A Gilded Age of Education
American education is in a golden age. Never before have so many dedicated hard-toiling bureaucrats in the education industry done so much to ensure the quality of the veneer of education.
Today my wife called the middle school to try to get our daughter into algebra. We thought she was ready for it, based on consistently being one of the top students in her math classes, but, little did we know she didn’t do well enough on the qualifying exam. The qualifying exam was the final exam given in the algebra class, and our daughter could only muster a 77%, not meeting the bar of 80%. That is to say, while we thought our daughter was a good math student, it turns out she only knows 3/4 of the material in a math class she hasn’t taken yet.
Oh, you might think that seems like she ought to be ready, but that would be because you don’t understand the importance of schools’ maintaining the appearance of exceptional performance. Some of those kids you would mistakenly let into the algebra class might not do as well as others on the state’s standardized tests, and that would demonstrate to everyone who’s anyone that the school wasn’t doing a good job of appearing to be successfully teaching its students.
But don’t worry, we’re all making great strides in eradicating such poor perceptions. I was notified just today that to satisfy the regional accrediting agency my syllabus for any student doing an internship must specify–in addition to the number of hours they’ll actually be working at their internship–the number of hours they will spend writing a paper, and the number of minutes per day they will spend writing in their journal. The importance of this may escape you, but that internship is worth a certain number of credit hours, and it’s important we
make up err, specify some imaginary, I mean precise amounts of time so we can ensure that the internship appears to be time appropriate for the number of credit hours.
The accrediting agencies have also dramatically increased the required amount of assessment faculty must do. Not being enlightened about educational theory, you may think of assessment as “testing.” Oh, dear me, no. Assessment is not about tests that demonstrate whether students have learned the material; it is about assessing student learning. At its core, assessment is about writing a report that demonstrates that you can write a report showing that you’ve assessed student learning.
And it’s imperative that we submit these documents so they can be filed in a timely manner. The prompt filing of reports is an important benchmark signaling that we have completed a task. Report filing indicates our dedication to completing documents that demonstrate our commitment to showing concern for the appearance of education.
Today’s children are a fortunate generation. Never before in America’s history have we had such an epoch of caring about the appearance of teaching our children well. The day is not far off when we can dispense with the wastefulness of education altogether, and have teachers devoting their full efforts to ensuring that American education looks better than education in any other country on earth.