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A concerned member of the human race

Sunday, March 22, 2015

What Is the Most Important Takeaway from an Education?

"Strength doesn't lie in numbers" because sometimes the numbers lie, especially if they're from standardized tests with predetermined cut scores.
Some would argue the most important takeaway from an education is the ability to perform well on standardized tests.  I would argue it is not.

I would argue standardized tests fail to accurately assess students.  I would argue they are overly narrow in their recognition of multiple forms of intelligence.  I would argue the tests not only have inherent biases, they often fail to understand how different minds work.  They certainly fail to capture the budding imagination of young minds.

Despite Rhee, Duncan and the like who argue we over-coddle our kids, I would argue the most important thing a person can take away from school is self-esteem, a sense of self worth and confidence, a faith in oneself built on hard work and accomplishments, not necessarily upon studying for standardized tests or taking after-school classes to ace them.

Exit the human teacher.  He or she is no longer trusted to assess the multiple forms of intelligence witnessed in the classroom.  Enter the standardized test, elevated on the pedestal of educational deformity.  Given the increasing emphasis on tests, it is less possible these days to give students projects which allow them to shine in diverse ways.  Much is lost in preparation for tests, preparation that will ultimately prove pretty meaningless for most in life.  

In a better world, some students would shine through working on a project to help the community.  Others would gain self confidence through debating.  Some would exhibit talents through writing creative stories, others through the spoken word.  Some would gain self esteem through their musical ability.  Some would shine in a production, on a team, as an editor of a newspaper or a leader of student government.

Yes, students must also master basic skills and content knowledge.  This is where Common Core tests fail.  They hold students to a level of proficiency which the test creators themselves most likely would have failed at a young age.  

These tests beat down students in their earliest years.  They teach students--who each develop at different rates--that they are failures in life.  They kill self-esteem before some students have ever had a chance to build it.  They turn students away from learning.  They turn students away from trying.  And this is why the tests themselves fail.

So, we would do best to teach students to find their their strengths and grow at their own speeds.  We must build their confidence in themselves, not in test makers or their politically engineered, profit-generating exams.  If we don't help build the confidence of the next generation and give them opportunities through which they can work to succeed in life, our world will fast become a far worse place.  So, as you can see, "I have confidence in confidence alone!"


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