A Well-Educated Mind

via Three Pillars of a Well-Educated Mind

As a teacher I spent my working life in “education” focused on producing “well-educated minds” but what that meant for each individual student and even for each individual teacher was often contentious. The Education System is focused on Results – defined in academic success which is measured quantitatively and ranked hierarchically. It is then convenient for goal-oriented workplaces to select their workers based on who is “best”. In order to improve those “results”, as demanded by anxious parents and reactive politicians, the system has instigated a program of “standardized testing” which is supposed to provide information for planners to target “needs”. Unfortunately the system does not seem to recognize that standardized testing assumes standardized humans. I never met one of those in my thirty years of teaching!

Standardized testing is simply a political tool that is used to promote those who are pronounced as “excellent” and save money by sending it only to those who have “needs”. It has nothing to do with education and is, in fact a hindrance to a well-educated mind. In Australia we now have a test called the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy or NAPLAN. It is run by the rather ponderously named  Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) and was intended as a tool to  “drive improvements in student outcomes and provide increased accountability to the community”. They test literacy and numeracy skills of students in years 3, 5, 7, and 9, which is at ages 8-9, 10-11, 12-13, and 14-15.

An entire industry has built around NAPLAN, including online sites with past papers, suggestions and hints for students and parents to enhance success. Teachers in some schools have been under pressure to “prepare” students by practising on past papers and teaching to the criteria of the tests rather than the curriculum. The movement to abandon the testing process is growing louder and well it should. Teachers, Principals, Parents and Businesses are all starting to question the value of “standardized testing”. There is even a Facebook page dedicated to stopping Naplan:  https://www.facebook.com/protectingchildhoodofficial/. 17800482_1928295607385998_6608780034137023046_n

This is the banner on their site.

Their impressum is:

Education; Children; Wellbeing; Play


That impressum is a growth formula, each level brings deeper understanding, greater knowledge, better people. Let our children PLAY, then they will learn. That is the only additional pillar I would add to the three pillars of “intellectual honesty, open-mindedness, and critical thinking” outlined by Paul in his excellent blog. As he concluded so eloquently if you adopt these pillars as the basis of good education:

Not only does it lead to the excitement of discovery, but also to the satisfaction of understanding.

Thank you Paul.

4 thoughts on “A Well-Educated Mind

  1. I’ve read and reread your post with great interest, Jim.

    Thanks for revealing what the educational system is geared towards and the role standardized tests play in it. I had only a notion that standardized testing was incompatible with well educated minds until I read your post. I now know that the system is geared towards something very different from well educated minds, at least in the sense in which I understand the term.

    Now that you mention it, I can see the value of play in producing a well educated mind. After all, isn’t that how kids — and even adults — learn best?

    It must have been disheartening to see standardized testing come into prominence during your career, to say nothing of being evaluated on the basis of “results”. How did you deal with it, if I may ask?

    I am honored that you responded to my post with this genuinely valuable and useful post of your own.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Paul. I’ll send a more considered reply tomorrow. For now I think I can say I didn’t handle it well. I have been out of the classroom now for 15 years but I know many young people burning out after just a few years, especially the teachers who care. Late night here in Australia, I need a fresher mind to delve into this subject!


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