By ice rivers
Public education in America seems to serve two great purposes; custodianship and screening.
Custodianship is inarguably number one. In a capitalistic society, parents need to work and therefore kids need a place to go when the parents are working. Public schools become the custodial depositories of our children in lieu of parental supervision.
Screening is purpose number 2. American students compete from kindergarten to twelfth grade with the competition growing more intense each year. The students compete for their piece of the American educational dream. The American dream goes something like this, the better you do in school, the better college you go to and upon graduation the better job you get. Simple really.
Research indicates that education up to and including a Master’s degree is a solid investment of time and money when cast against future returns on that investment.
If the game is built on competition, how do we assure that the game is being played upon a level playing field. The answer of course is standardized testing. Everybody takes the same test and subsequent scores can be equitably analyzed and compared. Jim, get’s a 60. Forget college, maybe forget high school. Start putting money away for public assistance. Janet gets a 99 on the same test. She gets her pick of any college she can afford. Many colleges will compete for Jan's attendance by offering to lighten her financial burden with scholarship money.
With competition, we must arrive at winners and losers. In this game, this screening, we must provide many more losers than winners because we have many more low paying, low prestige, non-satisfying jobs in the market place than we have high paying dream comes true jobs. The demise of brick and mortar malls, however, will be eliminating a plethora of crappy jobs in retail so even the competition for horrible jobs will intensify.
The wild card is connection and complexion which is an unspoken prejudicial screening mechanism of its own. The most well connected are usually those most beneficially complected.
Then, there is everybody else.....
So we start our screening early and we clarify our prejudicial screening ultimately with the hard data gathered from standardized testing. Who cares if we lose a lot of kids along the way….somebody’s got to do the crappy jobs and the less intellect they have to waste reflecting on their lot in life while Macjobbing, the better.
Standardized tests are all about legitimizing the screening aspect of public education. They exist, so they must be encountered and dealt with until we come up with a system that’s better, a goal we must always be striving toward particularly if we are dissatisfied with things they way that they are. In the meantime, no matter how inequitable or poorly constructed they may be, standardized tests must be taken very seriously. Results do go on the permanent record which is a legal document. By law in New York State, the schools must keep the record on file for seventy five years. If our record is complete when we're eighteen than seventy five years is permanent plus in regards to our mortality.
Seventy five years is a long time for a fifty seven in English to stumble around in a filing cabinet or the bowels of a computer although that very stumbling replicates a life without meaningful employment or education.