A reader recalls what Neil Postman wrote almost 40 years ago. He was known as a future-thinker, and this quotation proves he was:
|I’m a public school teacher in NJ. Relevant in this context is a wonderful little book by Neil Postman entitled “The Disappearance of Childhood”. He ties the invention of childhood in the west over the past few centuries to universal literacy. In the book he argues that the concept of childhood peaked sometime in the first half of the 20th century, but since then has been worn down by a decline in literacy and our infatuation with other forms of entertainment media. Profiting from schooling, racing to the top, focusing on absurd objective criteria like standardized test scores might be further evidence of a declining belief in the idea of childhood, where children are something more like competitive employees than learners.
In his 1976 book “Crazy Talk, Stupid Talk” (now there is a title for our times!) Mr. Postman referred specifically to the trend toward objectivity in evaluating children:
‘In many communities around the country, the quality of education is being measured by the scores children achieve on standardized tests. Education thus falls under the jurisdiction of the language of statistics, and it is a fact that many schools are now designing their programs almost solely for the purpose of increasing their students’ mean test scores. Here, it is slightly unfair for me to repeat the joke about the statistician who drowned while trying to wade across a river with an average depth of two feet. The fault is not with statisticians, whose special language is a remarkably useful instrument for uncovering abstract facts. The fault is with those educators who have fallen under its spell and have allowed their purposes to be subverted by the seductions of precise measurement.’