Why I continue to beat this dead horse​

By Tom Dunn - Guest columnist

​Surely, there are those who wonder why I continue to write these articles that beat the dead horse of political intrusion into the world of public education. Really, how many times can I say the same thing? Well, I write them because I have experienced firsthand the difference between the true impact of laws and what the powerful political PR machine says they will do. There is rarely a connection between the political explanation we all hear and reality, but people who don’t deal with the nonsense every day would have no way of knowing that unless they are told. I decided long ago that I would no longer allow political spin doctors to control the narrative surrounding their poorly conceived laws unchecked as they work to make their ideas sound better than they really are, especially when their ideas are bad for children. That is why I continue to beat this dead horse.

In addition to people understanding that the political PR machine is rarely based on the truth, it is important that they understand how much money and time are wasted with laws that they are told will enable all children to succeed, when, in reality, they have little or nothing to do with student success. People should know that hundreds of millionsof THEIR tax dollars have been squandered on legislative mandates that are bad for kids despite what the creators of these mandates say. Hundreds of millions, wasted! That is why I continue to beat this dead horse.

Political press releases would suggest that there is real value in discussions and policies that focus on how many tests to give kids, what kinds of tests to give kids, whether tests should be administered on paper or online, what test results tell us about our schools, what test data is going to appear on the state report cards, how politicians are going to hold schools accountable, and dozens of other meaningless topics. But, these discussions have no value. None. But, people wouldn’t know that unless they are told, and that is why I continue to beat this dead horse.

For more than two decades now, politicians have sold the public a lie about how children become educated while ignoring the scientific research that tells us how children become educated. But, even worse than the time and money that has been wasted, generations of children who have needed the adults in power to make decisions in their best interests have been forsaken. This is unacceptable conduct by a group of people who make a habit of holding others “accountable” for their actions. My articles are an attempt to hold them accountable for their incompetence, and that is why I continue to beat this dead horse.

Recently I, along with several other school administrators, was asked by a state school board member who I happen to respect very much, to provide feedback she could use to help drive discussions as the state board develops its strategic plan. She provided us with a PowerPoint presentation that highlighted the topics to be discussed, which I can only assume was created by a member of the Ohio Department of Education staff. I can say that with a degree of confidence because the topics in the presentation had nothing to do with improving the quality of education we offer kids and everything to do with continuing the meaningless narrative surrounding accountability and testing. There wasn’t a single topic of importance within the presentation she shared with us. Not one. That is unacceptable.

Ironically, at the same time I was receiving her request for input, I came across an article that highlighted perfectly my frustration with the pathetic conversations surrounding education that continue to occur in the political world. To illustrate just how meaningless the conversations about testing and accountability are, take a few minutes and read the article at https://www.yahoo.com/news/two-brains-both-belong-three-120608571.html.

The information you will find there is sobering, as it shows, through magnetic imaging, how neglect and abuse impacts a young person’s brain. While common sense tells us that a child who is treated poorly will feel the impact of that treatment for a lifetime, to actually see that the brain of a neglected or abused child is smaller than the brain of a child who receives the nurturing he/she deserves is sickening. Do you think that may impact his or her ability to learn?

Yet, in all my years of listening to politicians pontificate about the next law they are going to create that will “guarantee” a child’s success, do you know how many times they acknowledge the impact neglect and abuse have on a child’s development? Zero! When they discuss children who are illiterate, do you know how much emphasis they place on the importance of language development beginning at birth? Zero! Do you know how many times they seriously discuss the impact poverty has on a child’s development and how we can level the playing field for children who grow up disadvantaged? Zero! Do you know how many times they have engaged in discussions about how a child’s stress level negatively impacts his or her development? Zero!

But, do you know what they do talk about? They talk about how many minutes a week kids should be tested. They talk about how many tests kids should have to take. They talk about whether children should take tests on the computer or on paper. They talk about how much time students should practice for the tests they are forced to take. They talk about how they will misuse test results to draw invalid conclusions. They even talk about which testing company will get its pockets lined by being handed a contract to create these invalid tests. But they never talk about anything that matters, and that is unacceptable!

But you wouldn’t know that unless someone told you, and that is why I continue to beat this dead horse.


By Tom Dunn

Guest columnist

Tom Dunn is the superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center.

Tom Dunn is the superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center.