Mandated Success

            December 14, 2013 online Newark Advocate featured the headline “Reading scores tumble almost 10 points  Ohio third-graders fare worse than in ’12” written by Jessica Brown of the Cincinnati Enquirer and Hannah Sparling of the Advocate. Comparisons are made between previous reading test scores administered at the third grade level and the recent ones from this fall. The article also points out that charter schools fared even worse than traditional community public schools. The statistical analysis for the state as a whole, local districts (sans local charter schools), and even an interactive resource are provided. It is of no benefit to reprint all that here, now. Analysis also notes that over the months there has been a steady uptick in the statewide unemployment figures. Currently Ohio’s unemployment figures are above the national percentage, with Licking County finding itself fortunate, below the national figure. Both of these statistical considerations are affected (and effected) by our state legislators (and local politicians). The third grade reading mandate was signed into law by our governor in 2010, at the start of his tenure as chief executive. JobsOhio also began with Governor Kasich’s administration and its functioning was legislated (and re-legislated) by the state legislature to accommodate his desire. Today’s “Reading scores” exposé along with the Toledo Blades’ in-depth look at actual jobs creation in Ohio (see this blog’s November 2, 2013 post, Voter Information Guide) supplies further evidence that, well, success just can’t be mandated. This authoritarian “mandated success” approach to problem solving (especially ones that are not easily solved, as they are not “problems” but rather conditions) will become apparent with the overwhelming, to-be-expected list of causes and blame. School districts are frittering away public money (and not charters?), teachers are not teaching (again, charter school teachers included?), take away the video games, cell phones and tv (and replace them with what, Microsoft’s campaign to get more technology in the schools?), parents should be more involved (which ones, those who live on a parallel planet ala’ Clark Kent’s bizarro world, and don’t need to hold more than one job, or one job and school/military service, or likewise don’t rely on cell phones, videos and tv?), etc. Again, along with the Blade article, the CNBC article, “Why New Employees Can’t Write, And Why Employers Are Mad” featured in this blog’s November 13, 2013 posting, Shorts, shows that maybe, just maybe, the authoritarian approach to “problem solving” just doesn’t work when it is not a problem, but a condition.

 

            “On the bright side, it’s early in the school year, Vaughn [Mindy Vaughn, Newark City Schools elementary curriculum director] said. Students took the reading test after only a month of school, and for many, it was one of their first standardized test experiences.” (Brown and Sparling)

 

This innocuous line (and its perfectly reasonable and accurate assessment) reveals a fundamentally authoritarian approach to problem solving. Once the children learn to handle standardized tests, all should be cleared up. A lifetime of such tests awaits them, so they might as well get used to it. Better yet, master it. (now THAT’S education!) Many would jump in here and say “Well, testing is only natural. Testing is an integral part of our social structure. Etc.” (and hierarchical class structuring?) Few would venture to risk asserting that this “first standardized test experience[s]” reproduces the authoritarian approach to problem solving (of what is not necessarily a problem). Not only reproduces it, but by its very methodology indoctrinates it as well. Always expecting someone in authority to verify, legitimate and justify your performance is certainly not conducive to problem solving. Indeed, it can be downright counterproductive. It is, however, an excellent way to perpetuate a condition. Misdirecting public funds to “jobs creators” projects like stadium building (see current Cols. Blue Jackets Arena referendum, or Cleveland Brown stadium debacle, or Atlanta Braves stadium building) or greenfield development (while large swaths of existing city structures deteriorate or become parking lots and brownfields through publicly funded demolition) reaffirms the authoritarian mandated success approach of publicly financed expenditure for purely privately desired outcomes. The administrations of Governors Taft, Strickland, and now Kasich and their accompanying legislatures continuously elide prioritizing education (not testing). Rather than leading through example and commitment, all prefer to mandate success. This says more about the problem solvers than it does the problem.   

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