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Spring 2002
David Barton - 03/2002
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Educational Testing

Education has been a prominent issue in recent months. Congress just passed its federal education bill (a process undertaken only once every five years), and both State and federal legislators routinely make education a part of their campaigns. Therefore, we have chosen to highlight a number of the more important, but often under-reported, educational issues.

A current debate raging in education concerns testing. As academic achievement decreases and the clamor for educational accountability increases, many educrats denounce testing. They react as if it is something new, but it is not; educational testing in America predates 1690!

What is new is what should constitute the baseline for minimal academic knowledge under the new proposed standards. To graduate from the 8th grade a student should be able to read, and to perform "basic" math operations - but what should constitute the "basic" knowledge? A look at what "basic" meant in previous generations might be instructive to this current generation. For example, to graduate from the 8th grade in New Jersey in 1885, a student had to answer the following "basic" questions (these are only a few taken from that test):

Algebra/Arithmetic

  • Find the sum of the square root of 16.7281 and the square root of 72 1/4.
  • A merchant offered some goods for $1170.90 cash, or $1206 payable in 30 days.
  • Which was the better offer for the customer, money being worth 10%?

U.S. History

  • Name four Spanish explorers and state what induced them to come to America.
  • What caused the Mexican War? What was the result? What American general commanded at the capture of the City of Mexico?

Geography

  • Name four principal ranges of mountains in Asia, three in Europe, and three in Africa.
  • Name 10 countries of South America and the capital of each.

And in 1895 in Kansas, a student exiting junior high had to answer "basic" questions such as:

Arithmetic

  • If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cts. per bu, deducting 1,050 lbs. for tare?
  • Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.

U.S. History

  • Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
  • Show the territorial growth of the United States. Geography
  • Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
  • Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?

And in 1914 in California, a student had to answer these "basic" questions:

Arithmetic

  • A man spent 1/6 of his salary for clothing, 1/20 for rent, 1/8 for food and had $640.00 left. What salary did he receive?
  • A house is worth $6,480.00. It is insured for 2/3 of its value at 3/4%. What is the premium?

Geography

  • Name and locate five of the principal ocean currents and give their effect on the adjacent countries.
  • Compare and contrast the physiography and production of Asia with Africa.

Grammar

  • Name and define the parts of speech. Give the parts that are infected.
  • Define and illustrate complement, clause, infinitive, participle, collective noun.

Imagine the result if today's 8th graders (or even their teachers!) had to pass these tests. No wonder there is such opposition to basic accountability testing! Even though most students have mastered the modern phenomenon of internet and computers, apparently our basic knowledge is not as advanced as many "experts" might have us believe.

And Spelling

Just as geography, math, and grammar were taught very differently in previous generations, so too was spelling very different. In fact, many states have completely dropped spelling as a separate course of instruction. For example, Texas just reinstated spelling books after an absence of almost two decades.

In States such as California, "whole language" was the approach to spelling rather than the centuries-old phonics approach, resulting in plummeting scores on spelling tests.

And in yet other States, a so-called "creative spelling" is being taught, urging students to spell words in whatever manner they feel is correct; this is an effort to encourage "student creativity" rather than stifle it by requiring them to follow established spellings. It is amazing that such proposals have been accepted and even advocated by the academic community and by teachers' groups.

I recently received a newsletter from a classical school in Louisiana that contained a tongue-in-cheek piece on what would result if we abandoned our common rules for spelling:

"The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the EU rather than German which was the other possibility. As part of the negotiations, Her Majesty's Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5-year phase-in plan that would be known as "Euro-English.
In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of the "k". This should klear up konfusion and keyboards kan have 1 less letter. There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f". This will make words like "fotograf" 20% shorter.
In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be ekspekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkorage the removal of double letters, which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of the silent "e"s in the language is disgraseful, and they should go away. By the fourth year, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v". During ze fifz year, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and similar changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.
After zis fifz yer, ve vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi to understand ech ozer. Ze drem vil finali kum tru!"

Charles Darwin: In Trouble

The evolution/creation argument just won't go away. Yet, why should it? After all, the debate has raged since 600 bc! (To see more about how America's Founders viewed this debate, see our article "A Death Struggle Between Civilizations")

The recent focus on Darwin targets his teaching that Blacks were simply not as evolved as Whites. In Louisiana, African American State Representative Sharon Weston Broome charges that "Darwin's ideas on how humans evolved are racist and the key reason for race problems [and] provide the main rationale for racism." As Broome logically concludes, "If evolution has provided the main rationale for racism, and we are teaching our children evolution in schools, then correspondingly we are teaching them racist principles." Consequently, Rep. Broome has introduced the following resolution:

WHEREAS, America's foundational document, The Declaration of Independence, expresses the self-evident truth that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, and that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness; and . . .

