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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The New York Times misunderstands education again: this time the GED

The New York Times is at it again, promoting nonsense about education. I can only guees that it owns a test making or grading company because it sure does love this stuff. From today’s editorial:

Millions of Americans are trapped at the margins of the economy because they lack the basic skills that come with a high-school education. This year, more than 600,000 of these people will try to improve their prospects by studying for the rigorous, seven-hour examination known as the General Educational Development test, or G.E.D., which should end in a credential that employers and colleges recognize as the equivalent of a diploma. The most fortunate live in states — such as Delaware, Kansas and Iowa — that have well-managed programs in which 90 percent or more of the test-takers pass. The least fortunate live in New York State, which has the lowest pass rate in the nation, just behind Mississippi. Worse off still are the G.E.D.-seekers of New York City, which has a shameful pass rate — lower than that of the educationally challenged District of Columbia. This bodes ill for the city, where at least one in five adult workers lacks a diploma, and the low-skill jobs that once allowed them to support their families are dwindling.

The New York Times wants to make sure that New York City has great GED courses so poor people can get jobs. For fun, I looked at the web site of the GED testing service. Here are three typical sample questions on a GED:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable Rights, that among these rights are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Which of the following political actions violated the principleof “unalienable Rights” of liberty that evolved from the above excerpt of the U.S. Declaration of Independence?

1. In 1857, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling promoted the expansion of slavery in U.S. territories.
2. In 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution outlawed the practice of denying the right to vote because of race, color, or previous condition of servitude
3. In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution granted women the right to vote nationwide.
4. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act outlawed racial discrimination in employment and public accommodations.
5. In 1971, the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the Constitution extended the right to vote to 18-year-old citizens.

A cook decides to recover some table salt that has been completely dissolved in water. Which of the following processes would be the most effective method of extracting salt from the solution?

1. spinning the solution in a mixer
2. boiling away the water
3. pouring the solution through cloth
4. dripping the solution through a paper filter
5. bubbling oxygen through the solution

In May, I graduated from Prince William Community College. Graduating with an associate of arts degree in horticulture.
Which is the best way to write the italicized portion of these sentences? If the original is the best way, choose option (1).

1. College. Graduating with
2. College, I graduated with
3. College. A graduation with
4. College. Having graduated with
5. College with

I don’t’t know about you, but as an employer I know that I would certianly hire people for low paying jobs if only they could answer these important questions. Perhaps it is time for the Times to notice that employers won’t hire people who can’t do anything useful and that our education system doesn’t teach much that is useful. Pouring money into test passing courses will fix nothing.

Here is the Times again:

New York will need to invest a great deal more than it spends at the moment. But the costs of doing nothing clearly outweigh those of remaking a chaotic and ineffectual system.

Right you are Times. New York needs to invest in real eduation however, not in test prep courses. How is it that the Times is this much out of touch?

1 comment:

David Price said...

Too true, Roger. I graduated with a first-class honours degree, and I got honoured by the Queen of England for services to education - I couldn't answer any of those questions!
(Maybe it's a Brit thing!)