I loved Scooby-Doo when I was a kid. I don’t like it so much now as the parent of three children. I worry it will give them nightmares because of the scary monsters. But there are lessons to be found, even in a Hanna Barbera cartoon. I think high-stakes testing promoters used Scooby Doo as their template for taking over public education.
The first rule in Scooby Doo is people will react irrationally to scary stories. High-stakes testing began the same way as most Scooby Doo episodes begin; an illusion scared everyone away from questioning the story to find out the truth. Only a few people with a connection to the location, the bad guys(s), and the teens from the Mystery Machine ever stick around to find out the truth. In Scooby Doo, an elaborate plan involving deception, misdirection, and fear tactics is employed to frightened everyone away so the crook can walk away with the loot without conflict. High-stakes testing required tremendous planning and enormous sums of money. It was sold as the solution to our “failing educational system.” Media bought it. Politicians bought it. Few questioned it. As a result, district leaders, administrators, teachers, parents, and kids were forced to abide by it even though it went against what they though was right. Almost all did what they were told to do because of the scary story. The plan was working perfectly and most people were too afraid to question it.
The second rule is the bad guy always looks like the good guy at first. The high-stakes bandits wore suits, quoted statistics, created charts, and invented acronyms. Who would distrust Old Man Withers? Especially when the developing story was the bad guys who created the education crisis were the lazy teachers and the parents who didn’t take their kids to the museum.
The last rule is the bad guy only scares and never hurts. The first two rules of Scooby-Doo were followed by the promoters of high-stakes testing. People reacted irrationally to high-stakes testing and no one expected the bad guys to be the nice people in suits. The third rule was broken. This scary high-stakes testing monster actually hurt children. In Scooby-Doo, the only thing the monster ever really does is scare people. A monster in Scooby-Doo would never cause a child to vomit, bleed, or cry. Scooby-Doo monsters just yell with a mask on to scare everyone off so the bad guys can steal all the gold from the mine. (My apologies to those of you who have never seen an episode of Scooby-Doo, but I hope you’ll trust that the analogy works and you’ll continue reading.)
This high-stakes testing plan worked until children were hurt. That’s when people stopped being afraid to speak out, refused to suffer in silence, and chose to stand up to the monster. Irrational fear clears up quickly when a mother sees her child in pain or a father sees his child threatened by a scary monster.
A plan to fail kids intentionally is abuse. A plan to fail kids intentionally and profit from their failure is disgusting. A plan to fail kids intentionally, profit from their failure, and then blame it on the system that the reform is trying to destroy is unconscionable.
Parents will do whatever they can to protect their children from monsters, real or imagined. Wear green laces and fight the monsters. Lace to the Top.
And you would have gotten away with it too… If it wasn’t for these awesome kids.
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