January 2012 Issue
December 21, 2011

Letters: Our children will lose out

Source: NYSUT United
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Our children will lose out

The next big thing will not come from America, and it is not because of our economy. It's because we have cut taxes on the class that supported America through two World Wars and the Cold War, built the interstate highways, and put a man on the moon.

And while the visionless Tea Party GOP (which wants a flat tax like Bulgaria, Latvia and Romania) downsizes the greatest government on earth and cuts money for education and research, China is increasing its spending on both.

We inherited debt from our parents, but we also inherited a great country. Our children, however, will sit on the sidelines as China puts the first man on Mars.

K.J. Walters | Monroe

Say no to fast food education

As an educator for the past 22 years, and as a child of the 1960s and '70s who, as a student, was subjected to standardized tests ad nauseam, I'm tired of Albany's claim of "raising standards" in education. Rather than a "race to the top" we are engaged in a descent to the bottom, to an antiquated school of thought that dates back to Industrialization, wherein conformity was embraced as the high watermark of human achievement.

Are teachers truly educating their students when they only "teach to the test?" Are students genuinely learning in such an environment? Standardized test results are no more indicative of a teacher's effectiveness than they are of a student's intelligence.

Let's face it. Some students are not good test-takers. A poor score on a standardized test is not always reflective of a student's abilities. Throughout my career, I've seen top students bomb state assessments, and conversely, I've seen poor students perform uncharacteristically well. Then there are those students who, for various reasons (learning disabilities, a stressful home life, non-native speakers of English), may never pass a state test no matter how hard they try, and no matter how much time their teacher spends with them. Forcing children to take and re-take state exams in order to cross this trumped up "Race to the Top" finish line is utterly soul-destroying to both the child and the teacher.

Furthermore, time and again we see how flawed and often culturally biased these state assessments are. Just a few months ago, Newsday reported that the recent Algebra 2/Trigonometry Regents exam included a question for which none of the listed answers was correct. On an English Regents exam a few years ago, an allusion was made to Greta Garbo in the listening portion of the test. How many 16- and 17-year-olds will grasp a reference to a film star who was popular 80 years ago?

Conformity and standardization mark the death knell of creativity and passion. We've become a society that stigmatizes mistakes and undermines education that fosters creativity. To quote Sir Ken Robinson, an education innovator who fosters personalized learning rather than standardized education: "We have built our education system on the model of fast food (wherein) everything is standardized, impoverishing our spirits and energies as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies."

No one on a diet of fast food alone can win a race.

Pam Uruburu | Massapequa

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