Monday, February 10, 2014

Your 5 year old failed a standardized test. Therefore, he is stupid, insane, and doomed to a life of failure.

Matt Walsh writes:
I’m going to grab you by the hand and drag you into hell. I am going to immerse you in a nightmare so hideous and horrifying that it will leave you stunned and gasping for breath.
Are you ready?
Alright, imagine a terrifying world where 4 and 5 year old children are allowed to play, explore, and dream. Imagine a dystopia where young kids roll in the grass and get mud on their pants. Imagine what would happen if small children weren’t constantly being measured or analyzed. Imagine an utter and complete absence of overarching ”academic standards” for kids that are barely older than toddlers. Imagine the torment of a country that does not provide government facilities to which its citizens can send their tots for curriculum-based instruction. Um, in this world? Yes, that would be a problem, I imagine. Imagine a netherworld where innocent little kids aren’t tested, or scored, or compared to the “performance” of other kids all over the globe. Imagine — just imagine — a purgatory where your 4 year old develops on his own time, and isn’t hurried along so that he might meet broad “milestones” and “performance standards.”
Can you imagine this? Can you imagine a reality where our youngest sons and daughters don’t emerge from the womb only to be immediately placed in an even more restrictive and confining box — a box which will imprison them for the next 13 or 14 years of their lives?
Scary, isn’t it?
Twist ending: this is the world in which everyone lived, up until very recently.  *Gasp* No! You mean to tell me the world has undergone rapid change? Actually, I should mention, though, that the pre-modern world wasn't quite as you imagine it. The concept of "childhood" as we know it didn't exist. Kids were treated as miniature adults. Often they weren't allowed to play, dream, or explore, because they were too busy doing farm chores or threading bobbins for 14 hours a day. How quaint, right?
Somehow, for thousands of years, kids learned and grew and matured, and they did so without modern public schools. The Ancient Greeks produced some of the most brilliant minds in human history, and with nary a pre-K or a “this is what your kid should be doing at this age” parenting book. Actually, there were public education systems in ancient Greece. Try again, Matt. Against all odds, the great civilizations of the past — whether Roman, or Byzantine, or Ottoman, or Persian — all managed to contribute immensely to the progress of man, without the help of Common Core or standardized tests.  Oh Matt. You can't just make up history. Public education has ancient roots. Yes, education is different today, but also, society is majorly different today. Global industrial capitalism did not exist during the eras that you mention. The needs of those societies were different. Apples and oranges. Modern capitalism requires an intensive, systematic provision of education.
How did they do it?
There must have been some sort of ancient sorcery at work.
How else can it be explained?  See my comments above.
I can certainly tell you that I wept when I read this recent op-ed in an Oregon newspaper. A couple of concerned bureaucrats report the “sobering” epidemic of kindergartners underperforming on standardized tests. Apparently, what these youngsters need is for government schools to be more “coordinated” and aggressive in seeing to it that they reach the arbitrary academic milestones imposed upon them by the Department of Education. Sorry Matt, but you, like most other Americans, are pretty clueless when it comes to education in this country. Yes, children underperforming at young ages is a problem. See, we are worried about educational inequality. Many children in America get a great education, and probably would get a great education regardless of what type of school (public, private, homeschool) they attended because they live in a world with abundant resources. Other children live in poverty and, due to lack of resource and the many compounded effects of poverty, fall ever further behind their peers. It starts in kindergarden. And, studies of shown, that trying to target that achievement gap early on has the best results. We don't want poor people to have subpar education, because a) that is not just; and b) that just exacerbates poverty.
But this tragic story is not confined to Oregon alone. Other states are in the midst of a similar crisis. No Matt. The crisis is poverty and achievement gaps.
Indeed, across the country millions of children, kindergartners and older, are “falling behind” and failing to learn at the exact rate and pace required by the government. Even though you use scare quotes, the gap is very real, and will result in those children having far fewer opportunities available to them when they graduate.
It isn’t just that these individual children are doomed — though they certainly are — it’s that we will are all facing the apocalypse if our kids don’t learn to “test better.” No, we won't be facing the apocalypse. But we be making our society more and more dysfunctional.
Remember, it isn’t good enough that your child learn to read, or add, or write — she must do it NOW. If not now, then when? Next year? For God’s sake, are you mad? BY THEN IT WILL BE TOO LATE. Think of her college application!
