Recently I was listening to a classical music station and heard a beautiful piece of music. The announcer said when it ended that Mozart composed it at the age of 9. I couldn’t help thinking, “but what were his test scores?” When I watched the chorus of the Celia Cruz High School sing the National Anthem at Mayor de Blasio’s inauguration, I had the same thought. It is becoming a habit. When I see a child or youth do something joyfully, I can’t help but think that question, knowing that the scores reflect the ability to answer test questions and don’t address the inner core of the human being.

Yet our current obsession with data has led us to crush the spirits of our children, to make sure that budding Mozarts and Einsteins and those who dream instead of conforming are pressed into the same narrow mold.

Here is a good article that appeared in the Albany Times-Union that raises these issues. I hope Governor Cuomo reads it.

Kristen Cristman writes:

“How many can relate? My experience is just one facet of the truth that conveys this message: There is something very cruel and demeaning about treating the child’s brain like an inanimate machine that must ingest what it’s given and spit out what it’s told. The brain has been colonized; it’s become property of the school, of the state.

“It is horrible for many to wake up exhausted, leave bed, home, pets, and hobbies, travel on an unfriendly bus, and proceed to sit for six hours in an overheated, stuffy building within a cold, confusing, and crowded culture where you have to think certain thoughts at certain times, speak when told to, and remain quiet otherwise. On top of that, when you get home, it’s hours of homework broken only by dinnertime until late at night. When you finally crawl into bed, all you have to look forward to is another numbing day. My parents did not push this behavior; it was simple obedience to school instructions.

“It’s also what you’re no longer able to do that is so depressing. For some, it is balance in life itself that is desecrated and destroyed when high levels of homework are given, formerly in fifth grade, but nowadays earlier. My sister used to play the role of teacher, Miss Mouse, and she’d stand at a chalkboard in the basement and teach me — even give me little homework sheets if I asked. I would love it. The things we could do on our own. But no more time for that come fifth grade. Eager days of playing at liberty outside, climbing trees, constructing snow tunnels, lingering with cheerful breezes, sunshine, and beckoning paths in the woods are over. Zestful days of happily reading books of one’s own choosing, energetically drawing, writing animal reports, identifying rocks and feathers, pursuing the passion of learning on one’s own, and concocting spooky skits in the basement are over.

“How could anyone consider such a life for children, a life without freedom and passion, to be an indicator of a society that is highly developed and free?”