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This post contains a valuable interview with Noam Chomsky.
Chomsky is a philosopher, not a statistician or an economist. He looks behind the facade of data to ask “why are we doing this?” “What are the consequences?” “What is the value of collecting the data?” “Why?”
Statisticians and economists (fortunately, not all of them) tend to think that when they have collected enough data, they will reach conclusions about the data. They think the data is as solid as “how many cars of this model sold? what was the profit margin? how should we price next year’s model to maximize profit?” or “how high will corn grow with this amount of fertilizer? how many acres should be planted with this seed?”
The starry-eyed data-mongers believe that children can be measured like any agricultural or mechanical product.
But teachers know that children are not corn; they are not electrical appliances; they are not engineered; they are all different.
We need to listen to philosophers. We need to think about what we are doing to children and to teachers by treating them as products of a process that can be tightly controlled.
In recent years there’s a strong tendency to require assessment of children and teachers, so that you have to teach to the tests, and the test determines what happens to the child and what happens to the teacher. That’s guaranteed to destroy any meaningful educational process.
It means a teacher cannot be creative, imaginative, pay attention to individual students’ needs. The students can’t pursue things that – maybe some kid is interested in something, but you can’t do it because you need to memorize something for this test tomorrow. The teacher’s future depends on it as well as the student’s.
The people sitting in offices, the bureaucrats designing this, they’re not evil people, but they are working within a system of ideology and doctrines, which turns what they are doing into something extremely harmful.
By treating children and teachers as widgets, we destroy the meaning of education. The rankings derived from data, Chomsky says, are meaningless because the tests are artificial social constructs.