The View From 1776

Teaching to the Test

      http://www.thomasbrewton.com/index.php/weblog/teaching_to_the_test/

When liberal-progressives talk about ‘learning to think,’ they really are speaking of absorbing PC attitudes.  Denigrating ‘teaching to the test’ is to believe that learning facts and mastering mathematics diminishes the capabilities of the human mind.


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Our school system since the late 1960s has become more a political indoctrination regime than an educational one.  It’s the American version of Communist China’s Red Guards compelling everyone to order his daily life by the quotations in Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book.

Let’s start by saying that the Federal government should stay out of education altogether, because it opens the door to an unconstitutional establishment of religion, secular or Judeo-Christian.  No Child Left Behind is good in requiring educational standards, bad in perpetuating the patently false idea that spending more money will raise educational standards.

Teachers’ unions oppose the No Child Left Behind act, because it’s easy to read liberal fairy tales to students, but difficult to teach them useful knowledge.  Roughly 70 percent of union delegates routinely reject proposals to base teacher compensation on teaching results, a horrifying prospect under No Child Left Behind.

Liberal media blatantly support them.  A recent episode of the TV program “Boston Legal” took a gratuitous shot at ‘teaching to the test.’  Michael J. Fox portrays a good-guy lawyer defending a school teacher from harassment by parents obsessed with getting higher grades for their daughter.  The judge grants an injunction against the parents after the Michael J. Fox character declares that the No Child Left Behind act constitutes more than enough harassment for teachers by requiring them to ‘teach to the test’ instead of teaching students ‘how to think.’

Students in fact are not taught to think.  They are steered to the precepts of secular humanism.

American history lessons in early grades amount to Michael Moore documentaries.  From the earliest grades, when students have no experience or knowledge against which to judge what they get in the classroom, lessons have proceeded along the following lines: “Indians lived happy and peaceful lives in North America until the Puritans arrived and drove them from their lands.  Do we think the Puritans were good or bad?” 

They learn, for example, that Columbus was an enemy of humanity, that the writers of the Constitution were selfish capitalists conspiring to fleece ‘the people.’  Holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas are presented as national days of hypocrisy and shame.  Students are told that our English constitutional heritage is no better, perhaps worse, than any and all other cultures and governmental principles.

What results is a socialistic fairy-tale version of history. The socialist Super Hero (the 1960s student anarchist) ‘fights’ for the people, slays the dragon of capitalism, and everyone lives happily ever after. 

‘Teaching to think’ can’t avoid a glaring contradiction.  On the one hand, students are imbued exclusively with the secular humanistic dogma that the only ‘sin’ is economic inequality.  On the other hand, they are taught that there are no standards of right or wrong, that tolerance (meaning the absence of standards) is the greatest virtue.  These contradictory positions are ‘reconciled’ with the PC rule that questioning the precepts of secular humanism is ‘divisive’ and ‘threatening’ to other students. 

‘Tolerance’ is, of course, just an atheistic concept to undercut Judeo-Christian morality.

On the surface, liberal cavils about the No Child Left Behind act are, first, that teaching to the test means simply memorizing specific answers to specific questions, a rote catechism.  Second, that the Feds aren’t giving enough money to the states to cover their costs, like the old Catskills comedian’s line, “The food here is terrible, and there’s so little of it.”

Their underlying objection to No Child Left Behind is the terror that performance standards will necessitate making students aware of the 20th century’s world-wide slaughter of tens of millions of people resulting from intellectuals’ presumptuous imposition of socialism and atheistic secular humanism.

Parents who revolt against ‘teaching to the test’ are generally from wealthy, liberal-progressive school districts like Scarsdale, NY, whose citizens got national media publicity protesting No Child Left Behind a couple of years ago.  Having lived there for 23 years and having watched my three children pass through the Scarsdale schools before I moved to Connecticut, I can attest that the issue is the parents’ desire to have a ruthlessly secular program that inculcates ‘progressive’ attitudes.

It matters far less for Scarsdale students to get good training in reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic than for children in the average school district, coming from homes where many parents were less well educated.  The average Scarsdale student is already ahead of the national curve when he enters school.

If Scarsdale parents, and their ilk elsewhere, are seriously concerned about the quality of education, why do they selfishly seek to throw roadblocks in the paths of less fortunate and less wealthy school districts?

Few of them object to their children later in medical school, physics, or the law having to cram facts in order to master concepts and to understand complex systems.  Few of them would place themselves in the hands of doctors or lawyers who had never had to pass examinations.

The bombast against ‘teaching to the test’ is disguised elitism that comes from Auguste Comte’s Religion of Humanity, by way of John Dewey’s progressive education.  Liberal-progressives tell themselves that they alone understand the Immutable Laws of History and that it’s more important to brain-wash children with PC attitudes than to educate them to live productive lives in the real world.  Cynical politicians among them recognize that students who have heard only the multi-cultural, PC party line will be more likely to vote for liberal-progressive candidates.

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