So you want to be an "education" candidate

By Beverly Eakman

January 30, 2004 - Former vice President Al Gore once challenged his presidential rival, President George W. Bush, by announcing that "[t]he time for generalities without specifics is just about over." It's "time to put up or shut up," he said. Neither candidate really fared very well on the issue of schools.

So let's just fling down the gauntlet, as education is again, by all accounts, one of the primary campaign issues. Let's dispense with the sound bites about "school choice," "national standards," "safe schools," and "investing in the future." Here's an opportunity for our education candidates to test their knowledge on the top 20 education issues that real people are talking about, posed here as Q and A's (grading scale follows).

1. Why are school tests (including those from previous years) held tighter than the Pentagon Papers (i.e., exempted from the Freedom of Information Act) so that parents are refused access even after-the-fact?

2. What is it called when school tests and surveys ask children what magazines are in their homes, whether parents have a diswasher, and the family's favorite vacation spots?

3. What is "predictive computer technology," and how is it useful to experts in determining a student's future employability under School-to-Work legislation?

4. What is the primary focus of college course work for prospective educators, including curriculum and testing specialists?

5. Describe a process called "thought disruption" and explain how it affects learning.

6. What is "cognitive dissonance," and how does it compromise parent-school cooperation?

7. How have terms like "remedial" and "handicap" been redefined so that parents erroneously believe their child will get special help?

8. How "individualized" is an IEP (Individual Education Plan), and what rights do parents have once they sign it?

9. What legal loophole permits the federal government to become involved in state and local curriculum?

10. What is a psychological "marker" (used in behavioral screening devices), and why is "strong religious belief" considered a marker for mental illness?

11. What level of privacy does the term "confidential" confer?

12. What federal law prevents Information Brokers from combing secure databases for "value and lifestyle" information and cross-matching it with political criteria or other public and private records?

13. What is "data-laundering"?

14. Describe the scope of school-related computer cross-matching.

15. How are the principles of advertising harnessed by educators, and what are the two primary advertising axioms?

16. How could schools assure nondiscriminatory testing and placement?

17. Explain the most important ethic that today's teachers are expected to transmit.

18. What links Outcome-Based Education, School-to-Work and Workforce 2000?

19. What are the long-term effects of psychiatric drugs on growing bodies?

20. What do education experts consider the primary purpose of education?


1. The rationale is that the validity of all tests and surveys will be compromised if a layperson sees any of them.

2. Psychographics: "the study of social class based on the demographics of income, race, religion and personality traits."

3. By combining responses pupils provide via self-reports and situation-based questionnaires with psychographic data, statisticians can predict how a child will likely react to events in future years. This capability can be turned into a political litmus test by college and job recruiters.

4. Behavioral psychology.

5. "Thought disruption," a technique launched in 1940s Germany, means interrupting the train of thought so that logic cannot proceed. The continual interruptions built into the school day impede a child's ability to concentrate.

6. "Cognitive dissonance" means an unresolvable conflict resulting from attempts to reconcile two opposing "truths" simultaneously. When educators discredit parental teachings, youngsters cannot choose between two opposing "authorities."

7. These are buzz-terms for warehousing kids deemed "uneducable" by the system. Teacher training deals with emotions, not learning methodology.

8. Signing an IEP gives the school control over future education-related decisions and provides virtually no individualized help.

9. "Compelling state interest."

10. Markers are "risk factors." Firm religious belief has been linked to the dogmatic, authoritarian, and delusional personality.

11. Confidential means "need to know," not "anonymous." Data, including a person's identity, are shared with "approved" entities.

12. No federal law currently prevents database searches and cross-matches. Legal experts are having trouble writing a law that differentiates between legitimate and illegitimate cross-matching.

13. "Data-laundering" means deleting or changing existing data surreptitiously to circumvent #12, above.

14. The SPEEDE/ExPRESS is the largest school collection-and-transfer "engine." WORKLINK, developed by the Educational Testing Service, provides a link to employers.

15. Advertisers were the first to employ psychographics as a means of targeting a market. The primary axioms are: (1) "All consumer behavior is predictable," and (2) "Consumer behavior can be changed." The key is finding what makes the target population tick. School "tests" and surveys, rife with opinion-oriented questions, provide this key. Curriculum becomes the advertising package for social change.

16. Class placement, curriculum, and teacher training built around learning processes (spatial reasoning, perceptual speed, auditory memory, etc.) is nondiscriminatory.

17. "Interdependence": The group is more important than the individual and consensus more important than principle.

18. Funding: Legislators who vote for one, vote for all four.

19. Psychiatric drugs haven't been around long enough to know.

20. "To change the students' fixed beliefs." -- Dr. Benjamin Bloom

19-20 correct = Fit for public office
17-18 correct = Study up for debates
14-16 correct = Easily manipulated by special interests
12-13 correct = Frankly, my dear, you don't know diddly about schools.

[Note: An earlier, much-abridged version of this piece appeared in the Washington Times on Sept. 29, 2000 . As it turns out, the piece is more on the mark today than it was even four years ago.]

© 2004 Beverly Eakman - All Rights Reserved



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