First Learn the Basics, Then Think and Create

Re "Real Test Is, Did the Kids Learn to Think?" Commentary, Nov. 5: Roger Weaver is correct when he says that creativity and original thinking cannot be measured by "a sheet of bubbles with a No. 2 pencil." But the ability to do mathematics can be tested. So too can grammar, spelling, vocabulary, knowledge of history and an understanding of literature. A student who cannot read or understand what he's reading, who cannot do basic math, who cannot write a simple essay and who doesn't know his own country's history, all of which can be tested, is in no position to do original thinking or create anything.

Admittedly, standardized tests are a blunt tool, but our failing public schools need a knock over the head with just such a blunt instrument to wake them up. The message that the "test 'em and make 'em accountable" movement sends is this: Teach our kids how to read, write and do math and, yes, test their ability to do these fundamentals so we know where they are on the learning curve. Then, after these fundamentals are solidly in place -- and only then -- will we tolerate silly curricula such as "Self-Esteem 101" and "Tolerance 'Til You Drop."

Carl Moore


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