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Reader Responses to Utah High School Student’s Screen Shots   14 comments

The Utah teenager and her mother who decided to take a stand last week by taking screen shots and sharing them with the public  –photos of the SAGE/Common Core writing test,  hit some raw nerves.  Over a hundred comments were added here, with more posted on Facebook, and almost a hundred thousand views of those screen shots were logged in a few days.

Why? Reasons ranged and tempers flared:   Was the act of sharing screen shots heroic– or was it cheating? Was the test itself fair –or manipulative?  Should the student be failed and the teacher who didn’t see or stop her be fired?  Was the blog posting itself fair or manipulative?  Is this all evidence of an improved education system that creates deep-thinking students, or the very opposite?

A few of the responders words are worth repeating and are posted below.

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Former teacher Laureen Simper wrote:

“Author Ray Bradbury could have used a SAGE test with a prompt like this, in his book “Farenheit 451”. As another commenter mentioned, Bradbury wrote:  ‘There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running around with lit matches.’

“I have questioned the motives of central educational planners for years, ever since I had school-aged children. That was when I learned about John Dewey, when “Common Core” was going by the name du jour: “Outcome-Based Education“. That was when I read the original Humanist Manifesto.    John Dewey was one of the original drafters/signers of what I recognized as an anti-God constitution.  I learned that secular humanism and progressivism were the idealogies driving education “reform”.

“Progressive central planners continually repackage education reform when “the ignorant masses” figure out what the true motive is: to manage the lives of those ignorant masses, because they’re seen as too ignorant to manage their  lives for themselves. Sadly, as long as a shell game can continually be played with shifting appellations, all the sleepy little frogs go back to sleep, as our nice warm bath continues to heat up.

“The agenda to shift public thinking away from self-government started at least as early as the early 20th century. The Intercollegiate Socialist Society was founded in 1905. Its original members believed that 60 college campuses were enough leavening to turn social thinking towards government dependence.

“Originally, the movement focused on higher education. Woodrow Wilson, former president of Princeton, said that the goal of higher education should be for a young man to come out of university as unlike his father as possible.

“But the plan was not limited to changing graduates of higher education. John Dewey, a few decades later, said that the influences of the home and family are properly challenged (by “steadying” ) in the government schools. This came from the “father” of modern education.

“Those who have not connected the same dots will disagree.  But I’ve read what I’ve read and heard what I’ve heard – straight from the mouths of the arrogant progressive central planners.

“Their motives are not pure. They plan to manage our lives of the ignorant masses, because they think that people are  too stupid or too lazy to govern themselves.  And the education reformers’ answer is not Jefferson’s answer:   ‘…If we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. ‘ –Thomas Jefferson, 1820

“Education reformers today, from Dewey to Coleman, seem to feel that the best answer is to wrest that self-government from the people.

“It is a big deal that a 16-year-old kid risked photographing test questions, knowing what kind of retribution could be brought to bear if she were caught.

“It is a big deal that a mother, equally aware of that retribution, would get those photos into the hands of a group of warriors who have connected the same dots I have connected – putting these test prompts into a completely different, stark, sobering context.

“Those who are screaming that anti-Common Core crusaders are taking these test questions out of context need to ask themselves if it is not they, themselves, who are taking them out of context.”    –Laureen Simper

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Another commenter, Michelle, wrote:

“And this is how they test “critical thinking skills”: “Your argument must be based on ideas, concepts, and information that can be determined through analysis of the four passages.” Students must base their argument on four passages alone. No room for their own ideas. No place for the inclusion of information outside of those four passages. No opportunity to question the ideas and information given in the passages.

“One of the selections is a blog post. Yes, a blog post. “Why playing videogames better than reading books.” (That wasn’t a typo; that is the title of the post as written on the actual blog site.)  I wonder if they don’t refer to Wikipedia articles as well in other test questions.

“The other selection is from Steven Johnson’s book, “Everything Bad is Good for You” which, according to a review by The Guardian, asserts that TV, film, and video games make us smarter, yet the assertion fails miserably to back up those claims with actual science.

“So apparently, when Common Core proponents speak of “critical thinking skills” they don’t actually mean teaching children to think for themselves or to critically analyze arguments presented in selections of informational text or even to carefully select reliable and credible sources on which to gather information to form arguments. Instead, they mean teaching children to write argumentative essays by cutting and pasting information and ideas from blog posts and pseudo-science.

Our poor children.”

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A dad named Jared wrote:

“I review hundreds of ELA books & tests every year.  I am seeing these kinds of two-sided “opinion” reading/writing assignments all the time now. Here’s how to recognize it:
– ‘Two sides’ of a controversial/political/social/environmental/values-oriented subject are presented.
– The material is billed as “balanced” because “two sides” of an issue are presented.
– The student reads both sides, then writes an essay promoting one side.

“… these kinds of “opinion” writing assignments are subject to bias by nature, because the author/publisher controls the entire argument.  In the examples I have seen, the author typically gives a reasonable-sounding Opinion A, and an unreasonable (straw man) Opinion B. The child naturally gravitates toward the more reasonable-sounding argument, and thinks she logically came to her own conclusion.

“If test question writers wanted to test a child’s writing ability, while avoiding straw men and indoctrination (intended or otherwise), they could simply avoid controversial subjects for their material.  Why don’t they?”

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