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Just Saying No to Testing

The outrage is an (unsigned) comment in The Education Gadfly, a weekly newsletter of the Fordham Foundation. Checker Finn usually edits the Gadly, but this particular piece was not signed but employs the imperial voice of "we." The nasty comments on youthful test resisters are rebutted by the father of the fifth-grade test resister and the mother of the first Texas test refuser.

You can access the newspaper articles covering the youthful resisters by using the 'search' mechanism on this site. The hard copy of the New York Times contained a beautiful picture of 11-year-old Macario Guajardo, helping his grandmother with lunch while boycotting the statewide test.

Anti-testing types have taken up the cause of Mia Kang, a 14-year-old Texan who defied teachers and counselors and turned in a little essay announcing her opposition to standardized testing instead of completing a mandated practice TAKS test. She has vowed not to participate in the real thing this spring, even at the risk of not graduating from high school. Kang is one of a gaggle of Texas students who has refused to take state tests, and posters to the liberal blog
Daily Kos
hope to start a letter-writing campaign to ensure she will graduate despite opting out of the test. We have two thoughts on this. First, Kang and the other objectors mentioned share one thing in common: parents in the education system. (Kang's mother is getting her teaching certification; the father of another boy who dissed the test is an ed school professor; the father of a third is a school principal who has written a book opposing testing.) So we wonder who's pulling the strings here. Further, it's a strange form of civil disobedience that demands both notoriety for breaking the law and exemption from the consequences of law-breaking. If Mia Kang doesn't want to take the TAKS, fine. If someone's conscience dictates that they cannot participate in a mandated activity, they should refuse. But civil disobedience without consequences is merely showboating. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote his magnificent "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" because he accepted the consequences of his refusal to accede to unjust laws. The nation was moved by his example to correct an injustice. "Letter from My Living Room" likely would not have had the same effect. And if Ms. Kang believes the TAKS to be unjust, we invite her--and would applaud her gumption in so doing, even if we disagree with her interpretation of the facts--to convince the Texas legislature of the rightness of her cause.

The Thomas Fordham Foundation clearly operates on assumptions and unfounded analysis. They don't even know my child, yet they dare question his conviction. My son is doing this because he believes it is his American right to protest injustice, and this testing movement has moved him to act.

He's not protesting because his father is an educator; he's not protesting because he was physically sick as a result of test pressure; he's not protesting because he's liberal, moderate, or conservative. He's protesting because he's a citizen who possesses a keen understanding of what it is to be an American. Shame on the unAmerican behavior of the Fordham Foundation that appears bent on squashing the passions of our principled youth. They should listen carefully to the young people and try to learn from them, rather than criticize them for standing up for what they believe and their parents for nurturing their children's passions.

Francisco Guajardo
Two reactions:

1. Both Kim and Mia have publicly agreed with Mr. Finn, that their refusal to test is an act of civil disobedience, and it’s one for for which they’re willing to accept consequences. He must have missed this in the newspaper articles because it doesn’t support his thesis, but they both expect to be denied a diploma. Kim, in fact, is a junior in high school now, and far from attempting to find some “way around” the high stakes of the exit exam, she plans to write a big fat NONE — SEE ATTACHED on her college application forms under “expected graduation date.” The idea of this gives her mother heart palpitations, but no one can accuse either of these students of not having the courage of their convictions.

2. It seems to be incredibly threatening to some adults when teenagers make choices about their own participation in society, and much easier to accuse them of being victims of some twisted adult’s manipulations. Anyone who believes that a teenager would do something to draw attention to herself and refuse to take a test she knows she’d ace and cannot graduate without, simply because her mother told her to, A) is not the mother of a teenager, B) does not remember being a teenager, and C) is a blithering idiot. These kids know what they want; they want an education.

Cathy Marciniak

— Thomas Fordham Foundation and parents of two test resisters




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