- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 20, 2000

Al Gore has challenged his presidential rival by announcing that the "time for generalities without specifics … is just about over. It's time to put up or shut up," he said.
So let's fling down the gauntlet on education the number one campaign issue, by all accounts. Dispense with the sound-bites about school choice, national standards, safe schools and investing in the future. Here's an opportunity for our education candidates to test their knowledge on the top 20 education issues that real people are talking about, posed here as Q and As (grading scale follows):
1. Why are school tests (including those from previous years) held tighter than the Pentagon Papers (i.e., exempted from the Freedom of Information Act) so that parents are refused access even after-the-fact?
2. What is it called when school tests and surveys ask children what magazines are in their homes, whether parents have a dishwasher, and the family's favorite vacation spots?
3. What is "predictive computer technology," and how is it useful to experts in determining a student's future employability under School-to-Work legislation?
4. What is the primary focus of college course work for prospective educators, including curriculum and testing specialists?
5. Describe a process called "thought disruption" and explain how it affects learning.
6. What is "cognitive dissonance," and how does it compromise parent-school cooperation?
7. How have terms like "remedial" and "handicap" been redefined so that parents erroneously believe their child will get special help?
8. How "individualized" is an IEP (Individual Education Plan), and what rights do parents have once they sign it?
9. What legal loophole permits the federal government to become involved in state and local curriculum?
10. What is a psychological "marker" (used in behavioral screening devices), and why is strong religious belief considered a marker for mental illness?
11. What do education experts consider the primary purpose of education?
Below are the answers to all of the above. They may well surprise readers of The Washington Times:
1. The rationale is that the validity of all tests and surveys will be compromised if a layperson sees any of them.
2. Psychographics: the study of social class based on the demographics of income, race, religion and personality traits.
3. By combining responses pupils provide via self-reports and situation-based questionnaires with psychographic data, statisticians can predict how a child will likely react to events in future years. This capability can be turned into a political litmus test by college and job recruiters.
4. Behavioral psychology.
5. Thought disruption, a technique launched in 1940s Germany, means interrupting the train of thought so that logic cannot proceed. The continual interruptions built into the school day impede a child's ability to concentrate.
6. "Cognitive dissonance" means an unresolvable conflict resulting from attempts to reconcile two opposing "truths" simultaneously. When educators discredit parental teachings, youngsters cannot choose between two opposing authorities.
7. These are buzz-terms for warehousing kids deemed "uneducable" by the system. Teacher training deals with emotions, not learning methodology.
8. Signing an IEP gives the school control over future education-related decisions and provides virtually no individualized help.
9. Compelling state interest.
10. Markers are risk factors. Firm religious belief has been linked to the dogmatic, authoritarian, and delusional personality.
11. To change the students' fixed beliefs.

B.K. Eakman is executive director of the National Education Consortium and the author of "Cloning of the American Mind: Eradicating Morality Through Education."

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