“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
--William Butler Yeats
In a nutshell, this quotation inadvertently capsulizes the conflict between quantitative and qualitative measures of learning. Students in the U.S. are told and retold by the numbers on their erroneously named "standardized tests" that their pails are nearly empty and they need to work harder at filling them with such drivel as "how to take tests," "how to get into a great college by upping your SAT scores," and other slogans of the corporate culture. After all, if it's not about numbers or the "bottom line," how can it count at all? This is the absurd end result of the corporate double-think that has consumed what we used to consider "public" education, once one of our most treasured institutions. (Read all the details here: "How the Corporate Culture Warps Our View of School Reform.")
Teachers who used to love their work because of their ability to "light a fire" and watch the lights go on behind a student's eyes are now bludgeoned by national policy to narrow the curriculum, follow the party line, find a way to explain this absurdity to parents, and stop spending time on "frills," i.e. music, drama, art, discussion, experimentation, group projects, peer feedback, coaching, and all the other ways that excellent teachers make valuable contact with students and parents every day.
Thus, as the infographic in the previous blog entry (The Last Word on "Testing") aptly demonstrates, the corporate culture that spawned our current love affair with numbers as measures of "worth" is enriching Pearson and the other Big Five testing companies (and their lobbyists) while draining both the spirit and the funding away from real learning. THANKS, designers and Accredited Online Colleges for helping us visualize what is really a complex argument in a very elegant form. I will be posting it on my Facebook page to promote its message and help disseminate your illuminating work!
P.P.S. After being gone from the online scene for a couple of months while relocating from Southern California to Central California (giving up the ocean for the foothills at the doorway to Yosemite, a good trade, all things considered), I am delighted to see that more and more people are becoming smarter and smarter about how to approach the testing question and how to create positive change in spite of the education bureaucracy that wastes money so lavishly. Please take a look at FairTest.org for the latest and most authoritative information on high-stakes testing, and do sign their resolution (click on the first bullet point at the above link) to abolish these punitive testing practices in our schools. School is not a business, not a numbers game, and it's about time we all got together and SAID so!