I find it ironic that this story is about not finding proper words to express an opinion, and every time I read it, I become devoid of words.
It seems that the state of Maine has a serious problem to deal with. As a writing-proficiency test, they gave their 15000 eighth-graders an essay question in which they were supposed to support or refute a statement. They were even given a list of pros and cons that they could use for their position. The results? Well, first they wouldn’t publish them until the Portland Press Herald demanded to know. They got the news and it wasn’t good. I guess 78% of the students failed.
The response of the state education commissioner was to scrap the test. Why? They felt the question elicited an emotional response that didn’t allow the kids to show their true writing ability. They got “ticked off” at the question, as she put it. So what was this question anyway? Ready? the big question that stirred up 11700 students so much so that they couldn’t form a coherent thought was…hold onto your hats, boys and girls…”Television may have a negative impact on learning.”
Oh watch me thrash and scream, scream and thrash! No, it’s not as an emotional response to the question. It’s because I was always taught that if something upset me, I should write about it with passion and opinions which I could defend with facts. Being upset by something was not an excuse to “spout off” incoherently. It was a reason to write a persuasive essay.
Second, um, this test was given to eighth-graders? I think I got something like this, where you had a list of pros and cons and a position to defend back in grade five, maybe six. By grade eight, I was expected to do at least a little digging. At the very minimum, I was expected to come up with my own ideas. Good god, what’s happening to kids nowadays?
Third, hmmm, I think the 78% failure rate just served as support for the point. By the sounds of it, a majority of the failing kids were too busy defending their TV-watching by saying things like “these facts are nothing but a bunch of lies” to actually present a logical argument and show that their brains hadn’t been reduced to mush.
I wonder what they’ll say when the next question isn’t so emotionally charged and the results are equally dismal.