When I say “us” in this context, I mean all of us! Teaching social studies or any other subject isn’t only the task of certified teachers. When I was a principal, I used to say everybody who can influence kids is a teacher. Parents, counselors, administrators, school board members, clergy, government officials and others share this responsibility. Each generation has a duty to pass its knowledge on to the next generation. Fulfilling this duty is the key to all human progress.
We do need standardized tests from the primary level to college, graduate school and culminating in the qualifying examinations for many professions. When I got my first teaching job, I worked for a principal who believed everything kids learn can be evaluated with objective tests like the ISTEP. Most objective test questions have one and only one correct response: multiple choice, true-false, fill-in-the-blank and short answer.
I disagreed with my principal. I believed students also learn things we can only evaluate with subjective questions. Those questions can have more than one correct answer. Most of them involve writing essays. We grade them by deciding how well students support their opinions. I still believe we need to include essay questions and other subjective techniques if we wish to comprehensively assess student progress.
In another 30 years or so, Dr. Bennett and I will probably be forgotten. Some of Bennett’s reforms will have succeeded and others will have disappeared. My thoughts are destined for the same fate.
The only trace of us will be in the knowledge and skills our generation shares with our descendants. Educators, parents and other community members still will need to evaluate how much students learn. If they can do that better than we do it now, we will share in their success.
Mark Heinig Jr. of Kokomo is a retired Indiana principal and teacher. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.