|http://www.sina.com.cn 2004/04/30 15:40 北京青年报|
One of the things teachers dread is to have charge of a class dominated by a large, stupid, bullying boy. David Horsey gives such a young brute truly nightmarish proportions in today's cartoon: so large he barely fits in the room.
The teacher in the cartoon is trying to interest her pupils in a violin. There are a host of ways in which to think about a violin: how it is played, the sounds it makes, how it makes those sounds, what objects it resembles, the kind of music that one can play on it, the music that has been composed for it, how the violin was crafted, who produced it and why and for whom, the historical origin of the violin, its beauty as an object, attitudes toward violins and violin music, etc. The violin is a consummate tool for stimulating curiosity and speculation, for encouraging experiment, for exciting wonder, for training taste. And such undertakings as these are fundamental to the best Western notion of education, just as important as the mastery of facts. Facts are important, but facts are also dead in themselves. Good education must include giving children experience in using facts to explore the unknown, in groups and on their own, and also to formulate opinions and impressions, and to refine and defend them in debate.
But progress in such matters as imagination, creativity and responsiveness cannot easily be tested, at least not numerically, whereas success in memorizing facts, however briefly, can be measured in neat ways very satisfying to bureaucrats. Now President Bush has promised to improve American primary education, and most observers would agree that it needs improvement. He sides with the people who emphasize the use of tests to guarantee that pupils are reaching certain minimums in math and reading. That is the approach taken in the "No Child Left Behind" Act passed by Congress early in the Bush presidency: mandatory testing of children and schools, with published results for the schools and punitive measures for underperformers.
But Horsey sympathizes with teachers who complain that teaching to tests has little to do with true education. Education in facts is easy to organize; education for life - in using all the capacities of one's mind to meet the challenges of life - is an art that bureaucrats, like the class bully, know nothing about and want to hear nothing of.
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