Monday, April 18, 2011

Where Does Medicine Come From?

The attention given to this spring's standardized tests has given many of us a glimpse into the world of standardized testing, and into the kinds of questions our children are being asked. It hasn't been a pretty sight.

I was especially intrigued by one parent's ruminations about one of the questions from CMS's new kindergarten test. Her observations get at the heart of the problems with standardized tests, and speak to why we as parents do not want "data" from such tests to "drive" our children's education.

Try to answer this question yourself, before seeing what she has to say.

Test Question: "Where does medicine come from?"

To answer this question accurately requires a basic understanding of science, manufacturing, and law. Medicine can be developed with synthetic or natural ingredients in a lab, produced in a factory, sold by the drug company to a pharmacy, sometimes requires a prescription written by a doctor, and is dispensed via the pharmacy to the patient (or parent in the case of a minor). And this is the simple answer, don’t get me started on explaining insurance coverage, R&D, clinical trials, etc.

Where along the supply chain should this question be answered?


My children answered "plants" and "a Doctor." They are both correct.

My neighbor answered "the rainforests." She is correct.

Most frequent answer from kindergarten students in this class: "My Mom." They are also correct.

Other answers might be: a laboratory, a factory

However, according to the test – these answers are all WRONG. The test answer is "a pharmacist."

Do you really want to pinhole our children into an education that condenses this type of question into a one word response? I certainly don’t. Do you really want to reward the teachers that drill test answers in? You might overhear this next year in the classroom: “No Sam, drugs do not come from plants, they come from pharmacists. You have to answer it this way or I could get fired.” I certainly don’t want this. I want my children to be critical thinkers that enjoy learning and understand the bigger picture of the world around them. I think our teachers were doing an excellent job of this thing called learning, until testing, testing and more testing came along.

1 comment:

  1. In the U.S., we've approached education as something we can mass produce in assembly line fashion. What a mess! Your post is disturbing for so many reasons.

    It was nice meeting you yesterday, Pamela. Hope our paths cross again soon.

    Here's a link to my blog and a recent post I did on the documentary Race to Nowhere.
    Clearly, excessive testing is backfiring in a big way.