Holly Wood (girlziplocked) wrote in college_swank,
Holly Wood

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Standardized Testing for Colleges?

Karen Arenson of the New York Times reports on Bush's plans to somehow standardize post-secondary education, "to prove that students are learning." He appointed Charles Miller, a business executive, as chairman of the 'Commission on the Future of Higher Education.'

"What is clearly lacking is a nationwide system for comparative performance purposes, using standard formats," Mr. Miller wrote, adding that student learning was a main component that should be measured.

Obviously, college officials are unnerved by the laughable idea that college education could be standardized.'

"To subject colleges to uniform standards is to trivialize what goes on in higher education," said Leon Botstein, president of Bard College. "Excellence comes in many unusual ways. You cannot apply the rules of high-stakes testing in high schools to universities."

David L. Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges, a group representing private, nonprofit colleges, said: "What we oppose is a single, national, high-stakes, one-size-fits-all, uber-outcome exam. The notion of a single exam implies there are national standards, and that implies a national curriculum. Then we are on the way to a centralized Prussian education system."

Of course, Miller and businesses intensely invested in standardized testing disagree and firmly believe that you can measure learning (much like the federal standardized tests used to measure love, freedom and equality):

"It would be a shame for the academy to say, 'We can't tell you what it is; you have to trust us,' " Mr. Miller said.

Jonathan Grayer, another commissioner, who is chief executive of the test-coaching company Kaplan Inc., said that with so many students in college and so many tax dollars being spent, "it is important for us to seek some type of knowledge about how much learning is going on."

However, in an even more ridiculous twist, Miller defends the standardization as a benefit to "students, parents, taxpayers and employers." Which is funny because the only legitimate reason the states, not the federal government, have any say in standardized testing for public schools is because they can withold funding if the schools do not comply. However, even in "public" universities, the schools are still mostly funded by states, not the federal government. When people talk about federal investment on the university level, we're talking about grant allocation, not a widespread, happy fed dropping dollars like candy to any university who is strapped for cash.

What bothers me most about this is that, particularly in private universities like say Wesleyan University, if you're paying $40,000 a year and don't learn enough to pass your classes, you flunk out. I put faith in the professors' ability to assess who is learning and who isn't when they are experts in their fields. If a biology professor can't tell if you understand biology, how the hell are we to think a government official can? Secondly, if you're paying $4o,000 to go to a university, who is to judge whether or not you're learning at all? Given the laissez-faire consumer rhetoric I hear from the government, if I buy something, anything, with my own money, it is up to me how I use it within the boundaries of the law. If education is a commodity that can be bought and sold on the market (since it is not supplied and guaranteed by the government), then it is my own product to do with as I will. If I choose to only do enough work to get a 2.0 or if I do enough work to get a 4.0, then it's my decision, no one else's.

I have so many opinions on this matter, I don't even know if I can get them all out. With the federal government cutting back financial aid funding to poor students and cutting general grant funding to research professors, the current administration is fucking hypocritical to say that it finds learning important. You hear all this rhetoric about how we're behind in math and science, but no media sources are juxtapositioning those stories with cuts in federal loans or rises in student debt.

In a nation where higher education is only a privilege to the elect, not a right to all, the federal government has absolutely no shred of legitimacy in interfering with how these institutions are run. Until the government becomes both a stakeholder and a shareholder in this nation's education levels, then it should leave the education to the experts.

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