Bell chimes in on education to distract from plain reality.

Progressive Democrat state senator Sam Bell is fascinating to watch. Some years ago, he was a participant in a debate I helped organize, and he made a perplexing statement about the number of tax cuts Rhode Island government had enacted.  Even watching such things closely, I had to go home and research what he might mean, and I concluded that, to him, any change in tax policy is a cut.  Reduce the top rate, but increase taxes overall?  A cut.  Reverse course and move the policy back toward what it had been?  That’s a cut, too.

Put simply, whatever he thinks will advance his progressive argument, that is what he’ll say.

And so, we see him implicitly defending his progressive allies in the teachers unions by saying RI’s standardized test scores are “preposterously bad” only because “the standards are very high.”  Uh-huh.

It’s funny to see a progressive raise up “traditional” education practice as the standard against which new policies should be judged.  It’s not so funny to realize that he’s casually excusing below-average performance and ignoring the fact that test scores have been “preposterously bad” for decades.  He hopes his readers won’t be aware of any local history prior to a couple years ago, and unfortunately, for the most part, he’s probably right.

The best line in his essay is this pure con:  “Standardized tests are flawed because education is, fundamentally, difficult to quantify.”

Note that he asserts this contrarian claim, rather than justifying it.  One suspects this is a tautology; Bell doesn’t like what standardized tests show, and he doesn’t like the idea of objective, meritocratic standards, so they must be “flawed,” which means the real thing that he knows people value (i.e., education) must be something else that is “difficult to quantify.”

Step back (especially in light of the “traditional education” on which Bell relies for other claims), and you’ll see how absurd it is to say education is difficult to test.  There are few things we have so much experience testing! Indeed, it is the nature of education that the final product is contrived; teachers deliberately work confounding real-world variables out of the lessons so they can isolate and teach the underlying principles.  Making them teachable makes them testable.

The problem for Bell and his comrades is that results have cratered since they took control, so now their mission is to convince people not to notice.


Featured image by Vahid Moeini Jazani on Unsplash.

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