We hear a lot about data lately – big or otherwise. Data-mapping. Data scanning. Data management. Data analysis. Data mining. Data-based decision-making. We are immersed in – numbers, algorithms, formulas, metrics.
Schools are no exception. We now worship on the altar of old-time scientific management. If you can’t measure it, it isn’t important. In schools, of course, students are reduced to numbers – test scores, absences, I. Q.’s, SAT’s, grades, grade point averages.
What about you? Is your life measured by metrics? Are you your bank account? Are you the years of education you have or your salary, blood pressure, net worth, I.Q score, zip code … number of wives or husbands? As you get older, you realize that all these data are not of much value in measuring a good life.
Obviously, there are no simple metrics for leading a good life or for happiness. Can a human being be reduced to a simplistic formula or can a life and its potential be summed up in a metric or graph?
Then why do we reduce children and their education to test scores – proficiency, value-added, conceptual – whatever? We take our most cherished and vulnerable people – our children – and reduce them to simplistic and often erroneous statistics. Children are not compilations of data. They are much more than that. There are plenty of stories of great people – creative people – courageous people – compassionate people – heroic people — who did not “get” the so-called ‘numbers’ in school.
They are beautifully complex human beings whose imagination, virtue, emotions, passion, determination, personality, and other characteristics cannot be accurately assessed by metrics or tests. Human development is not a race or a test. We must move beyond vacuous political slogans like “race to the top” and battering children with “assessments”.
Technological data-based analysis cannot determine the value of people. Their ‘bigness’ comes from their hearts, and their potential nourished by teachers and mentors who believe in them and their untapped and developing potential. They become unique individuals through the nurturing of human interaction and relationships, not computers, data, or avatars.
Educational reformers should know that. If they don’t, they should get their nose out of the metrics and sit and talk with nine-year-olds so they can see what’s really important in developing principled, intelligent, and caring individuals. Isn’t that the goal we all aspire to for our children?