Sometimes you read things you cannot comprehend were actually given life in the giggling light of day. A recent example of this non-awesomeness happened last month in Trenton, New Jersey when it was decided by the Educational Forces of Evil to no longer force third-graders to reveal a secret and explain why it was important to keep that secret a secret.
Here’s how the incredible story fell out:
State education officials will no longer use a standardized test question that asked third-graders to reveal a secret and write about why it was difficult to keep.
The question appeared on the writing portion of some versions of the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge given to third-graders this past week. And it drew criticism from some parents, who thought it was inappropriate.
The state Department of Education said the question was reviewed and approved by it and a panel of teachers. It said Friday the question was only being tried out and would not count in the students’ scores.
Experiences like that give the entire educational system a black eye. To force children to betray one loyalty to serve a lesser evaluation master is not only unjustified in the human condition, but it is cruel in every psychic realm. No rational person would ever ask a child in real life to make such a morally wrenching decision with so little at stake — so why was it ever okay to include such a stake in the heart for a standardized test?
It doesn’t matter if the secret betrayal was temporary or just a testing of the waters of the mind because, in its essence, the idea crumbles against what we should be teaching our students — critical public thinking without the added pressure of betraying an embedded and disciplined trust — false or not.
If we want to challenge the morality and loyalties of children — it should initially be done in the privacy of the home with parental leadership. Embed the morality first. Test the indoctrination in situ with tensile love and support. Education and life can then do real world stress testing of the elasticity of our children’s moral fiber — but not in a formal school exam that can, for some children, mean an actual exploitation of living or dying when it comes to breaking an avowed promise to actual people they may love, respect or even substantially fear.