WHEREAS, empirical science has documented an indisputable commonality among all people groups, or races, and has demonstrated that normal variations in the human gene pool account for our differences, of which racial differences are a trivial portion; and

WHEREAS, the writings of Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, promoted the justification of racism, and his books On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life and The Descent of Man postulate a hierarchy of superior and inferior races; and

WHEREAS, Adolf Hitler and others have exploited the racist views of Darwin and those he influenced, such as German zoologist Ernst Haekel, to justify the annihilation of millions of purportedly racially inferior individuals;

THEREFORE, be it resolved that the Legislature of Louisiana does hereby deplore all instances and ideologies of racism, does hereby reject the core concepts of Darwinist ideology that certain races and classes of humans are inherently superior to others, and does hereby condemn the extent to which these philosophies have been used to justify and approve racist practices.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the legislature does also hereby urge and request the public education system of Louisiana, as appropriate in the curriculum, to address the commonalities of people groups and the weaknesses of Darwinian racism.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a suitable copy of this Resolution be transmitted to the commissioner of administration, who will make its contents known to the heads of each Louisiana state department and agency; to the Board of Regents, who will make its contents known to each college and university president or chancellor; and to the state superintendent of education, who will make its contents known to the superintendent of each city, parish, or other local public school system.

What was the result of this amendment? During final passage the Legislature omitted every reference to Darwin from the completed resolution. Unfortunately, Rep. Broome's excellent resolution was gutted.

Yet, this action by the Legislature illustrates just how much support and legal pumping up is required for Darwinism to remain at the core of educational curriculum. If Darwinism is so sound, why not let it stand on its own merits? Yet the Courts (and now at least one State Legislature) continue to prop it up, rejecting every attempt even to present an alternative view or to expose Darwin's weaknesses. Nevertheless, this laudable effort by Rep. Broome represents just one more hole punched into Darwinism, showing yet another of its many fallacies.

A Student Will Be Like His Teacher

In Luke 6:40, Jesus wisely observes: "A student, when he is fully trained, will be like his teacher." The impact of this statement by Jesus is true in every arena of instruction: students in theology often will become like their instructors since they willingly open themselves up to receive from their instructors (hence our pulpits are affected). Students in law often will become like the law professors who instruct them (hence our legal system is affected); students in journalism often become like the journalists who instruct them (hence the media is affected). The same is true for every other profession. In fact, a statement attributed to Abraham Lincoln wisely observes: "The philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next."

So what is the philosophy of the school room in this generation? A new survey on the beliefs of university professors may provide an answer. This survey investigated 151 professors, most of whom teach in the humanities. Why examine the humanities? Because, as explained by journalist Linda Bowles, "The reason is simple. If, for example, one is teaching math, things have to add up. If, however, one is teaching a revisionist version of history, or a feminist version of literary works by 'dead white males,' nothing has to add up, and the subject matter may serve as a platform for the trashing of American culture, values and tradition."

So what do the survey results reveal? That these university professors are exceptionally liberal. For example, of these professors who voted in the 2000 election, 84 percent voted for Al Gore, 6 percent for Ralph Nader and only 9 percent for George Bush. And when these professors were asked to name the very best president of the last 40 years, Clinton came in first with 26 percent of the vote, Kennedy second with 17 percent, LBJ third with 15 percent, Carter fourth with 13 percent, and Ronald Reagan finished last with an abysmal 4 percent. And while only 34 percent of the nation professes itself to be Democrat, 57 percent of professors declare themselves to be Democrat - a rate almost two times higher than that of the national population.

If Jesus is right, and if a "student becomes like his teacher," then students will reflect the liberal tendencies of their professors - a reality now confirmed in a recent study conducted by researchers at UCLA. These researchers have been surveying students annually for 36 years; but, students this year demonstrated "a real change - a broad based trend toward greater liberalism on almost every issue we look at," stated Alexander Astin, the UCLA Education Professor who started the survey in 1966. Questioning over 280,000 students, the survey found that 58 percent of students say gay couples should have the legal right to marry; 32 percent say the death penalty should be abolished (the highest percentage in two decades); and over one-third say marijuana should be legalized (the highest percentage since 1980). In fact, 30 percent of students now describe themselves as politically liberal, a percentage that has been increasing steadily since 1996.

Such statistics confirm that students are indeed very vulnerable to the beliefs of their professors, and must be well-grounded in their faith and a biblical worldview before entering university. If they are not prepared, the results can be devastating. One way that students (and their families) can ensure that they are well grounded is by participating in worldview training. Such training helps prevent faith from become just another "compartment" of their lives (along with education, business, family, friends, etc.) but instead shows how every other aspect of their lives can be examined on the basis of their faith. (Because of this inability to apply faith in a practical manner throughout all of life, studies show that almost one third of Christian students who enter college abandon their faith by the time they leave.)

Two organizations that provide excellent worldview seminars are the Worldview Weekend and the Worldview Academy. To learn more about these seminars and when one will be in your area, contact Worldview Weekend at 651-739-4112, www.worldviewweekend.org or Worldview Academy at 800-241-1123, www.worldview.org.

Spiritual Heritage Tours

Twice each year, Tim Wildmon of the American Family Association and Stephen McDowell of the Providence Foundation team up to conduct tours of the Washington, DC, area, with an emphasis on America's rich Christian heritage. This year's tours are scheduled for June 5-8 and September 18-21. If you and your family would like to join in either of these tours, contact 602-844-5036, ext. 228, or twildmon@afa.net.

[WallBuilders has an excellent resource on the Founding Fathers and early American education: Four Centuries of American Education - in DVD, VHS, and Book format]


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