The Education Establishment likes to give the impression that children don't do anything but take tests ALL DAY, and teachers don't do anything but teach to the test ALL DAY. It's so horrible and unjust.
But somehow at the end of all this teaching and testing, children know approximately nothing. How can we trust all that whining?
Finally, I just want to know, in a very simpleminded way, what do these kids actually know? Do they know ANYTHING?
I'm talking down-and-dirty, which-way-is-up, twelve-inches-make-a-foot, how-many-hours-in-a-day, if-you-don't-know-this-you-are-dumb-as-dirt.
When you see Leno go "Jaywalking," you have the real bad feeling that for many people their education stops at the level of 6 + 3. What century was the First World War in? Seriously, I bet half the students in the US can't answer that. I'm very afraid they can't.
Okay, here's my Instant-Test. Ten easy questions. You get 60 seconds. If you're out of high school and miss any of these questions, you will want to have a scarlet D for Dunce tattooed on your forehead. MATH: what is 8 x 9?
BIOLOGY: what is the main organ in the circulatory system?
WORLD HISTORY: Columbus sailed from what country in 1492?
LITERATURE: Shakespeare wrote in what language?
SCIENCE: what is ice?
ART: a painting of a hillside with trees and sky is called a what?
GEOGRAPHY: On your honor, can you point at Japan on a map of the world?
ASTRONOMY: Name 2 planets that go around the Sun.
MUSIC: a large group of musicians playing classical music is called a what?
AMERICAN HISTORY: Lincoln was president during what war?
Time's up. I'm willing to go out on a limb here. If someone can't point to Japan on a map, doesn't know what eight by nine is, can't name two planets that go around the Sun, and the rest of it, that someone is an ignoramus and the alleged "school" this student attended can be leveled with no loss to the country's IQ.
Indeed, this kind of ignorance is rarely a student's fault. There are far too many schools where very little is taught. By all means, blame the schools--and then fix them or close them.
Instant-Test can let parents have a better idea what sort of school their children attend. Children of twelve or fourteen should know these answers. Children of ten might miss two or three. Point is, these questions, simple as they are, require real information. Suppose a teenager knows only one or two answers. That's a serious problem. You could reasonably extrapolate from that limited knowledge and ask: just what does this person know? Anything at all? And also ask: just how bad is this school?The big problem in America is not that children can't learn but that schools REFUSE to teach. Core Standards and National Standards hurtle toward ever softer formulations of what children should know. Kids are expected to talk about their feelings and tell how they would approach a problem. Correct answers are somehow not part of all that teaching to the test.
The belly flop into dumb started a century ago when John Dewey organized a blitzkrieg against knowledge. Social activities are good; knowing anything is bad or at best irrelevant. This anti-knowledge prejudice is now part of the public schools' DNA, its institutional heritage. Everything these people do is intended to perpetuate the plot: get rid of content; celebrate psychological and socialistic values; and hide the whole charade inside a sophistry wrapped inside a lie.
At this point, the overarching concern of too many elite educators is to create mechanisms by which children can get high grades despite knowing nothing. Instant-Test is intended to illuminate this destructive tendency.
The rallying cry here is: facts are fun and knowledge is power. The brain wants knowledge. Kids need knowledge. Schools should get back in the knowledge business ASAP.
(For a 100-question version of the same idea, see "20: The Quizz" on Improve-Education.org
. Also see "47: Teach One Fact Each Day.")