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[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
02/25/2013

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


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