Chapman properly exposes the Fraser Institute for the fools they really are in his post titled Fraser Institute Report Comparing Schools is Educational Folly :

I always dispair at the superficial analysis and misleading inferences from the Fraser Institute when it ranks schools based on standardized test results. When you ask a shallow and silly question you are bound to get a useless answer. As the world gets more complex and informed engaged citizenship becomes more important than ever we need to ensure the skills we teach are those that are essential for this new and emerging world.

Of course the traditional subjects are still important but not as the only things worth teaching and testing. To compare schools and insist that they compete for credibility when private schools can restrict who they enroll and public schools will and must take all comers and to say this is a quality measure is misleading at best. This fundamental reality about enrollment and the socio-economic differences in schools make the Fraser Institute comparison reporting such a disservice. How are students, teachers, parents and the public able to use such selective comparisons when trying to discern if our education system is doing the job it needs to do to prepare the whole student for the changing and emerging reality they will face.

If students and teachers are only ranked and rated on narrow focued standardized test results we only get a bellcurve distribution but no insight as to how well prepared the whole student is for adaptation, resilience, self-sufficiency and survival in a complex interdependent globalized social, environmental, economic and political culture.

The Fraser Institute reports on public education is as helpful as counting the number of nails in a house and presuming that measures its value to those who live in it. It is not even worthy of being taken with a grain of salt. It is beyond useless, it is dangerous.

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