Quick! Suck the fun out of her existence, eradicate her enthusiasm for learning, tie her to a chair and force her to fill out multiple choice questions! She must meet the standards so that her school gets more federal fundi— I mean, so that she will grow up to be a successful and well adjusted person. You really think educators are not genuinely concerned about the wellbeing of children? How little you know. Anyway, it IS possible to have standards, and to measure performance against those standards, without making everything dull. Maybe that is not, for the most part, being achieved right now, but that does not mean we have to give up on standards entirely.
Let me explain something about human beings: we are all exactly the same. Our minds are programmable computers, assembled in factories and implanted into our heads. Our children, therefore, can be expected to do everything the same way; learn the same way, act the same way, grow the same way, develop the way. If they don’t, then this is evidence of a systems-malfunction. No worries: stuff him full of drugs until he sufficiently measures up to the universal, preconceived notions of how he is supposed to think and behave. I'm with you here, Matt. But once again, there actually is a lot of attention given to these issues in the educational community. These concerns ARE taken into account by teachers and people involved with standards and assessments. I know, because I am one of them. You are assuming we don't know this; that it hasn't occurred to us.
Some foolish Neanderthals, like this woman at the Washington Post, question the wisdom of testing kindergartners and holding them to State-prescribed “standards.” But these people are anti-education extremists. They wish to return us to the Dark Ages — before government kindergarten and pre-k — back when children, deprived of the guiding light of standardized education, quickly descended into psychosis and cannibalism. Or, once again, they spent 14 hours a day threading bobbins.
Fear not. These anarchists are fighting a losing battle. These are the unhinged types who conceive children and then don’t even have the foresight to run to Barnes and Noble and purchase a bunch of parenting books instructing them on when their baby “should” crawl, or walk, or eat solid foods.
The barbarians.
They may wish to retain an ounce of freedom and creativity in their own chaotic households, but out here, in civilized society, we are moving past them. In fact, President Obama gave his State of the Union Address last week and once again reiterated his call for “Universal Pre-K.” 
Yes, Mr. President. We must get the children away from their parents as soon as possible. And it is not enough for pre-k to be universal — it must be mandatory. But why stop there? I call for mandatory universal pre-pre K, which will be the next step after pre-pre-pre K, which would come right after a baby graduates from mandatory universal nursery instruction. If our children are to compete with the Chinese (surely, “competing” with Asian kids thousand of miles away must be the innate desire of all young Americans ) then we should stop wasting time. I say, let’s administer the first standardized test within 5 minutes of birth. That is, until the Russians give standardized tests to one-minute-olds.  Ah Matt, can you please stop writing about things you know absolutely nothing about? There is pretty solid evidence that universal pre-K helps to narrow achievements gaps among classes and races. We want an even playing field, right? That's what we're concerned about. That's why universal pre-k would be helpful. Plus, many kids are already in daycare at that age (already away from their parents) and for other kids in chaotic, impoverished environments, spending time in a structured, educational setting can only help.
Hurry! No time to waste! If your sons and daughters are to be obedient and useful cogs in the Assembly Line of Modern Society, we have to begin molding them for our purposes as soon as (or even before) they take their first breath. Ok, once again, I tend to agree with you here. While I maintain that a certain type of educational system is necessary for the functioning of modern capitalism, I question whether human development should be dictated by the requirements of modern capitalism, as dehumanizing as it can be.
But I am also a bit fascinated by this. Matt, it seems that in some situations you are totally on the side of big business, and you have said that you think capitalism is a pretty good system. But other times you seem to express discontent with its effects: materialism, consumerism, dehumanization. Do you see this as a contradiction, Matt? I am honestly curious.
Maybe, if we keep at it, if we work hard enough, we can create a country where children are no longer troubled with the stresses of being creative and imaginative; where they don’t engage in silly things like art, and sports, and music; where they have no sense of wonderment, or humor, or curiosity; where they can all simply sit still and regurgitate pieces of information onto sheets of paper. Actually, all of these things have been fostered more than ever since the advent of public schools in America.
A world where, essentially, that loathsome and inconvenient institution called “childhood” no longer exists in any discernible fashion. That would be the world prior to about 1850.
Call me a dreamer if you like.
I suppose I am. And I'm not the only one. I hope somedaaaay-
Oh. Wait. Sorry.
And that’s only because I didn’t spend enough time taking standardized tests in kindergarten.
The only thing you have shown me is that you don't take the time to educate yourself on topics that interest you. You just say think that you *think* must be true, and that is good enough. Also, this is a topic that has been addressed and discussed ad nauseum. Not that it isn't a worthwhile conversation, but you are adding nothing to it.

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