“It makes no sense”: Puzzling over Obama’s State of the Union Speech is the title of an excellent new post by scholar Yong Zhao.
His perceptive analysis touches on many points, including demagoguery around U.S. international rankings. Because of that, I’m adding his post to The Best Sites For Getting Some Perspective On International Test Comparison Demagoguery.
But, as I mentioned, it offers important commentary on much more than that, and I’d strongly encourage you to read it.
He ends with a recounting of a Chinese story is a thoughtful reflection on the President’s speech and, I think, on the education agenda of his administration and many “school reformers.” I’m going to reprint it here (I hope he doesn’t mind):
A Chinese story best illustrates the danger of choosing the wrong path for the correct destination. This story was recorded in Zhan Guo Ce or the Records of the Warring States, a collection of essays about events and tales that took place during China’s Warring States Period (475-221 BC). Here is my recount of the story.
The king of the state of Wei intends to attack its neighboring state of Zhao. Upon hearing the news, Ji Liang, counselor to the king rushes to see him. “Your Majesty, on my way here, I met a man on a chariot pointed to the north,” Ji Liang tells the King, “and he told me that he was going to visit Chu.”
“But Chu is in the south, why are you headed north?” I asked.
“Oh, no worry, my horses are very strong,” he told me.
“But you should be headed south,” I told him again.
“Not to worry, I have plenty of money,” he was not concerned.
“But still you are headed the wrong direction,” I pointed out yet again.
“I have hired a very skillful driver,” was this man’s reply.
“I worry, your majesty, that the better equipped this man was,” Ji Liang says to the King, “the farther away he would be from his destination.” “You want to be a great king and win respect from all people,” Ji Liang concludes, “You can certainly rely on our strong nation and excellent army to invade Zhao and expand our territory. But I am afraid the more you use force, the farther away you will be from your wishes.”
Makes no sense indeed. We focus on narrow tests rather than expansive learning, ignore the 90% of students’ lives that affects testing and focus on the 10%, ring the alarm about international comparisons and draw all the wrong conclusions about how some international systems are doing better.