In trying to "fix" schooling, more and more, it becomes apparent that the only tool the federal government has is standardized testing. However, since children, by their very nature, should spend lots of time outdoors, our current system that forces children to sit indoors for long periods of time, filling out bubble sheets for government and Pearson agents, is against children's nature (that is, as playful, experimenting under the sunshine, joyful beings). Middle School student suicides have increased rapidly with the U.S. increase in standardized testing. So, not only is standardized testing an ineffective scam (the bell curve used in standardized testing CANNOT measure full-system growth as a simple logical fact: there will always be 50% in the bottom half of the curve when its re-normed) but standardized testing is IMMORAL.
Today, every elementary teacher faces this moral crisis. I struggled with this crisis for many years, eventually becoming disillusioned with schooling. It has pushed many caring teachers to leave the profession. Still more stay and suffer silently, and with each new testing season, a bit of our heart dies as we are forced to torture children. But neither our silent suffering, nor our departure benefits those students who we care for, because this crisis of standardized testing won’t go away through tears or absence. Though I was taught many ends for my pedagogy, standardized testing has replaced the educational and moral ends of school. I began teaching in 1997, before the institution of mass standardized testing; and over those years of teaching I have come to understand that standardized testing is immoral, at least for the elementary aged children who were in my care (in loco parentis).
The father of American education, John Dewey, gave us the great insight that all education, every subject, every minute, is moral education. In his 1909 book, Moral Principles in Education, Dewey called this “indirect moral education.” Everything we do in schools, whether or not it has anything to do with morals, teaches a moral lesson. But what moral lessons do our standardized testing regimes teach children?
What are we teaching when we know standardized tests aren’t authentic assessments?
What do we teach when we force children to passively sit in room filling out these forms for the government, though we know they shouldn’t?
When we who have taken a basic statistics course know every child doesn’t need to take the test, what are we teaching?
When we know the tests don’t need to be that long, and that high school aged students can take them, and statistical measures can measure (to the extent that they ever can) the quality of elementary schools, what are we teaching?
When these unnecessary tests have doubled the suicide rate of middle school aged children, and we still institute the tests, what are we teaching?
What hatred for learning, and passivity in the face of governmental abuses are we teaching?
I shudder to think!
In eco-literate music pedagogy, I recommend education on soil, and one aspect of that is more local control over education. I cannot imagine a local district instituting two months of standardized testing without there being an uproar. The fact is, the amount of testing that happens in schools today steps way beyond the bounds of the purpose of school in communities. Through standardized testing, schools have broken their contract with the citizens. If we want better education, we will return more to nature. In The American Scholar, an 1837 speech at Harvard, America's first major philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson connected Nature to thinking: "The first in time and the first in importance of the influences upon the mind is that of Nature."
Because the federal government has shown ineptitude at solving education crises except through more and more bubble sheets, more and more time spent under the same fluorescent lighting that pervades both schools and government offices, and within dead cement soundscapes, it is the duty of citizens to resist. Standardized testing is unnatural! Between soul crushing silent suffering, and impotent leaving, all teachers (and all adults for that matter) need to stand up against government, and for our children's well-being. There's an age at which standardized testing may be appropriate (e.g., high school). At a minimum, it is time to end standardized testing that occurs in elementary school.