Friday, December 09, 2005

A quizzical quiz

Pay attention class: A Mount Anthony Union High School English teacher who gave students a quiz that criticized President Bush should be (fired/ tarred and feathered/ forced to appear on "The O'Reilly Factor"/ or forgiven)?

It's actually a trick question, because the guy's still got his job but I don't think saying "I'm sorry" has cut it. The Times Argus has the latest lowdown.

This little nugget, unfortunately, further fans the flames between conservative and liberal warriors who each want a foothold in public schools. Had this sort of quiz been given at a college or university – I think the reaction, if any, would be predictable. But at the public school level it's hard for anyone to be an apologist for this sort of thing.

In a letter, the teacher says he regrets "the attention and discomfort this may have caused for my students, colleagues, and the community ... This was never my intention." What WAS his intention, do you think?

What this story really raises, though, is a more important issue: language quizzes that contain two possible answers are pretty weak. How about making sure students in our public schools understand how to write a coherent essay? My experience has been that many, many folks graduate from high school without the slightest understanding of this basic structure: "Thesis, three supporting paragraphs, conclusion."

No, instead we're preparing our kids for guessing games, which, sadly, do have value in our society. Top lawmakers and White House officials seem to be very good at it: "Substantial evidence suggests that Iraq (absolutely does/ might) possess weapons of mass destruction."

- Scott Monroe


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