The New York Times has an article on the absurdities of reading exams that are censored to remove any references that might be deemed offensive. Of course, what gets removed is often the content of the story.
The modifications to the passages ranged widely. In the Chekhov story “The Upheaval,” the exam takes out the portion in which a wealthy woman looking for a missing brooch strip-searches all of the house’s staff members. Students are then asked to use the story to write an essay on the meaning of human dignity.
A paragraph in John Holt’s “Learning All the Time” is truncated to eliminate some of the reasons Suzuki violin instruction differs in Japan and the United States, apparently not to offend anyone who might find the particulars somehow insulting. Students are nonetheless then asked to answer questions about those differences
My reaction to all of this is to condemn the sophistry that makes politicians believe that a return to the basics or standardized testing will solve the problems of education. As Jon Scieszka says in the article I cited earlier: we need better teachers. Exams are always at the mercy of the politics of those who write them. What today seems too politically correct may tomorrow become overtly racist or conservative, depending on who gets elected to the school board. Education needs a new way to assess student progress. (Kudo’s to Prof. Shupe)