Tuesday, February 17, 2015


ABC News is reporting that a quarter of all Americans believe that the sun revolves around the earth. Meanwhile, Talking Points Memo is reporting that an Oklahoma state House panel has voted to end AP history courses because, as far as I can tell, they just don't like students learning what actually happened, and greatly prefer teaching that America is the greatest country ever and we never did anything worth criticizing.

At face value, these two stories are only connected by the fact that they both deal with education in some way. But I don't know. I think there's more to it than that.

The typical response to stories like the one from ABC is to blame bad students, or, increasingly, to blame bad schools, or bad teachers protected by bad unions. For at least a decade now, and probably longer, however, we've been moving all the schools into this high stakes standardized testing stuff, which is, for my money, the educational equivalent of training dogs to jump through hoops, and not much more. That is, you can make a school look really good on paper when you create a numerical standard and then achieve that standard, but there's just no guarantee that filling in all the right bubbles with a number two pencil actually means students have gained some knowledge and mastery over a subject.

Actually, I'll go a step further and just straight up assert that gearing all of education toward passing multiple choice tests destroys education. It's no wonder a quarter of Americans don't know that the earth revolves around the sun. We've totally failed our children in this respect, and it has nothing to do with bad students, bad teachers, or bad schools. Instead, it has everything to do with corporatizing education.

Profits, not children.

That's bad enough, but put the test-freak movement together with extreme right-wing ideas about, say, evolution, global warming, US history, and so on, that is, "we should teach the reality we want, not reality itself," and we have now, starkly obvious for all to see, a multi-pronged all-out assault on the very concept of learning and knowledge itself.

Let's throw in the anti-vaxxers while we're at it, too. Also, the History Channel's ancient aliens shit.

All this bodes very ill for America. Democracy absolutely depends on an intelligent, critical, well informed population in order to succeed. That's tough enough to accomplish even when you don't have well funded and widespread social forces trying as hard as they can to keep it from happening. But knowledge now has enemies. Powerful enemies.

There will be a price to pay for this horrible folly.