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Why, unlike Finland, here we torture kids and teachers

When I heard the news last week that the Department of Education is aiming to subject 4-year-olds to high-stakes testing, all I could do was shake my head in disbelief and despondently mutter a slightly altered riff off "The Big Lebowski's" Walter Sobchak.

Four-year-olds, dude.

[. . .]

Finland's story, recounted in the new documentary "The Finland Phenomenon," is particularly striking. According to Harvard's Tony Wagner, the country's modernization campaign in the 1970s included a "transforming of the preparation and selection of future teachers."

"What has happened since is that teaching has become the most highly esteemed profession [in Finland]," says Wagner, who narrates the film. "There is no domestic testing ... because they have created such a high level of professionalism, they can trust their teachers."

[. . .]

Where Finland rejects testing, nurtures teachers, and encourages its best and brightest to become educators, we fetishize testing, portray teachers as evil parasites, and financially encourage top students to become Wall Streeters. (David Sirota, “Testing 4 year olds isn’t the answer,” Salon, 8 July 2011)


The obvious reason, as stated by a previous poster, is that we do not sufficiently love our kids. We still send them to school to humiliate them, abandon them to testing that will tell them that what they are are all potential misfits that need to be kept under constant, if distant, surveillance and control. We like them this way: a whole nation of little Big Macs, so still inherently sloven, slacking and ill-defined we have just cause to round them up and send them off to war or prison or low-paid assistants-to-aging-boomers life-long servitude, without much accord for their rights as affirmed human beings.

Some people in this country have experienced the long and slow growth in empathy that can happen when one generation of mothers gives to their daughters slightly more empathic treatment than they themselves received. These type would make teaching the most respected occupation. Others have grown not at all; are barbarians; and if left to their own would make education nothing but a lengthy series of humiliations and hurts, and life would be for their children mostly about recovering from hurts, not generating anything exciting and new. "Society" would sit still for milleniums, which was the case for our earliest ancestors, who had just barely arisen from the muck, and true kindness had not yet come in the universe.

We do not respect teachers, but we make our ivy-league professors into old-world gods. We cannot allow teachers full respect because that would make us truly in spirit democratic, which we aren't comfortable with because it puts ultimate authority, ultimate responsibility, too close to home. We sense that our own psychic makeup is such a disorded mess that we need institutions, distant bankers, ivory-tower professors, removed presidents, up high enough to not have their truly mundane status revealed to us on an ongoing basis, to keep Chaos at bay. Teachers, despite an earnest attempt to armor them with professional status, we make seem as now but older examples of the inadequate kids they teach, as a reminder of what inevitably happens to you when you keep kids so close: you get leached upon, you get contaminated. They, like the kids they teach, are inevitably lost, and so schools become garbage bins into which we can project and contain our own vile hatred and blame-worthy insufficiency, which serves the purpose of getting rid of it and pressing in the contaminants that the school as institution may yet need help in enclosing.

Our society has been bad, and we seek its punishment. The worst part of our story isn't that Big Business is really just an agent to accomplish the suffering we feel we as a society deserve, it is that liberals have decided that the problem will only rest with them and other elites -- a fiction the poor can actually live with, actually WANT, because they've known since birth that respite is only possible by placating angry, little you-despising gods.

Link: Testing 4 year olds isn’t the answer (Salon)


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