Tests are squeezing the life out of education. Tests are of necessity narrow and decontextualised, but when they become as frequent and as 'high-stakes' as they are today, they inevitably distort and restrict learning. Furthermore, by individualising achievement, tests fly in the face of a truth which the book explores - that 'humans are irreducibly social animals.'
The authors cite the British educationist, Edmond Holmes, who wrote about these problems over a hundred years ago in 'What is and what might be?' in 1911:
The Western belief in the efficacy of examinations is a symptom of a wide-spread and deep-seated tendency - the tendency to judge according to the appearance of things, to attach supreme importance to visible results, to measure inward worth by outward standards, to estimate progress in terms of what the 'world' reveres as 'success.'
It doesn't have to be like this. There is another way.
Read this book: http://newint.org/books/no-nonsense-guides/nono-education/
NWP also believes that when teachers write and talk together, they re-visit the social nature of deep learning and, in so doing, acquire a sense of agency. Through their efforts, language can once again become a common heritage, rather than a privatised commodity, and a healthier education can result.
One of the most encouraging resources on the NWP US website are the testimonies from academics of all disciplines - including the in-vogue STEM subjects. These academics bear witness that it is not writing that converges to type but exploratory writing that most helps their learning and thinking:
"David Deutsch, an Oxford physicist and author of several novels about different theories of the universe, views writing as a creative way to clarify his thoughts, so he worries that a rigid, structured curriculum in some schools could stifle the kind of writing he values.
"I write only when I have something to say that I think is very interesting—at least to someone. Often the "someone" is just me, in which case I'm writing in order to learn and to clarify my ideas.
Indeed, there is a strong component of learning whenever I write, and so what I have to say often changes a great deal while I am writing it. But writing is only one of many ways of clarifying one's ideas, so I often set a piece aside for years before returning to it. Most pieces that I start, I never finish. Consequently I publish infrequently and at irregular intervals, and hardly ever succeed in meeting deadlines or specifying a synopsis in advance.
This is why the idea of supporting writing in school curricula rings all sorts of alarm bells in my mind. Instituting such a curriculum must entail, by definition, making students write at moments when they have nothing to say that addresses any problem of their own or interests anyone else. It necessitates imposing deadlines and grading the results according to a standard that someone else has decided in advance.
The skill of "writing" in that sense may, I suppose, be useful in certain types of unpleasant situations. But it is only tenuously connected with the very different thing, also called "writing," that is so useful and enjoyable to me." "
To read more such teacher-testimony, click here, or visit http://www.nwp.org/