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Editorials

Frederick J. Kelly and your nightmares — Part 10 of Stop Stealing Dreams (What is School For?)

by Seth Godin

If you missed Part 9, click HERE.

10. Frederick J. Kelly and your nightmares

In 1914, a professor in Kansas invented the multiple-choice test. Yes, it’s less than a hundred years old.

There was an emergency on. World War I was ramping up, hundreds of thousands of new immigrants needed to be processed and educated, and factories were hungry for workers. The government had just made two years of high school mandatory, and we needed a temporary, high-efficiency way to sort students and quickly assign them to appropriate slots.

In the words of Professor Kelly, “This is a test of lower order thinking for the lower orders.”

A few years later, as President of the University of Idaho, Kelly disowned the idea, pointing out that it was an appropriate method to test only a tiny portion of what is actually taught and should be abandoned. The industrialists and the mass educators revolted and he was fired.

The SAT, the single most important filtering device used to measure the effect of school on each individual, is based (almost without change) on Kelly’s lower-order thinking test. Still.

The reason is simple. Not because it works. No, we do it because it’s the easy and efficient way to keep the mass production of students moving forward.

To be continued …

Or — if you want to read the rest of Godin’s manifesto now — click here: http://tinyurl.com/6n5dz9o

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About jwmartinez

JoLynne is a journalist and educator. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Park University and is certified to teach high school journalism and English. Former employment includes work for Cable News Network and the University of Missouri-Kansas City in addition to freelancing for clients such as the Kansas City Star and The Pitch.

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