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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Rote Learning Hampers Students

November 08, 2003

Re "Real Test Is, Did the Kids Learn to Think?" Commentary, Nov. 5: Roger H. Weaver's point that K-12 education is suffering from testing that does not test education other than rote learning is too accurate. This current testing is, however, something that should come as no surprise. It is the result of years of attempts by certain elements to weaken public education to the point of ineffectiveness.

A decade or so ago, California developed the CLAS (California Learning Assessment System) test, which included sections that paid attention to the goals of education Weaver lists in his commentary: "creativity and original thinking, imagination and adaptability, flexibility and innovation, insight and the capacity to apply knowledge and understanding in unfamiliar circumstances, appreciation of the complexities of context, genuine respect for the views and beliefs of others."

Because the CLAS did include these non-rote elements, right-wing conservatives, who don't really want to have students encouraged to think, pressured to have the test canceled. Sacramento caved. The children and the culture suffer for it.

Gene Touchet

Cathedral City

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Headmaster Weaver of Crossroads School writes that, under No Child Left Behind legislation, children are tested and prepared for being tested instead of being taught. He is exactly right. We have imposed a low-level, Third World curriculum on our children in the public schools. Science, social studies, critical thinking, art, music -- no time for those frills. We have to teach children about isolated sounds, as if that is what reading is.

Wise (and wealthy) parents send their children to schools like Crossroads for a first-class education. They don't study isolated sounds and memorize number facts -- they learn to think. The inexorable "Matthew effect" marches on: The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. We subject "other people's children" to this dumbed-down, mind-numbing No Child Left Behind curriculum. Ask any teacher.

Alan Crawford

Arcadia

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