This guest column was written by Dr. Raymond J. Golarz of Bloomington. Dr. Golarz is co-author of "The Power of Participation" and "The Problem Isn't Teachers."
Evenings in homes across this great land, children sit at kitchen tables struggling with content that their parents and they have been told is essential if they are to score high on standardized tests. The atmosphere in the house is thus again tense and the momentary respite at day’s end, essential to good mental health is gone — preempted by this insanity.
In that same community, a teacher reworks the lesson for tomorrow. Her question, “Will this help with the upcoming standardized test?” Then her other unvarying question “How long can I continue this?”
Standardized tests and the need to score high on such is the game of politicians not of local school boards, teachers or parents. The lives that American parents and teachers want for children are filled rather with an array of richness and growth in a multitude of areas. Doing well in school is important. But they also want their children to taste, enjoy and grow from so much more.
They want them to lie in a grassy field on a summer day and read a novel for pleasure, know the sound of Bach, enjoy rap, and share in the caring of an elder grandparent. They want them to enjoy and be proud of their capacity to manipulate new technologies, play in a football game, run a race, attend a prom, and gain skills with the many tools that they find in their family garage and kitchen. They want them to take pride in and understand the history of their own race and ethnicity, sense and then respond to the needs of their fellow man, know the thrill of hitting a home run and glory in the skill of controlling a soccer ball, knee to knee to toe to knee. They want them to babysit a neighbor’s child and earn their own dollar, have time to reflect on the world’s new discoveries, get a little choked up at the playing of their own national anthem and waste away an afternoon playing basketball with friends in a park.
If this means that some nation with less freedom and less true breadth and depth of knowing outscores them on some artificial measure of greatness — then so be it. These tests measure such a very narrow band of knowing and being. They really measure nothing of the greatness of a people nor that people’s potential.
And if our children find that they need to compete at the highest levels for something that they really want… they will. They always have. Just give them a fair and level competitive field. Then when they come to you, interview them, face to face, never substitute knowing them with a score. Give them half a fighting chance and they will come the rest of the way.
Throw away your state and national standardized tests. Get back to knowing who these children really are. All these tests do is obscure the true greatness of individuals and the greatness of the people from which they come.