Saturday, September 17, 2011

Testing, testing

Hello. Here's a little piece of anger and good thinking (for myself...) I wrote for a GRE Practice Exam question asking whether it would be a good idea to create a national curriculum for the schools of a nation. I'm somewhat fond of it, but I'm telling you what it is because, well, because it's schoolwork, about as unrelated to this blog as anything I've posted here before. Enter after the jump at your own risk. Before I cut off on the homepage, I'll say this: we are experiencing regimen change (like the pun?); ideas for "etymology," and pieces for "autopsy" are still very much at hand, as well as others. The new type of "regular" posting may or may not begin soon. You will not see since you aren't here but were that not true you might. Diving board, you've climbed thus far with me, would you care to jump?
(time constraint of a half hour--978 words, you are fucking kidding me!)

What is a nation? It is a poor world we live in where definitions have become so muddied and unclear: a nation is a group of people who may or may not live in one recognized state. If they do so then the result may be termed a "nation-state." What then could be a national curriculum? The implementation of a set of schooling parameters for an entire nation is an abhorrent suggestion for a number of reasons, among them the fact that nations are not cut and dry distinctions in today's modern world, the limitations forced upon teachers by such action, and the resultant lackluster benefits inability to outweigh much, if any, of the flaws such a system would cause.

What is America? That is perhaps the hardest question to any student of modern nations. The American people do not tend to be historically American--only an extremely small minority are called "Native Americans"--and, because of this, one is left with a very hard question indeed. It does not at all seem inaccurate to the present writer to refer to the "nonexistence" of an American nation--rather there is a strong American state that has often been misinterpreted through the flaws of language to also be a so-called "nation." What would a American national curriculum look like, one could ask. Although not necessarily, it does not seem too unlikely that an American curriculum would focus to a large extent on America itself--namely the sort of propaganda that is already very present in our world today: the sort of positioning of the founding fathers in such a godly position as to look down on us from Mt. Rushmore, the glorification of the Fourth of July, the date marking the start of a war and the inevitable deaths of many people, as just as much a part of the national religion as Thanksgiving or, unfortunately enough, Christmas. But let's move on from the flaws that might result from implementation in America and consider the question more broadly: national curriculums in China, the various countries that once made up Yugoslavia, in Morocco, in Sudan until the recent creation of South Sudan. Historically and in some cases contemporary implementation of such a concept would ultimately result in the actions of the dominating nation in the various states to destroy or eliminate the importance of learning of the minority or unempowered nation's own potential curriculum. Aime Cesaire once remarked about growing up as a black man in Martinique and being told in history books that his people were descended from Gauls. Ultimately, for education to be engaging it has to be just that: engaging, inclusive, and involving of the student. To create a national curriculum then creates for a select group an education that does as it should and excludes the rest. The reversal of "No Child Left Behind" this policy would state "As Long As You Aren't One of Us, Then Sure We'll Leave You Behind."

Teachers are of various strengths, weaknesses, and levels of proformance. With the low salaries already paid to those controlling the minds of our youth, must we impose upon them unfair, unnecessary, unproductive, and ultimately damaging systems? As far as any sort of national or even regional restriction on teaching goes, there is damage done to the work and learning in the classroom. Consider in Florida the near continuous criticism for the regional test, the FCAT. While testing itself is a necessary evil and regional and national testing, while less necessary, could still be argued to do more good than bad, the same simply cannot be said for a national curriculum. Elementary schooling and, to a lesser extent, all non-collegiate schooling is more about learning how to learn than the actual information bestowed upon the student. A show like Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? makes it apparent what all sorts of pieces of information are taught to kids in elementary schools on the national level. Rather than criticizing this abundance of data that we will all grow to likely forget by our thirties when we might actually find ourselves on the program (hence its point), this diversity should be savored and supported. Certain teachers are good at teaching specific topics and specialization is an action that follows us through schooling, as what might be seen as a day care in kindergarten becomes a near college-setting for many in AP classes in their junior or senior years. To prevent teachers from teaching what they can teach best will be detrimental, preventing them from teaching students how to learn: the more important knowledge than any specific curriculum.

Why even would one wish to create a national curriculum? Is there belief in the fairness of such a field? The creation of a even level of understanding amongst all people in local schools nationwide? One of the horrible truths that America has consistently attempted to forget for its whole history has been the knowledge that inequalities exist. Even with a national curriculum, bad teachers will still plague students with a lack of knowledge and bad grades to boot and there will still be those among us who cannot make the best use of their academic potential. It is a normal and expected thought that questions about a national curriculum might be asked because America as a state has always been overly in love with patriotism and seen national plans as the answer to all its issues--simply consider the diminishment of states' rights over the country's two hundred and forty years. However, while the problems with a national curriculum are very real and challenging, the benefits are illusory, simply bad assumptions that implementation would show to fall through. For this reason, perhaps more than any other, the same national curriculum should not be considered for a nation. In fact there are little if any real reasons to support such a consideration.

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