Frank Breslin, retired high school teacher, considers the current obsession with standardized testing in reading and mathematics and laments the neglect of history, foreign languages, science, and everything else that is not tested.

He writes:

“Reading and math, indeed, must be taught, but much more besides — literature, history, science, world languages, music, art, and, in an age of childhood obesity, physical education. But, thanks to this mandate, they no longer are because they no longer are tested.

“Even the restorative elixir of play and recess so vital to children is often omitted, so frantic are teachers at not having enough time to cover the testable material of reading and math. The result is an alarming narrowing both of curriculum and of children’s minds by this relentless barrage of testing and test preparation.

“But this has also had an overlooked, though no less pernicious, effect on students, not just by the little that is now being taught, but also by the many subjects now being omitted because there is no time to teach them.

“And it is this that is so very chilling about this educational “reform,” which is not about reform at all, but something very ominous — control of the mind.

“How better undermine education than by crippling thought; how better discourage critical inquiry than by stressing rote learning; how better weaken democracy than by subverting its schools!

“Teachers are deeply disturbed by what is now going on in the classroom. Only someone ignorant of what a school is about, who likens the classroom to an assembly line for the making of widgets, could be blind to the intangible dimension of what should be going on between teacher and students, but no longer is — the opening of vistas, introducing new worlds, the inducing of wonder, pushing back the unknown.

“Gone are those wondrous “teachable moments” that all of us recall from our own childhood years when a teacher would transfix us for a few rapturous moments when time stood still, as he or she took us into the very heart of what it means to be human, thrilling lessons that would remain with us for the rest of our lives. Such old-fashioned teaching is a thing of the past….

“Dickens skewered such “education” in his grotesque portrayals of Victorian schools in Hard Times, Nicholas Nickleby, and David Copperfield, where gargoyle schoolmasters like Gradgrind, Squeers, and Creakle are let loose upon children to their irreparable harm.

“The interminable mantra of “facts” heaped upon “facts,” the dogmatic insistence that only what can be measured, quantified, counted, and weighed is real and important, objective and useful, that all else is humbug — this pestiferous doctrine was unmasked for all times as tragically destructive to children. Such was the national fury and outrage at what innocent children were being made to endure in such schools that they were swept away overnight.”

Only those who know nothing of the love of learning could impose so soulless and deadening a regime on the nation’s children. Unfortunately Washington, D.C. and our state legislatures are overrun with people who resemble Mr. Gradgrind.