A dozen years have elapsed since the United States adopted “test-and-punish” as a national philosophy of education reform. March Testing Madness will soon be upon us in Maryland.
Ironically, most Americans perform quite poorly on the simplest of tests. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 69.2 percent of us step on a scale and find that we are overweight. Would more efficient scales or more frequent weigh-ins solve this problem?
So, where are the calls to action? Where is the legislation threatening to rescind medical licenses and close clinics unless 94 percent of the population attains a body mass index lower than 25?
The absurdity of such a proposition is readily apparent.
Despite the sage counsel of my physician, a passion for fine food thwarts every effort at weight reduction. She warns of the long-term health risks at every office visit. Then, the local restaurateur offers a special of Gorgonzola-stuffed, pecan-encrusted pork chops.
Can we agree that my general practitioner should be absolved of any responsibility for my selection of such calorie-laden fare?
Educators advocate daily that students should adopt habits of lifelong learning to ready themselves for life, career or college. Teachers work to instill the discipline required to achieve distant goals. In class, students usually apply themselves with alacrity. However, when presented with the choice between advancing an academic project or firing up the Xbox, for instance, instant gratification frequently seizes the day.
Very few will dispute the importance of tests as diagnostic tools. The medical community employs any number of tests to determine the health of patients and to develop a treatment plan, when required. If the best interest of children is to be served, educators must adhere to similar protocols.
However, employing test results as metaphorical stocks-and-pillories for educators is as counterproductive to the education process as once was the humiliation of dunce caps for students, a long-abandoned practice now considered excessively harsh.
Kenneth B. Haines is the president of the Prince George’s County Educators’ Association