No God Left Behind

If you are familiar with efforts to improve education in the US, you've heard of No Child Left Behind, the law that mandates standardized testing to show evidence that children are learning. And more testing. And more testing. If you get the idea that I am not a proponent of NCLB, you are right.

Now the secretary of education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education recommends that those same insane procedures be applied to US colleges and universities. I like the approach taken by
William Durden, who suggests that advocates of NCLB, who tend to be very religious, consider how that approach might be applied to our houses of worship. After all, Durden says, it is in the people's interest to verify that churches, mosques, temples and other places of worship are effective in accomplishing their mission. Those institutions receive government support through tax breaks and other means, so we should confirm that the benefits they claim are real.

It is a crazy idea, of course, but that is precisely his point. For the same kinds of reasons that it doesn't make sense to rigidly evaluate houses of worship to verify that their patrons are progressing adequately in their faith, it doesn't make sense to use standardized, quantitative tests to determine that students are learning adequately.

Read Durden's critique of the idea and then join me in a sense of dismay that we've reached the point that educated people, serving in a position of trust to evaluate the educational process, fail to recognize silliness inherent in the idea that all our important work in education is quantifiable.

It began with No Child Left Behind. Next we may see No College Left Behind. Maybe Durden is right, and we will see No God Left Behind.


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