I always regarded those bumper stickers, "As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in schools," as humorous. Who knew that there are teachers that would advocate completely eliminating testing?
That's just what Colman McCarthy who teaches at School Without Walls, Wilson High School (DC), and Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School (MoCo) is advocating. It's ironic that I read this op-ed in The Post with It's Academic (a high school quiz show in DC/MD) on in the background.
I have never given a test. I respect my students too much to demean them with exercises in fake knowledge.
Ummm, okay. Exercises in fake knowledge? When did knowing history, math, how to read, or other things become "fake knowledge?" I always though knowing history was a good (that whole, those who don't know it are doomed to repeat it thing). Then again, perhaps for someone who teaches "nonviolence," a return to the days of Hitler and Stalin would be preferable as we could persuade them with compassion and appeasement.
I can only hope that the damage McCarthy is doing to his students is being undone by those other teachers who do care that their students learn the material. In life, your ability to perform is paramount. Your boss isn't going to care if you're a good person when you consistently cost the company money making mistakes. The boss cares that you know how to do your job.
American society has plenty of people who were academic whizzes in high school but were so driven by the lure of a high grade-point average that their spiritual lives remained stunted. I worry about students who make too many A's.
Oh my. Now, I am concerned. I mean, after all, I received more than my fair share of As in high school. I had no idea my "spiritual life" was stunted. I'm not even sure what that means. No time for the arts? No, I took art, enjoy museums, and can name several artists. No time for music? No, I played in the orchestra for eight years and only gave it up when I stopped taking so many tests in college (and my grades dipped in college... hmmm). I stopped volunteering? Well, no, I tutored and volunteered in various groups in both high school and in college. Where exactly was my spiritual life stunted?
To compensate for my no-testing policy, I assign tons of homework.
Oh, Thank God. You do have some way of measuring achievement. Here I thought you just allowed your students to sit in class and talk about love-fests, Woodstock, and peace.
The assignments? Tell someone you love him or her. Do a favor for someone who won't know you did it. Say a kind word to the workers at the school: the people who clean the toilets, cook the food, drive the buses and heat the buildings. And a warning: If you don't do the homework, you'll fail. You'll fail your better self, you'll fail to make the world better, you'll fail at being a peacemaker.
Oh, never mind.
I know of no meaningful evidence that acing tests has anything to do with students' character development or whether their natural instincts for idealism or altruism are nurtured.
Well, see, this would be problematic, if that was the purpose of the test. Tests are designed to measure your understanding and knowledge of important concepts... you know, math, science, history, those kinds of things. They aren't supposed to develop your character. Your character is supposed to be developed at home, at church, and at school. It's not the job of the test to do that. It's the job of the teacher, the parent, the pastor. (I'd argue, mostly the parent, but in this day and age, they aren't always the best role models.)
I have large amounts of evidence that tests promote the opposite: character defects. After having two of my high school classes read Mathews's column, I asked the students: If during a test the opportunity came to cheat, with no fear of being caught, would you? A majority of hands went up. A few students dismissed the question as naive. Not cheat if you could get away with it? Get real.
Okay, now this bothers me but it has nothing to do with the test. This is a character defect that has been allowed to develop not because students take tests and are expected to learn the material but because those who teach, nurture, and guide students have failed in their responsibilities. McCarthy commits the classic logical fallacy cum hoc ergo propter hoc. He assumes that because his students have been shown to not regarding cheating as morally corrupt and revealed a character flaw it is because of the test. I doubt this very seriously. There is no evidence to support this. Just because the two occur at the same time does not imply causation.
You'd think as an educator, McCarthy would know better. Maybe he was too busy learning character to learn the real purpose of education.