In the Guardian, Zoe Williams captures the test-obsessed, ranking-addled, childhood-destroying insanity of the UK education system very well. Who is telling the government that this ruthless quantification is good for children? Not teachers, not education experts, not academics; every study and measure shows how destructive and detrimental it is, to students, to teachers, to communities. So who are they listening to, our leaders who care so much about our Big Society? As in America, they’re listening to the testing profiteers, to blinkered ideologues (who can forget Michael Gove’s great plan to improve education by giving every school a brand new Bible — with his own name in it?) and, above all, to predatory investors (like the Murdochs, among many) who see the lives of our children — their minds, their education, their very childhood — as nothing more than so much raw material to mine for their own profit.
Williams is particularly and painfully right about the ongoing struggle of parents to assure our children that their entire self-worth — and their dreams and ambitions for the future — are not dependent on their SAT scores or GSCE results, and the difficulty of trying to find the proper balance between encouraging them to work hard and do well — for their own sakes, for the development of their own minds — while trying to tamp down the high pressure and unnecessary anxiety induced by this irrational and inhumane testing regime.
I’ve had children in primary or high school for more than 30 years, in two countries; and throughout that time, in both the US and UK, I’ve been amazed at the vast disparity between the never-ending gush of sentimental pieties about “how much we care for our children” — and the callous indifference shown in the actual practice of the actual systems in which we place them. That disparity seems to grow greater, and more pernicious, with each passing year.