School tests:
My father entered the navy after having spent some time teaching college.  One of the first things they did was take an intelligence test.  Since he had considerable experience making them, and the other enlistees did not, he was able to get inside the minds of the group making up the test and proceeded to make a very good score.  In fact he scored the highest in the Southeast.  I suppose we will never really know just how smart he was, but I assure you he was very smart.

In these days children are coached for such tests, so that scores have risen out of proportion to actual understanding.  And schools are rated and rewarded on the bases of such scores.  So education has gone from preparing children to be citizens of a free country to preparing them to get jobs to preparing them to take tests well so their teachers can keep their jobs.  It has long seemed to me that a degree now represents a license not to think.

I think I once told you the little story of chatting with a person with a genetics degree.  I had a question that I could not properly ask.  It had to do with the number of recombination events that occur each generation.  My source did not comprehend my question so at last I simply asked for a couple numbers and did the arithmetic out loud.  I was able to use the information in a way that my source seemed not to be able to.

I am not alone.  (Next-Generation Assessments, Lorrie A Shepard, SCIENCE vol. 330 no. 6006 November 12, 2010 page 890)  What is needed is a battery of tests that focus “on problem-solving and higher-order reasoning.”  The problem is that such tests are expensive to create.  To me that means that there is not the talent out there for concocting the questions.  I cannot say whether this threatens to be a self contained loop spiraling downward or whether it is yet another reflection of the proposition that capable people are not having their proportion of children.

At least the problem has been noticed. 

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