I trust Michael Rosen won’t mind my re-using the included two Facebook postings of his from today – which are public and I clearly credit to him here and now – but they further illustrate one of the salient features of the kind of testing Schools Minister Nick Gibb promotes that I was criticising in my posting about such here.
What should be clear in what I was arguing is how this kind of testing/examination is totally meaningless. It is pointless in terms of teaching and learning, and it is brutal [thus my preparedness to use ‘that’ term in my title] in the way it corrupts students’ and teachers’ approaches to the teaching of and learning about how to Write. Such testing/examination – however often – should not be allowed in schools. Teachers should fight this. Parents should fight this. Writers – who will clearly be the former too – should fight this.
That this kind of testing/examination definitely causes students anxiety and stress is self-evident in the risible but challenging demands it makes. Perhaps there are those who can train themselves or be trained to work to these puzzles, but that is a very few and is still a pointless activity. But to suggest, as Gibb did in responding to how we deal with student mental illness [stress and anxiety], that we set more of these kinds of tests as a conditioning and therefore presumed prevention is ridiculous.
The second of Rosen’s postings taps into what I have been arguing for a long time on this blog. Essentially, we should all ignore in terms of applying – as is – the kinds of test an idiot like Gibb promotes. However, it can be educational, and fun, and a learning curve of experimental exhilaration, to subvert such test questions and play around with their prescriptions and absurd conventions. I have illustrated this here and also elsewhere on this blog, and this sentence from Rosen is a perfect example too,
A final observation. I have also consistently argued on this blog that we should resist to a degree constantly challenging tests/examinations like Key Stage 2 English GPS solely on the grounds that they cause students stress and anxiety. They obviously do, but it has always seemed to me more focused and convincing to challenge them on their educational deficiencies.
This blurred somewhat the truly disturbing implications of what Nick Gibb proposed. It could allow a deflecting focus on the nature of examining in its broadest sense – good and bad – where in fact it was Gibb’s complete lack of understanding about and empathy for young people’s mental health issues that was so brutally laid bare in his widely reported and criticised observations.