Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

[Susan notes: Great letter: What we test for signals what we ultimately desire. And the national test under construction right now reflects the desire of our leaders for future citizens who are passive and obedient, who do what they're told.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

Re Schools Struggle to Separate the Truly Gifted From the Merely Well-Prepared (news article, Feb. 18):

What we test for signals what we ultimately desire. The use of tests for which 4-year-olds can be prepped signals that we want to find those youngsters who can do well on future tests. In that way, the process works perfectly -- whether in China or in New York City.

If we desired people who were likely to make creative advances, we would look for youngsters -- be they 4 or 14 -- who have a passionate interest that they pursue without a lot of prodding. If we desired people who would help build a more civil and more generous society, we would look for 10- or 12-year-olds who have found a need in their school or community and have taken steps to help meet that need.

In the unlikely event that these skills could be coached, at least we would end up with adults who could not simply ace the next standardized test.

The writer is a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Howard Gardner

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.