OK, this testing thing

A Facebook friend posted an interesting overheard conversation between a NYC student and a friend of hers.

Kid: I hate standardized testing. My mom says I don’t have to do it next year and she might even home-school me.
Friend: I have a dozen little cousins in Nigeria swinging machetes in the field for 14 hours a day. Any one of them would love to trade places with you even if it means sitting through tests for a week out of the year.
Kid: (pause) Point taken.

 

So, what’s your reaction to this? I mean, #firstworldproblems, amiright? Kid got a taste of real life, got the smackdown! YEAH!

But seriously, this needs some unpacking, and the more I unpacked, the deeper I got in until I realized that I couldn’t solve this with a Facebook comment…. I needed to BLOG.

Yes, that is what I look like when I open wordpress

Yes, that is what I look like when I open wordpress.

Because is this how far we’ve fallen in US education — To draw a favorable comparison for what we do to students, we’ve got to reach for kids in Nigeria swinging machetes for 14 hours a day? That’s not even a real comparison! No one in Nigeria is making those kids swing machetes to EDUCATE THEM. They are swinging machetes to PRODUCE FOOD. The two situations are not analogizable (trust me, that’s totally a word) — they are completely different contexts, with completely different social purposes. If your farmhand is whining about sitting on a tractor to harvest wheat, by all means, bring up the agricultural production system in Nigeria. But we’re supposed to be EDUCATING these kids, not using them as cheap labor!

That’s like saying: “You think your boss sucks because he yells at you all the time? If you were in solitary confinement, you’d pray for that kind of human contact.” And you know the boss in Nigeria is saying “Man, if you kids were in the Congo, you’d be using these machetes to save your families from the LRA. Feel lucky that the only thing you need to hack is cassava.”

People use false analogies all the time as weapons against teachers, and it’s important to call them out when it happens. My friend is a speech therapist who is awesome with kids, and totally on the side of the angels — she even disclaimered her post before I jumped in there, but I just couldn’t get it out of my head. We’ve all worked under administrators whose only response to teacher pushback was “Well, if you really cared about kids, you’d be willing to …..” followed by the most cockamamie educational scheme this side of a Dukes of Hazzard episode.

"See, if you crash through the barn at the juuust the correct angle, they'll learn Algebra!"

“See, if you crash through the barn at the juuust the correct angle, they’ll learn Algebra!”

Let’s be clear: No one is opposing the testing regime in this country because they think America is an awful place to grow up, compared to the rest of the world. We are opposing it because we think it’s harming kids, and that this country can do better.

But here’s what really kills me: Go back to that conversation again, the last line, which goes “Kid: (pause) Point taken.
Now, I’m guessing the way this “(pause)” was meant to be read was “spoiled American kid learns life lesson.” But there’s another way to read it, which is this: Someone told the kid that instead of being educated in the greatest city in the entire United States of America, he could instead be in Africa, doing hard physical labor in a field for 14 hours a day, and….

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…wait for it….

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THE KID HAD TO THINK ABOUT IT

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