Friday, November 02, 2007

You might be interested in knowing a bit about the history of standardized testing, as it, rather than the long lineage of theory advanced by Rousseau, Comenius, Pestalozzi, Froebel, and others is the driving force in American education. This article in the Washington Post, Just Whose Idea Was All This Testing, would be a good place to start. It is interesting that in our head-first, hearts and hands left behind rush to embrace all that is new, and despite common sense, we quickly discarded thousands of years of cultural wisdom. Throwing out all the old in education was a theme created in Rabelais' (France 1483-1553) novels Gargantua and Pantagruel. Rabelais described the horrors of the early education of Gargantua, before he is turned over to his ideal teacher, Panacrates. After giving his young student a magic medicine by which he "cleansed all the alteration and perverse habitude of his brain," Panacrates began Gargantua's ideal education from scratch.

Rabelais wrote in response to the "monkish tyranny" in schools of his time... against the "formalism, insincerity, and shallowness of the Church, the school and the State." According to Charles A. Bennett, "The educational importance of Rabelais, comes not from any immediate and concrete influence on schools, but from the influence of his ideas exerted on Montaigne, Locke, and Rousseau."

There is no magic elixir to erase the damage done to our children by "modern" educational methods in schools in which children are treated like products from an assembly line and measured for educational conformity. But it is time now that we rethink and re-examine the testing tyranny in American education. A fresh look at the old masters of education would help us to create schools in which joy can be found in learning, and joy and satisfaction can be found in teaching as well.

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