The big problem in our schools today is NOT mandatory standardized tests. The big problem is that educational policy, (and overall federal policy), is too closely linked to corporate interests. Our schools are designed on a corporate model. Mandatory standardized tests are simply a tool corporations use to streamline their control.
Schools have been designed on a corporate model for hundreds of years now, since the industrial revolution. The difference is the economy. During the industrial revolution, when the vast majority of workers were either farmers or factory workers, it made a lot of sense to require everyone to learn to read and learn basic arithmetic. Without these skills, you could not operate factory equipment, and therefore were mortgaging your future economic possibilities.
This is no longer the case. Factory jobs make up an increasingly small segment of our economy today. We are a post-industrial economy now. Our economy no longer depends on factory output. Communication, team-work and computer literacy are now more important than reading, writing and arithmetic. The service industry is replacing manufacturing jobs; “.com” has dethroned Steel as king of Wall Street.
Corporations use GPA requirements, attendance requirements, and mandatory standardized tests to separate the “winners” from the “losers”. The winners get scholarships, and, after college, get to pick the profession they want. This is perfectly fair. The vast majority of these people work hard and deserve what they are given. It’s the “losers” that get shafted. The problem is that they are forced to play the game, even if they have no interest in it. Let me say that again—they are forced to attend classes, forced to accumulate a GPA, and forced to take standardized tests, whether or not they have an interest in doing so. We don’t force kids who don’t want to compete at football to play football. We don’t force kids who don’t want to compete at swimming to learn to swim. We don’t force kids who don’t want to compete at acting to do theater. Why do we force kids who don’t want to compete for scholarships and corporate salaries to be graded and ranked with students who do?
This idea that grades=education is 1.) inherently ridiculous (no one’s come up with a proven procedure for bettering society) 2.) dangerous for our futures (innovation is more likely with unhindered variety, not perfected conformity). GPAs are great for students who want to show others their ability to excel and determination to work hard. But for others, why do we insist on 1.) wasting so much of their time, then 2.) telling them that the only way for them to better themselves is to “go back to school and make up for their mistakes”?
Why is unemployment considered a bad thing? (Well, because the investing class wants to maintain its current monopoly on our country’s wealth.) But there are plenty of productive activities that don’t require an extensive resume to work on. Make a movie! Or start something within your community. The open-source and free culture movements are growing rapidly through the internet.
People seem to have this idea that everyone needs a corporate or government-funded job. Purposeful work is extremely important to any good life. But purposeful work does not have to be in service to increasing GDP. Working within that systems can be ok. But the far more important message schools should send is, whether full-time or when you’re home from your “real job”, find some work you can honestly say that you love.