Remember that scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where the court sits down for a decadent and exotic meal? What I remember is the monkeys. At one point, the waiters bring each diner a restrained monkey. The living animals sit helplessly as their skulls are removed and their brains are eaten. That scene scarred me. I remember the fear and the pain in their faces, and their cries.
This week my fourth grade daughter is taking the TCAPS, a state test that’s going away after this year. It’s not state law, but her school has decided to prohibit reading between tests. They worry that a student will rush through so they can get back to their books. I wish I were the parent who kept her child home, but I don’t want to take the day off and I don’t want to hurt her school. At my school, opting out is not a permitted. Even if a student misses the testing days, if he or she attends any time during the two week testing window, he or she will be pulled from class to take the test. The choice is between taking the test or missing two weeks of school.
I’m not claiming that students are really damaged by the testing.. No one is screaming as we devour the contents of their skulls. Although my friend’s son gets so nervous about the tests that he throws up and cant sleep. I mostly worry about what it says about school and education. A parent who stikes a child in order to teach them not to hit is undermining his own authority while sending a mixed message. On our best days. we inspire and excite students about learning. We teach them to value their own ways of thinking and learning because we value them as individuals. We ask them to concentrate on improving rather than comparing themselves to others. And then we stand in front of them with stern faces, saying, “there are ten minutes remaining on this test.” Why should they trust us?
Big money is using our children for political reasons and turning them into numbers. And I am complicit. I help deliver the monkeys to the table.