Home > Uncategorized > David Brooks’ Profile of Jane Addams Offers Rationale for Opting Out of Tests

David Brooks’ Profile of Jane Addams Offers Rationale for Opting Out of Tests

April 25, 2017

Dvid Brooks’ column in today’s NYTimes is a paean to Jane Addams approach toward help raise people out of poverty. Having just read Diane Ravitch’s posts on the rationale for opting out of standardized tests and several articles from regional newspapers boasting of their local schools’ rankings in the US News and World Report annual report, I was moved to offer this comment:

In this time of year when state tests are being administered and US News and World Report is issuing its rankings of schools based on the results of those tests and other “hard data”, this is a timely column. Our obsession with the practical results of an education— college and career readiness— leaves little time for “classes in acting, weaving, carpentry” let alone the especially important courses Addams valued in “…art history, philosophy, and music.” Standardized tests cannot measure a child’s desire and aptitude to create beauty and or a child’s thirst for knowledge… and the emphasis on “practical” knowledge and the need to score high on tests leaves little time for students to fulfill their “…longing to serve some high ideal.”

Mr. Brooks note that Jane Addams “…believed in character before intellect, that spiritual support is as important as material support.” Given those convictions I believe that if Ms. Addams were alive today she would be encouraging poor children to opt out schools that focus on attaining high scores on tests, for such an emphasis clearly places the souls of children under siege.

Because of our obsession with tests, we do not surround children with “copies of Rembrandts” or encourage them to attend presentations of Greek tragedies and classical concerts. Instead we place them in front of screens with YouTube tutorials and on-line tests…. and then we wonder why they are disengaged from one another.

I ran out of characters or I would have added a comment on the last paragraph of Mr. Brooks’ column, which read:

Tough, Addams believed that we only make our way in the world through discipline and self-control. Tender, she created an institution that was a lived-out version of humanist philosophy.

In reading that last sentence, it dawned on me that I always believed that public schools should be “…a lived-out version of humanist philosophy”. It also dawned on me that the competitive environment and comparisons made between children batched in age cohorts undercuts this vision. We need to change the dominant paradigm of schools if we hope to change the results we are getting.

%d bloggers like this: