Was this another case of Joe Biden getting caught flatfooted by a question he wasn’t expecting and fumbling the answer? Or is this really part of his education platform?
We’ll have to figure out the answer to that as we go. For now, it’s worth checking out this report from the Daily Caller about Joe Biden’s appearance at MSNBC’s Public Education Forum 2020. Uncle Joe was fielding questions from the audience when one attendee asked him if he would commit to ending standardized testing in public schools because they are “rooted in racism.” And Biden was happy to endorse the idea.
Biden made the commitment after a questioner at MSNBC’s Public Education Forum 2020 said standardized testing is “rooted in a history of racism and eugenics” and urged him to oppose their use in public schools.
“Teaching has changed drastically over the last 10 to 20 years. Instead of being allowed to use their expertise to develop engaging curricula that’s culturally responsive, teachers are often forced to use a scripted curriculum that rushes children through without giving them enough time to really understand the material,” the questioner said.
She added: “Given that standardized testing is rooted in a history of racism and eugenics, if you are elected president, will you commit to ending the use of standardizing testing in public schools?”
Biden’s answer to that convoluted question wasn’t ambiguous at all. He simply said “yes.” He then went on to quote another one of his many black pastor friends (not Pork Chop, however), saying that the questioner was “preaching to the choir.”
As to the substance of the question Biden was asked, I’ll be the first to admit that standardized testing has long been problematic in America. This used to be particularly true of the older versions of IQ tests that were administered as well as some of the early editions of the SATs. They would ask questions such as “Cup and ____.” The “correct” answer was “saucer.” But many people, particularly those from lower income families, hadn’t used saucers under tea or coffee cups for generations. This had the effect of lowering the scores of children from less wealthy families. (And yes… that produced a predominantly negative effect on African-American students.)
Also, we’ve seen far too many instances of schools falsifying test results to improve their school’s performance ratings. The problem there is that state and federal education aid is impacted by the results, so schools have a motivation to cheat. This further weakens the reliability of and trust in the test results.
However, as bad as they used to be, the educational system has responded to complaints over the years and the tests have been getting better. I still wouldn’t call them flawless, but significantly improved from the earliest days.
With all that said, if this truly is Biden’s position now, what does he propose replacing the testing system with? Has he even given it any thought? There has to be some way of determining how well students have done, both in terms of helping prepare them for the real world and setting benchmarks for college admissions. If there are no standardized tests, we’re left pretty much with the “feelings” of the teachers in how they grade students. At that point, you might as well throw in the towel and not bother making education mandatory.
Joe Biden might want to dial that answer back a bit next time he’s giving a speech. It’s fine to criticize the standardized testing system and call for improvements. But vowing to simply do away with it absent a viable replacement is a recipe for yet another disaster in our public school system.