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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The sky is falling, the sky is falling...

Talk about fear of dissenting views...

Jon Keller is in high dudgeon today, all hot and bothered because Deval Patrick has, gasp, appointed a non-believer to the state Board of Education. No, not some who doesn't believe in public education, but someone who thinks maybe, possibly that MCAS is not the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Brookline School Committee member Ruth Kaplan has called for abolition of the test as a graduation requirement. She has opined that the one-size fits all model doesn't encourage things like critical thinking skills through arts education and creates a two-tiered system that reverses special-education advances.

I've got no dog in this hunt but this hardly strikes me as the ravings of another Brookline lefty. The emphasis on MCAS has prompted many schools to "teach to the test," jettisoning things like arts and physical education to make the time for math table memorization.

Yet Keller approaches her appointment to the board with nothing short of unbridled hysteria (disclaimers notwithstanding):
...On paper, there's no reason why the anti-testing crowd shouldn't have a voice in the debate on the Board of Ed; this isn't Russia, or the Harvard faculty, where dissenting viewpoints are suppressed. But Gov. Patrick's comments, in conjunction with his appointment of Kaplan, are downright chilling to those who remember what the Ed Reform Act was all about.

The public school system was failing way too many kids - mostly the urban poor - at a prodigious rate. Students were graduating with educations that barely qualified them to punch the picture keypads on the register at Burger King, let alone set them up to compete for decent white-collar jobs in the high-tech and service sectors. Inept administrators and teachers remained forever in their positions, protected by the state's Luddite teacher unions and unaccountable for their failures.
Can we honestly say that today's education system is the be all of where we want and need to be? Cash-starved communities layoff teachers and charge parents for buses and after-school programs. Drop out rates aren't moving anywhere, except maybe up.

What is so terrible about adding ONE voice to a statewide board, a voice who can offer the criticism of where education reform has not yet gone, where it might want to look for the future.

Or perhaps we should rely on enlightened education experts like Boston Mayor Tom Menino, who dismisses out of hand a proposal for a private school in the new South Boston Waterfront community. Why? He doesn't like the developer.

Is that the type of sound education policy debate that Keller prefers?

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