If there can be a Photo of the Day in this blog, then why not a Quote of the Day? On page 90 of this week's issue of Time Magazine is a quote of Mark Cuban saying:
In the past, you had to memorize knowledge because there was a cost to finding it. Now, what can't you find in 30 seconds or less? We live an open-book-test life that requires a completely different skill set.
This quote touched me in so many ways, I cannot begin to count. It makes me recall a time more than 20 years ago when I was a software developer how, if I made a syntax error (for example, leaving a period out of a COBOL statement), the mainframe compiler would cough on the code and tell me when and where the error was made and I'd just go back and fix it. The basis of my pay and performance expectations had nothing to do with how fast I could develop software. So, if it took a few extra seconds to debug a syntax error, it was no big deal. Some years prior to that, I remember taking a COBOL programming course in college where, for the tests, we had to hand write code to prove our knowledge of the language. Omission of period would cost you a point on your test score or something like that. I always wondered why it makes any sense to hold students accountable for knowing something that they won't be held accountable for when they get into the workforce. There are probably some brilliant programmers out there that failed such tests but that can write far better code (in terms of elegance and efficiency) than the syntactical expert that got an A or a B in that course.
So, not only is Mark Cuban right about the skill set that's required, but his comments need to be backwards interpolated into education reform. I look at my 15 year old son and find it laughable that any time he needs to know something that he doesn't know, he just looks it up on the Web. So, to the open-book-test part of Mark Cuban's comment, why not let students have access to the Web much the same way they have access to a calculator while being tested in certain subjects. This obviously doesn't apply to all subjects. I'm glad he has to memorize things about totalitarianism. When he has to internalize information like that, it helps him to become a critical thinker. But, so much of what students are forced to remember is ridiculous. Even worse, I'm sure there are educators that will vigorously nod in agreement to what I've written here but that don't have a clue where to start in order to change system. Imagine, for example, going to your boss and saying "I think these standardized tests are a crock?"