Friday, February 20, 2009

Stone Age Techie in the Boston Globe

We've gone old-school around here this week.

Last Saturday, I read this Op-Ed piece about the importance of high scores in educational testing. While I disagreed with the whole piece, one part in particular left me speechless.

Author Kathleen Madigan wrote: "Just a decade ago, Massachusetts had lower reading scores than Connecticut. But while the Commonwealth's reading scores improved more than any state's between 1998 and 2005, Connecticut experienced some of the nation's most significant declines. Leaders in Hartford chose to focus on "how to" skills like critical thinking and problem-solving over academic content ... Connecticut has recently seen the error of its ways. It has discarded the focus on how-to skills and joined the growing number of cities and states adopting Massachusetts' academic standards as their model."

I wondered how anyone could dismiss critical thinking and problem-solving skills, arguably two of humanity's most important talents, in favor of high scores. And, in part because I've been watching the John Adams series on DVD, I decided to voice my opinion in a decidedly old-fashioned way - I wrote a letter to the editor of the Boston Globe's editorial page.

I didn't think it would get in to the paper, I understand that the Globe gets hundreds of letters a day, but it felt good to write it anyway. I was taking part in an age-old tradition, the debate of ideas.

But I guess they decided it was okay, because here it is on today's Editorial Page!

Mine was not the only letter that the Globe received about this topic. The editor printed 3, all in stark disagreement with the original author's belief in test scores as the be-all and end-all. In this one, a 40-year teaching veteran rails against assessment. Also, Linda Darling-Hammond, professor of education at Stamford University, takes offense with both Madigan's argument and with the part Madigan accuses Darling-Hammond herself of playing in it.

Reading these other letters, I felt so validated. That my letter was published along with those of a teacher and a Stamford University professor, both of whom expressed themselves so well, gave me goosebumps. How exciting to be counted among such people!

The whole episode has left me thinking, thank heaven for newspapers, Op-Ed pages, and good old-fashioned debate.


Jena said...

Excellent article! You are so right, and thank you for using that free speech part of the Constitution in favor of freedom of education--in Boston, no less! You are a budding revolutionary. :)

Dana @ Our Sunny Side said...

Wow- that IS exciting! You give homeschooling a good name!