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(Tenured Radical)

Saturday, May 01, 2004

TO: Alliance for A’s

FROM: Janice [for background, scroll down a bit]


Hello all:

In case you haven’t seen it, take a look at Newsday online. In a recent opinion piece there, Margaret McKenna, President of Lesley University, argues that the Columbine massacre might have been prevented if teachers at that school hadn’t been so damnably concerned with test scores and so less-than-concerned with their students‘ personal development issues. She points out, chillingly enough, that Columbine High’s standardized test scores were very high.

I think the implication here is clear: the more academically challenged the student, the more likely it is that he will set off multiple bombs and then gun down his fellow students while laughing satanically and asking if they believe in Jesus.

Wasn’t it Nietzsche who said “Man cannot stand very much reality?” Columbine demonstrates that our children cannot stand very much intellectual data. At some point while stuffing Civil War dates and Constitutional amendments into their heads, they’re going to respond by exploding into unspeakable violence. They’re going to start storing massive weaponry in their bedrooms and penning fantasies of world annihilation.

How can we stem the tide of Columbines? (Yes, school violence is significantly down in the United States at the moment. But given the pressures under which our children labor, there will certainly be other Columbines.) Two words: lay off. Give your students a break. If we want what President McKenna calls “peaceable schools” rather than the powder kegs that so many American secondary schools represent, we’re going to have to stop demanding that our students “know” things in that black and white, wrong and right way of the standardized test, and instead stress things like emotional intelligence, leadership skills, diversity-awareness, and, above all, creativity.