Class Warfare Blog

December 17, 2013

Getting an Education

There is a movement to use various test scores as indicators of educational quality and teacher quality. A recent MIT study shows that such tests don’t do what people assume they do. Most people think of a test as a “difficult” task and that you either do well or not and it means something. How this has been reshaped to become an evaluation of the test giver is beyond me. A small part I can understand, a major part, no.

The MIT researchers found, among other things, that students who were randomly selected to attend high-performing charter schools did significantly better on the math test than those who were not chosen, but there was no corresponding increase in “fluid intelligence scores.” Such skills are described as “fluid” because they require using logical thinking and problem solving in novel situations, rather than recalling previously learned facts and skills. “It doesn’t seem like you get these skills for free in the way that you might hope, just by doing a lot of studying and being a good student,” said the study’s senior author, John Gabrieli, in a statement.

I was a teacher for 35 years. Along the way I told every group of students that “what you get by coming to class is “schooled;” an education is what you get between classes.” What I meant by that is the private study, the extracurricular reading, the bullshit sessions, the arguments, the discussions, the exposure to other people and their ideas, and the intellectual stimulus you get from having your ideas challenged is what results in a student becoming “educated.”

The current “educational reformists” are willing to settle for “schooled” students who then get plugged into “jobs.” When I was young, I was told that prime objectives of my education were to become a functioning member of a democracy and to live a good life. They didn’t mention “jobs,” not before high school (people actually went to work after high school back then, you know).

Turning our schools into the corporate minor leagues is not a good idea . . . for anyone.


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