By David Tulis
Digital potholes rattled Tennessee’s school testing program to pieces.
At least at the point where the program meets the student body.
But the shards of paneling, stray screws and smashed server coils of the online machinery lying in the roadway have done little to budge the premise of public education that invigorates even the harshest critics of the blunder.
The flop occurred Feb. 8 on the first day of use statewide. A “severe network outage” and “significant problems” struck the vendor serving the TNReady program, Measurement Inc., under a multi-million-dollar contract.
Teachers and administrators were told they will have to back to pencil and paper forms “despite the many improvements the department [of education] has helped to make to the system in recent months.” A press statement about the collapsed architecture sought to recognize the “best interest of our students and to protect instructional time,” but after every classroom lost hours of mock online testing.
A teacher venting anonymously said the glitch caused her “to have failed your children. I cannot count the hours we spent practicing typing instead of doing science experiments, the minutes lost on learning how to navigate a worthless program instead of diving into books that will make children love reading, or the precious seconds I could have been showing your children the love and attention they deserve, but couldn’t because we had to take a practice test that day.”
The TNReady program “is designed to assess true student understanding and problem-solving abilities, not just basic memorization skills,” the state says. The former New York teacher of the year, John Taylor Gatto, describes modern testing regimes as management systems, a sort of academic voyeurism. “As it is, we currently drown students in low-level busy work, shoving them together in forced associations which teach them to hate other people, not love them. We subject them to the filthiest, most pornographic regimens of constant surveillance and ranking so they never experience the solitude and reflection necessary to become a whole man or woman.”
Neglect of birthright
Another group weeps what are fair to describe as the tears of Esau. These are pro-public school activists who object to a Republican proposal to insert vouchers into the state’s schooling statutes.
We question if Governor Haslam should be held accountable, too, since he appointed [Commissioner Candice] McQueen and also her predecessor who got us into this mess, Kevin Huffman. As it usually happens though with oligarchs, they get away with “failing,” have no “accountability,” and end up failing upward in job status. *** [W]e can dream and vote.
Esau shed tears because he was careless of the things of God and the prospect of obtaining a birthright and a blessing from Isaac, the aging patriarch in the 27th chapter of Genesis. Earlier, Jacob had demanded, “Sell me your birthright as of this day,” and he had done so for hunger. Now he has been cheated out of the blessing that Jacob coveted and for which he used deceit to obtain.
Then Isaac trembled exceedingly, and said, “Who? Where is the one who hunted game and brought it to me? I ate all of it before you came, and I have blessed him — and indeed he shall be blessed.”
When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me — me also, O my father!” But he said, “Your brother came with deceit and has taken away your blessing.” And Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright, and now look, he has taken away my blessing!” And he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” Then Isaac answered and said to Esau, “Indeed I have made him your master, and all his brethren I have given to him as servants; with grain and wine I have sustained him. What shall I do now for you, my son?” *** Then Esau wept aloud.
Esau endures terrible pangs of regret, for the birthright and for having lost the blessing to a wily brother of whom Paul later describes as one chosen of God: “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated” (Romans 9:13).
Parents reject self-government
“The day is coming,” Matthew Henry notes in his commentary, “when those that now make light of the blessings of the covenant, and sell their title to spiritual blessings for that which is of no value, will, in vain, ask urgently for them.”
Beneficiaries of the public school system are busy pushing for reforms (vouchers excluded), calling for accountability, praying for leadership and supporting all the premises of public schooling. What they obtain for free they seek to influence, if not indirectly control. At their churches on the Lord’s day they ask God’s blessing on their children’s teachers and curriculum. They believe that they are the actual client of public schooling, that it exists for their benefit.
They have yielded their authority as parents to the state, its employees and for-profit contractors. And so their regrets about the system, their disappointments about the failed MIST testing platform, their desires for true education are unlikely to be gratified. Rejecting self-government and independence, they are the whiny patrons seeking to be pacified. Their bitter tears, in a way, still, move us.
— David Tulis hosts a talk show weekdays in Chattanooga from 9 to 11 a.m. on 1240 AM Hot News Talk Radio, covering local economy and free markets in Chattanooga and beyond. Support this site and his radio station in Chattanooga, on your smartphone via the TuneIn radio app or at Hotnewstalkradio.com. Noisily patronize his advertisers. Encourage the free press by having David air your commercials. Also, “buy me a coffee at the tip jar.”