Quote of the Day
From Richard Mitchell's Less Than Words Can Say. Although this was originally published in 1979, it seems remarkably applicable to events in the wake of No Child Left Behind:
Politicians begin to notice that the citizens have been worked up about declining literacy. After asking around, they discover that there’s hardly anyone who will come out against literacy, so they decide to do the virtuous thing however difficult and politically dangerous. They say: Enough! Our high schools must prepare every citizen and voter to cope with the world. No more social promotion! No more functional illiterates! Freedom of opportunity for all! And the people applaud.
What next? Tests, of course. We will give tests to those students, and those who can’t pass can’t graduate. What could be more logical? And how will we make those tests? We’ll go to the professionals, the educators, the people who have been sending all of those illiterates out into the world, the people who caused this problem in the first place. They have by now surely mended their ways; even they have come out in favor of literacy. It’s a great new day for education and freedom and politics in general.
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Obviously, any system of schooling in which there are tests and passing grades is a sort of minimum competence system—if you pass, you pass; but that’s not exactly how the minimum competence system is now construed. Now we try to find out just how little we can get by with and pronounce it enough. The current crisis is simply the result of a disagreement as to how little is enough. The school people want it to be as little as possible, and the politicians want it to be just enough to convince the citizens that something has been done, and somewhere in the middle they will meet and compromise. In some states now it is enough if high school seniors can read and write like the eighth graders of another age, but in other more demanding states it is necessary for high school seniors to read and write like the tenth graders of another age. States’ rights, you know.
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That’s not all. The educationist establishment will wax fat with the addition of diagnosticians and remediationalists and devisers of instruments and coordinators of curricula and directors of programs and all of the supporting services and paraphernalia that must go with all of those things. The teacher corps will grow, and teachers will demand and get more money for the arduous increased labor involved in teaching the advanced skills of fourth-grade reading and writing to sixth-grade students. Everyone will profit. Well, perhaps not everyone.