Learned Behavior

Back when I attended high school in the 19th century, if you got caught carrying Cliff’s Notes, you failed the test.  Forget about weapons or drugs — there was a Zero Toleration Policy when it came to Cliff’s Notes.  It was considered cheating, as bad as smuggling in notes or copying off the test paper of the smart nerd next to you.

How quaint.  Such pedagogical purity of soul.  Compare:

Federal prosecutors in Memphis are investigating an educator who they say ran a test cheating ring in three Southern states for teachers and prospective teachers who wanted to pass standardized certification exams.

According to court documents, [Clarence] Mumford, a former assistant principal and guidance counselor, helped create fake government identification for test takers, and collected fees ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 from individuals who were concerned about passing tests administered by the Educational Testing Service in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

The tests, which are taken by people who want to obtain a teaching license or to acquire additional credentials in a specific subject, are known as Praxis exams. They are a requirement for obtaining teaching certifications in 37 states, according to the E.T.S. — NYTimes

Impressive: now it’s the teachers who do the cheating, even turning a profit at it. Of course, maybe they’re just taking seriously the ‘Pub mantra of “running government like a business.”  Just not an honest business, if such an animal exists.

It turns out this racket may have been going on for 15 years.  I wonder how many active, dishonest, unqualified educators that translates to.  How many teachers in whose care we entrust the next generation to help develop character — they’re so fond of that term, especially when it’s time to renew their contracts and we’re informed how influential they are in shaping young minds and hearts — not to mention teaching simple facts — such as the earth is 5.4 billion years old, not 7 days or 5,000 years or whatever Senator Marco Rubio suggests we’ll never really know.

Reading this appalling surrender of integrity, I can’t decide which is worse — crooked cops or cheating teachers.  In both cases, the very professionals  supposedly sworn to provide care and protection for the citizens who pay the tab end up ripping them off and endangering them.  A good case could be made for either one.  Maybe we should have a poll.

Here’s the final jab:

Educational advocates said they were surprised to hear that people would cheat on the Praxis exams, adding that the three states where fraud is said to have taken place set low bars for passing.  “These are pretty basic tests,” said Sarah Almy, the director of teacher quality at the Education Trust, a research and advocacy group that works to close achievement gaps and that is calling for an overhaul of teacher training in the United States. “The fact that there were folks who felt like they needed to bring somebody else in order to meet a very basic level of content knowledge is disturbing, in particular for the kids those teachers are going to wind up teaching.”

In other words, the test is so basic, so easily aced, that anybody worried about passing it probably was  a poor candidate for the classroom to begin with.  Just fear of the examination reveals a flawed individual unsuited for the challenges professional education presents.  But clearly they found their way into the system where, we’ve come to learn, it’s damn near impossible to dislodge them.  E.g. — if they take this test and flunk it, what happens?  Do they (a) lose their jobs, (b) get demoted, (c)  have to take it again, or (d) get promoted to supervisor?  I’m guessing (d).

Maybe when George W. Bush asked “Is our children learning?” he not only asked the right question, he phrased it appropriately for the profession.

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1 Response to Learned Behavior

  1. Piles says:

    Until teachers start arming themselves, crooked cops are a lot more dangerous.

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