Letter: Shumlin’s Educational Gimmick

To the Editor:

Gov. Shumlin’s State of the State address dealt entirely with education. His two wise proposals were to fill the stomachs of schoolchildren before asking them to fire up their brains every day and to pour money into early childhood education.

His third proposal was for Vermont schools to develop “Personal Learning Plans” that travel with each student from elementary through their senior year, “fostering a connection between school and career.” Had Shumlin controlled my education, he would have forced me to drag this “PLP” around for 12 years. Adults would have hovered over and fussed about the plan, making me so self-conscious that I would have agreed to anything to get them off my back.

The PLP is the latest gimmick of a society that has gone crazy in its worship of standardized tests, which supposedly assess and predict a student’s strengths and weaknesses.

The only thing standardized tests assess is how bored a student is with the test. The ones who thrive on being tested do really well; the ones who don’t, don’t.

I always dreaded tests and, even though I managed to get four college degrees, I always did poorly on them.

Thank goodness colleges evaluated my ability to think through written papers and not in memorized data for tests, or I would have ended up on an assembly line, which a Shumlin PLP surely would have prematurely shoved me into as a life sentence.

Human beings grow at different rates. Every mother knows that you cannot rush a rose. Professor Shumlin apparently knows better.

My rose didn’t blossom till I was 42 and wound up being an English teacher for the next 25 years at a Vermont high school.

Shumlin’s academic crystal ball (PLP) would have had me walk the plank of life at age 16: “Decide now, sophomore Paul Keane, based on your 10-year PLP, what you want to concentrate on for the final two years of high school, so you can ‘foster a connection between school and career.’ ”

Life isn’t an airplane trajectory. It’s a bit more unpredictable. And interesting.

Thank heaven for that.

Paul D. Keane

White River Junction