RE: The Dumping Down of America

Subject: RE: The Dumping Down of America
From: david -dot- locke -at- amd -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 22 Jun 2001 11:37:26 -0500

Dan, I don't know you. I just read what Andrew said yesterday with shock.
But, today you mischaracterized Salina, Kansas.

I lived there for year. It is not a small farm town. It is a distribution
hub, a county seat, and the retail mecca for all the other small towns
around there. They even have a mall now. They didn't when I lived there.
They do suffer from the loss of their downtown commerce as does every other
Midwestern town.

There are two high schools, two junior highs, and more than one eight grade
teacher. And, there is a technical college there as well.

So I would have to ask, have you ever been there Dan. I went back there on
purpose two years ago. And, I was surprised at what changed, and what had
not. I may go back soon, just to watch a movie at the drive-in-movie theater
in a town just down the road from there.

As far as the test goes, essay questions can be subjective where multiple
choice can be guessed. Multiple choice tests can be designed so that almost
no one gets the correct answer, or they can be designed so that you have to
work to fail. I've taken both kinds.

The real problem with tests is that they are not the measure of true
literacy. Here in Texas, and coming to school districts everywhere curtsey
the Education Reform Act of 2001, we have the TASS. The teachers teach it,
and the kids pass it and forget it. This is the wrong approach. Scores are
political acts that do not reflect performance. Ultimately, the aim of all
this is to destroy public education. The federal law mandates that under
performing schools become charter schools. What that means is that they
become private, unregulated entities where performance will not matter.

That supposedly improves things, because they fall off the radar screen, and
competition will have parents removing their kids from those schools. Dream
on. The reason education is failing is because parents don't care. In
wealthy areas of town, the schools are exemplary. In poor areas of town, the
schools are under performing. The amount of money spent per pupil in both
areas is the same. They are in the same school district. Wealthy parents set
higher expectations as does social pressure. Poor parents, most of whom have
not correlated money and happiness, because for the most part are happier
than their middle class brethren, want their kids to grow up and work in the
same plant they work in, do not push academic excellence as the means to a
better life. It's bogus anyway, so why do that to your kids.

The notion of universal standardized literacy fails to recognize some
economic realities, not everyone needs to go to law school to succeed in
life. Back before the Back-to-Basics movement we taught everyone regardless
of class, expectations, or ability. We did not college track them. Nor did
we dumb down. There were classes for the intellectuals, the middle, and the
blue collar kids. Their performance was not restricted by the system. They
could choose. The Back-to-Basics movement took that away.

The tests, the "no-pass, no play," and the back-to-basics reforms did more
harm than good. But, they were sponsored by well meaning conservatives.

As far as Salina goes, the people there have a full range of prospects,
desires, needs, and wants like any place else. Not all of them will be going
off to college. And those that are, because their parents did are already
literate. Not because of the test, but in many ways, in spite of them.



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