Education Letter to the Editor

International Tests May Miss U.S. Schools’ Biggest Advantage

May 06, 2008 1 min read

To the Editor:

The most powerful rebuttal to the claims about the significance of international test scores (“America Scouts Overseas to Boost Education Skills,” April 23, 2008) still comes from Singapore’s previous education minister, Tharman Shanmugaratnam. In a 2006 Newsweek interview, he said: “We both have meritocracies. Yours is a talent meritocracy, ours is an exam meritocracy. There are some parts of the intellect that we are not able to test well—like creativity, curiosity, a sense of adventure, ambition. Most of all, America has a culture of learning that challenges conventional wisdom, even if it means challenging authority. These are the areas where Singapore must learn from America.”

These are simple but eloquent words that to this day have not properly registered in the continuing debate over educational quality. If they had, the inordinate attention paid to rankings that are used by free-market advocates to undermine confidence in public schools in the United States would not be given such a forum.

But those intent on privatizing all schools have huge financial resources and clever strategists at their disposal. They know all too well how to manipulate public opinion to achieve their ultimate objective.

Walt Gardner

Los Angeles, Calif.