Are you an “A” or an “F”?

In the 21st century we are desperately in need of flexible, robust, creative thinkers who can solve the massive problems we face. Instead, we are forcing our young to spend their precious time in schools bound by a limited curriculum with a major focus on testing. This creates great obstacles to fostering uniqueness and critical thinking.

Human diversity is the fuel that runs the world. If we were all capable in the same areas it just wouldn’t work. For the best years of their lives our young are judged, labelled and categorized as A, B, C, D. or F.  In the process, individual talents and strengths are not valued as school strives to make everyone equal so they can pass the same tests.

No one is an ‘A’ or an ‘F’ in every aspect of life. Superiority is only in the narrow frame of reference which each test addresses. Everyone could find themselves in the top 20% if the testing was set in a context of their experience and talents.

Many people have been able to rise above demeaning labels to show the world the brilliance of their uniqueness. Others believe what they have been told and live life never achieving their potential.

Those in control of education in the early 1800’s chose to listen to Horace Mann and adopted his model of education in the American Constitution. Mann designed his model based on one made for the Prussian Army. He went to Prussia to “study how to deem the unruly (independent) children into disciplined citizens”. The goal was to create obedient workers, soldiers, civil servants who thought alike about major issues. The primary goal was not intellectual learning but conditioning the population for obedience.

To enable this to happen, he campaigned tirelessly for compulsory free education (interestingly, also a major plank in Marx’s Communist Manifesto). He was able to convince people that it was good for them to give their children over to this form of control. While much of what he advocated was valuable for creating a society of people who could work and live together, it was also extremely limiting and controlling. Children were divided into groups by age, ability and often social status .

Many good things have resulted from school, especially the many hard-working, ethical, inspiring teachers who influence children. But teachers are often hampered in their work by the imposition of a tightly controlled, bureaucratic system. A supposedly democratic society accepted a very undemocratic model for education which is now firmly entrenched.

I.Q. tests, the Bell Curve and many other invented measurements serve to separate the sheep from the goats but they fail to recognize the uniqueness of every individual and the critical importance of fostering the special abilities of every child. School curriculum encompasses only a minute fraction of the knowledge available in the world. Someone, somewhere, has made an arbitrary decision that every child that enters the world needs to learn a fixed body of knowledge. Do students on the plains of Kansas need to learn exactly the same things as students in Hawaii or New York just so they can pass a common test?

Tests only make sense in a similar, unchanging environment. Standardized tests which control what children learn and how teachers are paid are deadly to creating the kind of thinking that goes beyond the box and makes it possible to have a democracy. Our current systems are in need of change and I hope you will join me in the challenge to educate and share our collective knowledge.

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