Friday, December 15, 2006

Readers Write

I love to read letters to the editor, at least those from people who can read a simple declarative English sentence. Today's NYT had letters from a number of people commenting on an article by Tom Friedman entitled "Learning to Keep Learning." Friedman's theme was the obstacles faced by the Chinese drive to develop an educational system that will foster innovation in a system that denies free Internet access, and the need for American education to provide workers with the capacity to keep on learning for their entire careers.

One letter writer, John McGill, headmaster of the Gilman School, in Baltimore, wrote, "Every employer in the American economy knows that creative thinking is the gold standard he seeks in his employees. But our public schools, disabled by high-stakes standardized testing frenzy, which stifles creativity, and lack of appropriate financing levels, continue to decline while our international standing, educationally, plummets."

I question Mr. Gill's sentence structure and the multiplicity of commas in this prose, but it's nice to see someone take on the sacred cow of standardized testing. Sure, tests have their place, and its necessary for students to have the kind of basic knowledge that tests can measure on some level. But over-reliance on standard examinations is stifling.

Standardized tests teach students the answers. True education teaches the questions to ask. If we want to produce students who can compete in global markets and global politics, we need people who can ask questions.

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