Wit & Wisdom

Game Changers & Tales of Triumph and Woe

Gifted Student or Test-taker Extraordinaire?

CJ Westerberg, February 25, 2013 3:47 PM


(Editor's Note:  Iconic educator Howard Gardner sends a brilliant Letter to the Editor of The New York Times addressing standardized testing, student giftedness and kindergarten.  Dr. Gardner is not only succinct but precise about the real issue which is . . . what is education for and what does being educated really mean anyway?  Read between the lines.  
  - C.J. Westerberg)

To the Editor

(news article, Feb. 18):

What we test for signals what we ultimately desire. The use of tests for which 4-year-olds can be prepped signals that we want to find those youngsters who can do well on future tests. In that way, the process works perfectly - whether in China or in New York City.

If we desired people who were likely to make creative advances, we would look for youngsters - be they 4 or 14 - who have a passionate interest that they pursue without a lot of prodding. If we desired people who would help build a more civil and more generous society, we would look for 10- or 12-year-olds who have found a need in their school or community and have taken steps to help meet that need.

In the unlikely event that these skills could be coached, at least we would end up with adults who could not simply ace the next standardized test.

Cambridge, Mass., Feb. 18, 2013

The writer is a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

A version of this letter appeared in print on February 25, 2013, on page A16 of the New York edition with the headline: Testing the Gifted.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for test-taker.cartoonbox2.slate.com.gifcartoon above The New Yorker
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It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
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