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  • A Real Education

    Chapter 4: Testing and School Work

    By Punkerslut

    Start Date: January 10, 2002
    Finish Date: January 28, 2002

    Testing and School Work

         Our society has developed based on its education. From its education, we can see that individuals are uninformed and lacking in knowledge of even the simplest ideas. Certain education specialists, especially those who are involved in the schools, will state that the best way to improve education is to make students do more work, both in difficulty and quantity. The reasoning here is that education is equated to the amounts of reports written and the amounts of homework assignments completed. The more a student does in school work, it is stipulated, the more that student will learn. However, this is not quite so true. An individual can do work without learning and an individual can learn without doing work. If someone listens to a lecture, they may learn a vast amount of knowledge and they may think and question norms. However, if someone fills out two or three worksheets of questions where they are already proficient, they may learn little to nothing. To increase the amount of education students get, the best strategy is not to reinforce an already failing system, but to diversify the current system by making it more intriguing and interesting.

         One reason of mandatory tests in school is to regulate how much knowledge students are retaining. When we can measure the information of students through grades, it is believed that we can then help them improve, or at least we can know where they stand in regards to education. Tests, however, prove largely ineffective in determining education, and grades themselves are by far inadequate when determining someone's knowledge. Grades in our modern educational institutions are not based on intelligence, but they are often based on how much work the student has done: either by class participation, homework, school assignments, quizzes, and tests. When people speak of grades, they often refer to it in regards to intelligence: the higher the grade, the more intelligent the person. However, the system of modern "education" is based on quite the opposite. One can obviously deduct from the system that, the higher the grade, the more work the person has done. There are those who contend that work means intellectual development, but that is not quite so true at all. One teacher remarked, "Most homework is 'busy work' rather than something that makes you think," [*1] and another teacher said, "It's easier to memorize than to think. Kids have to be taught to think." [*2] The only purpose of schoolwork, tests, and quizzes should be to help educate those who are not doing well in education. The purpose of measuring education is a fruitless one -- despite the fact that millions of people have passed the educational requirements of high schools, they have managed to forget some of the very basic facts of science, such as the ones discussed in chapter 1.

         The tests and quizzes used in schools have little value when it comes to the actual education of a student. It does not develop their minds, but tests them. Students will not learn to be creative, but their creativity will be measured. Francisco Ferrer has said of the grading system...

    RATIONAL education is, above all things, a means of defence against error and ignorance. To ignore truth and accept absurdities is, unhappily, a common feature in our social order; to that we owe the distinction of classes and the persistent antagonism of interests. Having admitted and practiced the co-education of boys and girls, of rich and poor--having, that is to say, started from the principle of solidarity and equality-we are not prepared to create a new inequality. Hence in the Modern School there will be no rewards and no punishments; there will be no examinations to puff up some children with the flattering title of "excellent," to give others the vulgar title of "good," and make others unhappy with a consciousness of incapacity and failure. [*3]

         If anything, mandatory quizzes and tests are destructive of the principles of a real education. I do agree that there must be a form of work available to those who feel that they are not proficient enough, such as homework, work sheets, voluntary take-home quizzes, and voluntary take-home tests. School time should be used entirely for education. The classroom should be a diverse representation of knowledge, portrayed in the various forms of media. In such a classroom, there will be both entertainment and education. The modern schools of our time have put a lacerating chain on the legs of education. A real education today cannot go far, because it is within the confines of how schools allow education to flourish -- they simply do not allow it to flourish. Education is held under the thumb, forced into unnatural molds and destructive grips. School is dominated with the worry of quizzes and tests; it is not a center of learning.

         The efforts of teachers are often directed at quizzes and tests. So much time and effort is wasted in the pursuit of this beast called grades. There will be those individuals who protest and declare that students will not be working as hard if there are no tests or quizzes Schools are not supposed to be about work -- they are supposed to be about education. When students are not hindered by mandatory requirements for classes, they may spend as much time as they need in each particular topic of the class to understand it. One thing can be rest assured in the minds of both laymen and professional when it comes to the development of the minds of the young: individual students progress and advance at different levels. We should not force any student to go through a lesson any more than they have to. Students should be given the freedom to go through topics at their will. When a student is forced to learn something, forced to repeat something for memorization, it destroys the principle of education, and desensitizes the student. If someone is forced to do anything - learn, work, or anything - they will grow a loathing for it. When the classroom environment is free, it promotes the values of what a real education is. By giving the students the choice of whether they wish to take the quizzes or tests, it gives them another lesson: independence. They will develop well mentally, learning that they are who they are, and the choices that they make will define them as a person. To force something so natural as education onto a student is immensely unnatural. To borrow the incomparable intelligence of Ferrer again...

    Briefly, we are inexorably opposed to holding public examinations. In our school everything must be done for the advantage of the pupil. Everything that does not conduce to this end must be recognised as opposed to the natural spirit of positive education. Examinations do no good, and they do much harm to the child. Besides the illness of which we have already spoken, the nervous system of the child suffers, and a kind of temporary paralysis is inflicted on its conscience by the immoral features of the examination: the vanity provoked in those who are placed highest, envy and humiliation, grave obstacles to sound growth, in those who have failed, and in all of them the germs of most of the sentiments which go to the making of egoism.

    In a later number of the Bulletin I found it necessary to return to the subject:--

    We frequently receive letters from Workers' Educational Societies and Republican Fraternities asking that the teachers shall chastise the children in our schools. We ourselves have been disgusted, during our brief excursions, to find material proofs of the fact which is at the base of this request; we have seen children on their knees, or in other attitudes of punishment.

    These irrational and atavistic practices must disappear. Modern pedagogy entirely discredits them. The teachers who offer their services to the Modern School, or ask our recommendation to teach in similar schools, must refrain from any moral or material punishment, under penalty of being disqualified permanently. Scolding, impatience, and anger ought to disappear with the ancient title of "master.". In free schools all should be peace, gladness, and fraternity. We trust that this will suffice to put an end to these practices, which are most improper in people whose sole ideal is the training of a generation fitted to establish a really fraternal, harmonious, and just state of society. [*4]

         As far as testing goes, it is a good method for helping students remember the previous lesson, but it should not be mandatory, nor should it be a large part of the curriculum. The only time an examination may be necessary is when it comes to seeing if a student qualifies in a particular subject. There should be an exam for each subject that allows the student to prove their own efficiency in such a subject. It can be used as a form of credit or proof of knowledge. However, such an exam would absolutely be voluntary. To help demonstrate the fact that schools are not at all about testing and quizzes, it would be effective if the exam was not even taken at the school, but at a government building. Thereby making the school a purely educational institute. Students have to be mesmerized in a classroom by their subject. When they learn and become educated, they cannot point to a test grade or a quiz grade for being responsible. It was the curriculum which had honed their education. It is for this reason that there should be no mandatory quizzes, tests, or schoolwork within the frame of a real education.


    *1. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, by Carl Sagan, pages 342, published by Ballantine Books.
    *2. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, by Carl Sagan, pages 343, published by Ballantine Books.
    *3. Francisco Ferrer, Origin and Ideals of the Modern School, chapter 10, published 1913.
    *4. Ibidem.

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