The American Test

Maya is officially in her 5th year of education, according to the NY Dept of Ed, and as such, is required to take a standardized test and turn in the results, either with our 3rd or 4th quarter report.   We received the test in the mail today, and I began perusing it to get a feel for what it includes.   Because this is our first time taking it, it includes a ‘placement test’ which she will take and  I will grade.   How she places will then determine which test, from the booklet we received,  she will take to send in for scoring.

If I was guessing, based on what I know about Maya without even looking at the test, she will score very high in the language arts section, and about average in the math section.    Standardized tests are such a waste of time, because even if you don’t have a clue as to the correct answer, you are sure to be able to cross one or two answers off as definitely wrong.   So then it becomes not a measure of what you know, but how good you are at test taking and guessing.

It is very telling that in every other country in the world, multiple choice exams are known as “American Tests”.   (And it is not meant as a compliment.)

Because standardized testing is such a huge component in compulsory schooling, I started searching around the Life Learning Magazine ( back issues for relevant articles and came across an article John Taylor Gatto wrote entitled, “The Hall of Mirrors:  Or…everything you know about school is wrong”.   If you are interested in the entire article, you can subscribe to Life Learning Magazine on line for a minimal fee.  I’d recommend that anyway, as they have many great thought provoking articles each month.

But from this article, two sections in particular stand out to me.  The first reads:

“But the groundwork for profound change in school fortunes was laid during the British takeover of India in the late eighteenth century.  During that time, the secrets of institutional school management were disclosed through examination of eight constituents employed by the Hindu aristocracy to manage its common population through a voluntary form of mass schooling.  The eight secrets looked like this:

1)  In place of skills training, rote memory drills.

2)  In place of exercise to develop independent judgement, habit and attitude training.

3)  Strict limits on student questioning.

4)  Strict limits on student-to-student association.

5)  Silent testing of material previously assigned for memorization, followed by publicly announced rankings of student test results.  This done regularly.

6)  Denial of student rights to initiate curriculum based on personal interests.

7)   Long-term confinement in conditions of near-immobility and enforced silence, extended over a term of years.

8)  Removal of students from familiar surroundings, routines, and people; placement under direction of strangers who discourage attempts to build personal student-teacher relationships.”

Can you list which countries through history have excelled in mass schooling?    China, Hindu India and Prussia.   And of course the United States.    Gatto goes on to say:

“Standardized schooling by force isn’t even remotely about education; it’s about the same things here – political and economic and philosophical things – that it was about in ancient China, Hindu India and Prussia.  The Germanized version of the instrument focuses on converting individuals into a mass population for ease of management.  When we had an entrepreneurial culture, personal sovereignty was an absolute blessing, but in our corporate culture it’s only a curse.  The corporate logic demands that the young be rendered radically incomplete, to the end of converting them into human resources…converting them into means, rather than seeing them as ends in themselves.

Nearly all work in our society has been centralized.  To pull this transformation off, children in bulk had to be taught to think of their futures in terms of jobs, instead of independent livelihoods.  Parents had to be taught to accept lifelong subordination as a freedom from burdensome responsibility, and to turn their children over to anonymous agents of the political state as a further freedom from responsibility.  No wonder our nation is so profoundly childish.

The new American economy built by Astor, Vanderbilt, Harriman, Carnegie and Rockefeller drenched America with pro-school propaganda.  These men bought every newspaper and journal of importance to assist in colonizing the public mind.  In short order, they convinced the public that seat time in school was equivalent to education.  But their own lives showed no commitment to school confinement at all;  as young people, some of the principal names behind the scenes preferred factory work for themselves rather than school confinement.  Today, we are witnessing another expansion of the school empire and an energetic propaganda campaign designed to impose universal college schooling on the population.

Aha!  Bill Gates is the modern day Andrew Carnegie.   And he’s not the only one.  The founders of Google, Twitter, Apple, Dell, Oracle, CNN, Avis Rent A Car, Whole Foods Markets, IKEA and virtually all the fast food and entertainment empires are either college dropouts or never went at all.   A fact that most politicians would like you to ignore.

We’ll take our American Test, as required.   Not to test Maya’s knowledge, but to keep the DOE off our backs.   And to remind us, again, that by keeping our kids out of school we are giving them a chance at a real education.

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