Colson: For answers, don’t bother with standardized tests | AspenTimes.com

Colson: For answers, don’t bother with standardized tests

with John Colson

As I write this, the nation is poised for its biennial electoral waltz, although, thanks to early voting and mail-in ballots, Election Day is more like a junior prom where half the class has decided to take in a movie instead.

Aside from the theater of the absurd that we call our electoral system, let's take a look at some other absurdities making the rounds here in the good ol' U.S. of A.

For instance, I see that the Aspen School District seems to be edging toward rejection of the standardized testing protocols that burst onto the educational landscape with George W. Bush's deviously misnamed "No Child Left Behind" law.

It's about time.

I've been highly suspicious of this whole standardized testing thing since it first came to light. I see standardized testing as nothing more than an effort to prevent teachers from doing their job, which mainly is to impart to students an ability to think independently and creatively using a hard core of academic material as a basis for living their lives, voting and meeting other needs.

Corporate and industrial managers, of course, consider creative intelligence to be anathema to their own interests, since independent thinkers rarely make good corporate soldiers or industrial, robotic workers.

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Once upon a time, when this country was a powerhouse of industrial might with factories cranking out a dizzying array of products, kids could be easily lured away from the halls of academia with promises of relatively high-paying industrial jobs that did not require a university degree.

These days, unhappily for the industrial giants, there aren't that many of those jobs available. Instead, young men and women are too often faced with a choice between working at the counter of a fast-food joint, in the warehouse of a manufacturer that is based overseas, in a cubicle at some house of finance, or at a software company, among other, even less attractive offers.

It was hardly a surprise, then, when Bush did his job as shill for the shadowy corporate and industrial cabal that engineered his family's rise to power, and came up with a brand of testing that did nothing to boost student intelligence or creativity, but was designed to reduce education at the public schools to something resembling an assembly line at a factory.

Educators rebelled at once, were put down for a time by intimidation and rough treatment, but continue to detest standardized testing for what it really is and to try to get rid of it.

Good luck to us all on that count.

I guess we can be thankful that our educational system is not as badly off as schools in Russia, where President Vlad "The Thug" Putin has managed to shred the nation's struggling textbook industry and put the business of producing textbooks in the hands of a man whose company, called Enlightenment, once had the same basic role in the old Soviet Union.

That means kids in Russian schools will have the unleavened pleasure of getting their history and other subjects from books that pass the state's "patriotism" test but bear little resemblance to the education kids get elsewhere in the world.

Unfortunately, we are too often reminded of the paucity of our own educational system.

For example, I recently got an email from a buddy whose innate skepticism and pessimism nearly match mine, containing images that show without a doubt that some of those who came up through our schools ought not to have bothered.

From shipping containers clearly labeled "This Side Up" but sitting upside down, to "Stop" painted on the street surface of an intersection but spelled, "SOTP," to a toilet on which the seat with the hole in it is installed on top of the solid seat, to stairwell handrails that go up when the stairs they were meant to serve are headed down, the images are a chilling testimonial to our vacant minds at work.

All of which leads to many troubling questions about our future as a nation, not the least of which is, "How in hell do we think we can ever elect leaders to deal with our complicated problems, when we can't even install a handrail that actually helps us make it down a stairwell?"

For the answer to that and other, similarly vexing questions, DO NOT turn to any page of the current Colorado Measures of Academic Success standardized test, unless you want to be severely disappointed.

jbcolson51@gmail.com