February 1995

This Issue
Vol. 06, Issue 05

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My 20 years as a writer, my 10 years as a teacher of high school and college English, and my independent research have convinced me that the current advanced placement exams do not reliably indicate whether a student is qualified to do advanced college-level work.
It's nine o'clock on a frigid Thursday night in November, and the casino on the Mille Lacs Indian Reservation is packed to the gills. Men and women with buckets full of quarters sit blank-faced at video slot machines, praying for the big jackpot. Others try their hands at the blackjack tables, where the dealers, in black vests and bow ties, are the best-dressed folks in the house. The sprawling room is a sea of slot machines, which emit a cacophony of electronic sounds--buzzing, whirring, dinging, pinging, popping--that can be heard 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
In 1896, John Dewey, the famous American philosopher of democracy and education, founded the University of Chicago's Laboratory School--an experimental school of "intelligent inquiry'' for faculty sons and daughters.
To reach Thomas J. Rusk Elementary School from downtown Houston, you cross the railroad tracks and pass a string of run-down wooden bungalows and industrial warehouses. To the west, the city skyline floats above the rooftops like a distant vision of Oz.
Our eyes catch in the cereal aisle. She has three small blond boys in tow. Two dangle from the front of the shopping cart; the other wobbles in the child's seat, chewing contentedly on a box of animal crackers. I don't recognize her until I hear her voice, almost a question: "Ms. Rubenstein?''