Friday, July 07, 2006

Homeschoolers and Testing

(Note: I hope to do a follow-up post to this sometime next week.)

Lydia started a discussion in the previous comment box that I'd like to pull up to a post.

I worry about the new generation of homeschoolers. Some are state-testing because "its the law" in some states. In other states, they aren't testing, because "its not against the law." These seem like shallow reasons. Convictions must go deeper than "I don't want to get in trouble." Should the state have jurisdiction over the children's tests? Isn't that imposing where God has already ordained? The parents are given strict authority over the children. Letting the state in with "a little test" is letting the camel put one foot in the Arab's tent. It is disturbing to see so many young ones only trying to stay out of trouble, rather than doing what is right and good. It is not good that the state imposes tests on the children and not good that parents allow it. It is giving them authority where God has not given it. The law is supposed to be "a terror to the evil and a rewarder of the just"--yet here we see them coming in to make "felons" of those who do not accept their tests....

We were made of different cloth in the 70's and 80's. Willing to wait til we were served with a court order, we would not supply the state with test scores of our children, nor submit to state tests. By making them go to the trouble of getting a court order, we made it difficult for them. Today they make it easy for the state to get control over their lives. One day their children will say, "If only our parents had not agreed to that one little test, we wouldn't be in this big mess today."

I agree Lydia and I have devoted a large amount of my time in the last ten years speaking and writing about state mandated testing. It's also one purpose for my blog. I'm heartened to know there are other who know what is at stake and willing to stand up and say so.

In response to Lydia's comment, Gina asked, "What is the point of a test anyway?" That's a great question. Depending on one's perspective or worldview different answers will be given. For me, the of point testing is control. Testing drives what is taught. What is taught, is what is thought. Therefore, whoever designs and administers the test determines what is taught and thought in our schools and by our children. That's it plain and simple. If you don't believe me, just ask a teacher how much time is spent "teaching to the test" and preparing to take the test. When the state administers a test, it's because that's what they want children to know. However, their goals are not my goals for education. They never will be that's why we homeschool. So why give in to their tests?

Testing and the current No Child Left Behind law is not about accountability for the schools. If that were the case, these tests would be anonymous and the information compiled differently. These tests follow the children and are being used to track them for future education and work related decisions. If it were just to check-up on the schools, a statistical sample would be sufficient. The fact that ALL children must be tested tells us that this test has another purpose.

Blueberry hit upon it in her comment,
I am a firm believer that test scores do not predict a person's future, unless you're trying to engineer a society by using testing to determine who should do what.
That's exactly right. This is planned education for a planned economy.

John Taylor Gatto refers to this as "fourth purpose schooling." That's why states like Florida are having children choose a "career major" in ninth or tenth grade. Here's what one supporter of that plan had to say,
This is an excellent example of connecting the workforce system's demand side with the education system's supply side, said Curtis Austin, President of Workforce Florida, Inc. "The result is a winning proposition for businesses who need access to a highly qualified workforce.
The loser in this plan is our children.

Testing is the oil that makes the engine of this economy run according to the demands of the state, not the dreams of the child.

The current No Child Left Behind law is just a revised version of what originally began as "Outcome Based Education" and "School to Work." EdAction.org does a better job than I ever could of outlining where we've been and where we're headed. Take the time to read what's going on. A good place to start reading is on their newcomers page. The roots of this reform goes back further than the 1980's but that's another post for another day.

All fifty states are moving in the same direction and are at different stages of implementation. We are moving toward a preschool - college (P-16) state controlled educational system. Parents are given credit for birthing the children and little else. Micheal Flannigan, Michigan's Superintendant of Public Instruction, stated in recent speech, "we need to get the children as early as possible." Yet, this is the same man who, when I publically asked him what it means to be well educated, told me no one had ever asked him that before! And he's making the decisions for our children?!? The reality is they don't think about what's best for the children, but what's best for the state and that's why he couldn't answer the question.

Where do we go from here?
Lindsey wondered what can be done about state tests? Apparently her state, North Carolina, requires testing but they are meaningless.

Tests and other requirements may appear meaningless now, but if you look at what how Oregon views doing well on a their state exam which leads to a Certificate of Mastery, you'll get a different perspective.

For the government to require anything from homeschoolers is absurd. This editorial says it very well.

The state exists to serve the people, not the other way around. The people created the state, and they created the public school system. The responsibility for raising children, which includes their education, begins and ends with parents...

The boss has the right to dictate qualifications for his employees; the employees don't get to set the qualifications for the boss. The public school system is the employee in this case. Understand that and you'll see the whole idea of regulating home schools is preposterous.

So where do we go from here? The answer is simple but not easy. Quoting from John Taylor Gatto's website,

As powerful and well funded as this monster is, it is at the same time, ironically, very delicate. Locally, it only takes a few determined people with staying power to temporarily grind these engines to a halt, sending reverberations of dissonance into every level of the system. Think only of the multi-billion dollar standardized testing aspect of the thing; with relatively little investment of time or money a well-orchestrated campaign to sabotage these instruments could be launched and prosecuted over the Internet. You need only think back to the mass of teenagers who brought the war in Vietnam to a premature conclusion, to see that an essential lynchpin of the fourth purpose system -testing -could quickly be destroyed. The fallout from such a termination would rock systematic schooling with unpredictable results for the stability of the institution.

Courage - that is what is needed today as it was 30 years ago when the early homeschool pioneers fought their battles.

I think that's what Lydia's comment was referring to when she talked about homeschoolers in the 70's and 80's. They were "do or die" homeschoolers. Willing to fight on any and every level to retain complete control of their child's education. Part of the frustration for some long time homeschool advocates is watching more recent homeschoolers willing to give back small amounts of control. Our state, Michigan, gives money to homeschoolers who take the state exam. I know many who take the bribe. Their willingness to allow some state control opens the door for further intervention which is what early homeschoolers fought against. While I don't think homeschoolers today lack the same determination to homeschool, I do think there may be a little complacency amongst homeschoolers to accept some state control. Rather than fight a requirement to sign a letter of intent or state mandated tests, they accept it as the law and go along with it with their business. To be sure, these battles are difficult and time consuming. But early homeschoolers fought similar battles for our benefit. We owe something to them and future homeschoolers to keep vigilant and maintain complete control.

Do you remember Tiananmen Square of 1989? The bravery of one Chinese citizen to stand before the column of tanks halted their progress and inspired the world. We must exhibit the same courage to stand up before the test and say,

We will direct our children's education not an army of educrats in the government and their battery of tests.

Parents don't have to homeschool to halt the reforms. (But it helps!). They just have to be willing to say "no" to the test. I have yet to meet one parent in our area, homeschooling or not, who likes the time and emphasis spent on the exams. The question is do we as parents have the will say "no" to the test and the bribe to take it?

What will the history books record about this generation? Will they see images of parents standing in front of the "tanks" or sitting on the sidelines as the "army" rolls on by?

You are either protesting or pro-testing. The choice is up to you. Time will tell if we're made of the same cloth as the early homeschoolers of a few decades ago. But it's not as scary as it sounds. Just ask Texas honor student, and "drop out" Kimberly Marciniak.

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