Obama's 'Solution' For Bridging U.S. Science Gap: Eliminate SATs - InformationWeek

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5/29/2008
04:01 PM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
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Obama's 'Solution' For Bridging U.S. Science Gap: Eliminate SATs

The Democratic presidential candidate has found a unique way to boost U.S. students' performance in math and science -- he'd eliminate rigorous testing and let everyone into college for free. Yup, that ought to do it.

The Democratic presidential candidate has found a unique way to boost U.S. students' performance in math and science -- he'd eliminate rigorous testing and let everyone into college for free. Yup, that ought to do it.Stumping Wednesday in Colorado, Barack Obama acknowledged the poor state of science education in American schools.

"China is graduating eight times as many engineers as we are," he said. Obama, rightly, noted that that's a big problem "in a world where good jobs can be located anywhere there's an Internet connection -- where a child in Denver is competing with a child in Beijing and Bangalore."

But Obama's ideas for solving the problem are nothing short of bizarre.

First, he'd get rid of standardized tests that force high school students to master their material and prove they're capable of handling college-level work.

The candidate didn't come right out and say he'd scrap the SATs, but it sure sounds like he's thinking along those lines: "We also need to realize that we can meet high standards without forcing teachers and students to spend most of the year preparing for a single, high-stakes test," Obama said, according to a transcript of his remarks.

[Update @ 7:15 pm: Thanks to the readers who pointed out that Obama might have been referring to standardized tests mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, and not SATs. The point is the same however, Obama appears philosophically opposed to quantifiably measuring students' progress despite his concerns about the country's international competitiveness. He's not alone: Wake Forest University recently said it would make SATs optional for admission.]

"Recently, 87% of Colorado teachers said that testing was crowding out music and art," he added.

Got it, we'll solve the U.S. math and science deficit by eliminating tests that require mastery of, uh, math and science in order to create more time for music and art. Makes perfect sense so far, doesn't it?

Then, Obama said he'd make community college free, as in beer. "As president, I will ... make community college completely free," he said.

In return, students must agree to teach, volunteer, or join the Peace Corps, Obama said, curiously leaving out the military as means through which kids can "serve their country" to get a free pass into higher education.

If I've got this right, Obama is calling for an academic system in which students who've never proven they belong in college can attend for free. Those children in Beijing and Bangalore must be shaking in their boots.

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