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A Few Questions for Standardistas

Publication Date: 2002-06-12

We need to consider questions that matter, and we need to ask these questions often.

In Stupid White Men Michael Moore makes the point that the people who really should be tested (in addition to the yammering pundits) are the so-called political leaders. Michael says, ?Next time you see your state representative or congressman, give him this pop quiz?and remind him that any future pay raises will be based on how well he scores.?

Forget pay. A Congressman?s pay is small potatoes in the context of his access to money and power. Future votes should be based on test scores.

1. What is the annual pay of your average constituent?

2. What percent of welfare recipients are children?

3. How many known species of plants and animals are on the brink of extinction?

4. How big is the hole in the ozone layer?

5. Which African countries have a lower infant mortality rate than Detroit?

6. How many American cities have two competing newspapers?

7. How many ounces in a gallon?

8. Which do I stand a greater chance of being killed by: a gun shot in school or a bolt of lightning?

9. What?s the only state capital without a McDonald?s?

10. Describe the story of either The Iliad or The Odyssey.

Moore?s questions offer a place to start in turning the tables on the people who make political hay dumping on the schools.

But don?t stop here.

Let?s extend quizzes to members of the Business Roundtable. IBM CEO Lou Gerstner, after all, has been a prime mover in the push for national testing regulated by the feds. Let?s quiz him and his cronies. And let?s be sure to include a few essay questions.

1. Describe the effects of calcium deficiency on young women who attend schools who?ve signed exclusive contracts with soft drink companies.

Informational Note: Colorado Springs will receive $8.4 million over ten years from Coca-Cola. If the district exceeds its ?requirement? of selling seventy thousand cases of Coke products a year, it will rake in even more moolah.

2. Describe the relationship between junk food and juvenile diabetes in schools participating in Pizza Hut?s ?Book-It!? program. Include in your answer school districts that plaster their buses with advertisements for Burger King, Wendy?s, and Kellogg?s Pop-Tarts. Also consider a Hershey?s-sponsored curriculum, ?The Chocolate Dream Machine,? which includes across-the-curriculum lessons in math, science, geography, and nutrition.

3. Explain the relationship of free speech to a school?s commercial contracts.

Informational Note: Mike Cameron was suspended from Greenbrier High School in Evans, Georgia, for wearing a Pepsi shirt on ?Coke Day.? The school was competing in a national ?Team Up With Coca-Cola? contest, which awards $10,000 to a high school that comes up with the best plan for distributing Coke discount cards.

4. Explain the relationship between student scores on high stakes tests and the classroom time spent studying lessons in a unit called ?The Carbonated Beverage Company,? doing lessons about wildlife in Prince William Sound prepared by ExxonMobil, or taking an online tour of the Dole Fresh Vegetables Newest salad-making plant in Soledad, California.

5. Explain how the policy of requiring eight million students to watch Channel One affects a school?s commitment to high standards. Include in your answer a discussion of the qualifications of the Channel One curriculum committee for analyzing, synthesizing, and reporting world affairs. Also include their expertise in cognitive development and adolescent psychology. Consider the price tag for allowing other institutions to capture 24% of a 50-minute instructional period every day of the school year: National Rifle Association, Greenpeace, the Palestine Liberation Organization, Planned Parenthood, Daughters of the American Revolution, The Flat Earth Society, The Gay Alliance, vivisectionists, vegetarians, Rotarians, Rosicrucians, Scientologists, the local skinheads.

Informational Note: We can establish a taskforce to collect money--to pay $8 an hour to out-of-work telemarketers to come up with rubrics for corporate test takers. Once the rubrics are established, grading will be easy. Rubrics always solve every educational conundrum.

Let the CEO scores on these questions be published in newspapers throughout the land. Then the nation will know: Who?s smarter? IBM or Wall-Mart? Ford or Toyota? Coke or Pepsi? ABC or Fox? USA Today or National Enquirer?

What questions should we ask of newspaper op ed writers? Of education reporters? Of TV pundits?

We need to ask these questions. We need to ask them often. And we need to insist on answers.

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