I keep hearing how the U.S. has some of the lowest test scores in the world. I take issue with this statement. In the United States, we test every child. The new immigrant child who can hardly speak English – yep, she gets tested. The flunky who doesn’t have any desire to be in school – him too. The young man who has yet to realize his own potential…they all get tested. Many countries put youth on educational/career tracks according to tests they take in the sixth through eighth grades and then only those who are on the college track are tested. (Remember this year’s State of the Union Address when Pres. Obama mentioned a German-style education?) I love that we don’t limit anyone. Everyone has the opportunity to grow up and become what and who they want to be.
Have you seen the picture of the Nobel Prize winner, John Gurdon’s, report card from circa 1949? His teacher wrote, “His work has been far from satisfactory… Several times he has been in trouble, because he will not listen, but will insist on doing his work in his own way. I believe he has ideas about becoming a scientist; on his present showing this is quite ridiculous… it would be a sheer waste of time both on his part and of those who have to teach him.” Now I’m not necessarily blaming the teacher. Dr. Gurdon may very well have been a pill in class. But what if he, as a young man, had taken this message to heart? Just think of all the world would have missed. Gurdon won the Nobel Prize for Science in 2012 for his work in stem cell research.
My sister had a friend who grew up in former Czechoslovakia. When she was in the eighth grade school officials gave her a test to determine her career path. The results came back as either a doctor or an engineer. This young woman had to make up her mind immediately, there was no opportunity to think about it overnight or even talk to her parents. How many of you are doing what you thought you wanted to do in the eighth grade??
We live in a religious area of the country. Many of you know young men and women who leave in their late teens to early 20’s to serve missions for their church. Often, when they come home they have changed dramatically. What they thought they wanted to be when they grew-up is quite different that what they want to be now that they have matured. Do we really want to deny them, and us, the opportunity of knowing who they really are – all because they were pigeon-holed into an educational and career path at an early, impressionable age?
This post took on a life of its own as I began writing it. Originally, I’d planned to focus discussing Christopher Tienken’s video, but I feel strongly that everybody has the potential to change and grow and not have their future carved in stone based on some evaluation given in their early years. Common Core severely limits choice and opportunity in so many more ways than just scholastically.