Wouldn’t it be cool if kids were like microchips? If we could just program them with a few whisks of copper wire, or a cleverly inserted tweezer?
Just think: No socks on the floor. Homework finished promptly, and before turning on the television, computer, DS, phone. “Please” and “thank you” would happen automatically. Bickering would be eradicated and family board games would no longer be blood sports.
If kids were microchips, they would master new information in sequence and on schedule; struggles over long division or how to use a semi-colon would go the way of vinyl records or typewriters.
If kids were microchips, we could bundle them tightly into big rooms and beam information at them using video, or maybe lasers. We could remove people (with their pesky needs for a respectable salary, safe working conditions, and reasonable job expectations) from the equation.
If kids were microchips, we would know exactly when information has been mastered and we would know precisely when the process is complete. The finished batches of microchips could be slotted carefully into the machinery of the world, a new generation of microcogs.
A long time ago—1974, to be exact—a college kid with a bad haircut looked at an article about a new thing called a microprocessor, a tiny chip that only cost about $200. The college kid and his buddy “looked past the limits of that new chip and saw a different kind of computer…our original vision glimpsed what lay beyond that Intel 8080 chip and then [we] acted on it.”
That bad haircut kid was, of course, Bill Gates, who with his friend Paul Allen, were able to see beyond what was in front of them and imagine something that hadn’t ever existed.
And yet, now Bill Gates—our generation’s answer to Ben Franklin and Thomas Edison, and a man whose educational path is not exactly standard, whose very success came from his ability to make intuitive leaps over conventional knowledge—now he’s decided that standardized testing is the cure-all for public education. The Gates Foundation—which, don’t get me wrong, does many, many good things with its money—has offered millions of dollars in grant money in support of yoking teacher merit pay to student test scores, and using test scores as a measure of teacher “effectiveness.” Continue Reading →