Friday, May 26, 2006

Amusing ... as in A Musing

I read something in the paper this morning that produced an audible chuckle (maybe it was more of a sniff/snort ha).

First, you should understand that Nick and I receive a daily newspaper. We've never had one before, and when the year runs out, we'll never have one again (on-line is much easier and less messy). But I had to redeem some frequent flier miles that were running out, and they gave us the option to turn them into newspaper and magazine subscriptions (the amount of magazines we have coming into our house is somewhat obscene) and so I signed us up for the only paper available: The Wall Street Journal. Most days it just sits in the driveway until I remember to go throw it in the trash, but every once in a while I bring it inside, slip off the rubber band, and read it over breakfast if Lucy's down for an early morning nap. (I'm sure the neighbors are wondering--why get a paper if you're just going to let it sit out all day (or many days) and then throw it away without reading? But I digress.)

This morning I read an article by a man who has been tutoring students for the SAT in New York since the 1980s. He gave a pretty good summary of the changes to the test over the recent years and how those changes affect what the test actually measures. Students have been complaining that the test is too hard because they're getting lower scores, but his point is that the test now measures a student's ability to actually read with comprehension and think through mathematical concepts--abilities that are difficult to cram for by memorizing vocabulary lists. Near the end of the article he made several comments that really did make me laugh, so I thought I'd share them for your own amusement, just in case you don't get the Wall Street Journal.

"People complain that the SAT is biased and that the bias explains why students don't do well. That's true--it is biased. It's biased against people who aren't well educated. The test isn't causing people to have bad educations, it's merely reflecting the reality. And if you don't like your reflection that doesn't mean that you should smash the mirror" (David S. Kahn, "How Low Can We Go?" 26 May 06, W11).

The first two sentences were the cause of my mirth. There was also a hint of guilty recognition in my response--how many times do I fail at something and then try to blame everything but myself, feeling that the situation was biased against my success ... hmmm ...


Nick said...

Like during some experimental dinner nights when my palate is blamed for the failure of the dinner?

Nick said...

Not that I'm not a fan of experimental dinner night- I was just sayin...

But it does seem to me that the younger generation is a lot....stupider. Most of the kids in my ward... I wonder at how they pass their grade levels and I don't see how any of them will be accepted to any good colleges, but then I realize that this is happening everywhere and that they'll fit right in. This reminds me of the recent poll that showed how little young people (our age) know about simple geography, like where Louisiana is, or even New York or Ohio. Two thirds couldn't locate Iraq on the map. We scored the second lowest of any country that was surveyed. The reason? Most assuredly it is....the rise of cellphones.

Morgan said...

It really does seem sad that things that are happening with eduation now a days. Though I don't think the eduation system itself should carry all the blame. I heard of a book recently that labeled the up-and-coming generation as "Generation Me" because most children are taught that they themselves are the most important person in their lives. It really is sad.
I recently took a trip back home to Missouri because my brother just graduated from high school. It seems like the school system is just full of kids that don't really care. And so it doesn't suprise me that they as a generation should score so low on a test that measures eduation and intelligence. Most of them don't get a good eduation and don't really care about it. (Note: yes, I realize that this is a very broad generalization and doesn't reflect every kid out there, but hey, if we can't pass all encompassing judgments on people, what are we here for?)

JonnyF said...

dIt's funny how they accuse the test of being biased as if that's an insult. Isn't it funny how "bias" and "discrimination" (and probably other words) have been given so much baggage that people are taken off gaurd when the words are used in a (correct) way that ignores the negative connotation.
I, like Morgan and Nick, wonder what's up with the education system. It seems to be worse than it was in the not so recent past. The lack of geography knowledge is particularly baffling. Doesn't anyone play Risk anymore?
Katie read a Newsweek article recently that talked about how a lot of kids are turning out, even after college degrees, to be underprepared for the "real world" because their baby boomer parents did everything for them-from their laundry to their homework to calling them every morning to wake them up for their college classes. Maybe that has something to do with the problem.
One thing I will say about education is that there are three party's responsible: students, teachers, and parents (in roughly that order, I think). I think that it's unfortunate that recent legislation is holding teachers completely accountable for student performance without doing the same for students or parents. Sometimes, kids aren't "left behind", they stay behind because of various problems of their own or their parent's making.
One more thing, I'm not an expert on NCLB, but they way it's been explained to me it seems to give leverage to the students against the teachers (i.e. "You give me an A/don't report when I miss class/etc. or I will purposely do poorly on the standardized test so you won't get paid as much.") I guess I'll have to to more research on that.