Educational systems that stress standardized test scores over abstract reasoning have skewed education’s purpose as a means of attaining self-fulfillment, piquing intellectual curiosity, and cultivating independent learners. Our test-based pedagogy has rendered a global population of Americans who willingly forego the pursuit of knowledge in search of another rung on the socioeconomic hierarchy. What Horace Mann claimed was the bastion of democracy is now an investment in a socially-ingrained view of “success.” The national government’s Common Core mandates have further fostered an exorbitant emphasis on testing, causing students to adhere to a formula of cheating and resume-padding in order to attain an elusive test score rather than the variety of exposures that enable the development of the whole person.

The pendulum of pedagogy is no longer swinging but falling into Plato’s insular Cave, conceiving a deceived Generation Y, taught that the futile information in its hippocampus constitutes knowledge. To rectify this dilemma, all stakeholders in the educational system–teachers, students, parents–should promote Jeffersonian civic virtue through acts of civil disobedience, upholding the Lockean contract that cultivates a respect for knowledge.

Though an early supporter of Obama’s Common Core, New York has become a hotbed of dissent due to increased testing. As indicated by Linden Avenue Middle School principal Dr.  Katie Zahed, testing disrupts  education by displacing debate and academic analysis, breeding dispassionate students whose apathy undermines learning by setting unrealistic standards that do not accurately measure comprehension. Testing is consequently catapulted to an unjustifiable pillar. The subsequent protests led by the  East Village’s Earth School’s parent advocacy group affirm the necessity of silencing the government’s strict demands for increased testing, suggesting that parents must assume the role of educated advocates to reform pedagogical hegemony.

The resulting manipulation of the system affects not only students at intermediate levels, but also high-achieving ones at acclaimed institutions–exemplified by the motive to cheat that caused 125 Harvard students to transgress their university’s motto of Veritas. To counter memorization-based pedagogy and expose students to self-driven education, schools should implement John Dewey’s progressive education principles through curricula that offers specialized academies and fosters individual initiative.

Education has regressed to storing the mind with “a million facts” rather than conjuring original thought, a breach in the social fabric that necessitates reform. Jefferson addressed the “long train of abuses” with a resounding declaration; Paine with the dissemination of Common Sense; the French with a tennis court oath. The intellectually lost Generation can thus emerge as an active participant in the theoretical and practical application of cognition. This revolution against the assembly-line like method of producing perfunctory students will breed an evolution galvanized by an educated public.

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