Teaching to the Template

In my early childhood, I was under the impression that “people are people.” I assumed one template for everyone, thinking that some individuals merely tried harder than others. (That made bullies, in particular, difficult to understand.)

Later, as a young married person, I stumbled across the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator test, based on Carl Jung’s psychological theories. Amazed at how well it explained the way things looked through my eyes, I asked my wife to take the test. The results indicated that she and I were polar opposites, her ISTJ to my ENFP, she the practical-minded safe harbor to my adventurous soul. (Happily, it also gave advice for how an ENFP might best communicate with an ISTJ, and vice versa.) So, clearly, there was more than one template for a human being, each an equally valid way of perceiving.

Still, I’ve often joked about government, saying that I’m willing to pay taxes to employ people of a governing mindset to argue with one another, so they’ll leave the rest of us alone. The trouble is, they don’t. Especially when it comes to teaching. As I watch administration after administration “crack down” on education, demanding ever more testing of reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic, I can’t help but wonder:

  • Don’t these people remember what it was like to be a student?
  • Don’t they recall how dreadfully boring drilling and testing could be?
  • Do they seriously believe they’re better writers today due to grammar study as a child? Do they even remember what a preposition is, or a subordinating conjunction?

Considering these questions, I first conjectured that legislators treat students as if everyone fits a single template. After all, testing tends to check facts more than it does ideas. This would suggest that politicians suppose more emphasis on facts will result in better education. That, in turn, would predict that politicians might tend to be of an ESTJ-type personality: extroverted, fact-gathering, logical, and careful planners.

However, a bit of online research indicates instead that politics draws ENFJ and ENTP types. Notice the intuition and feeling in the first type, and the intuition and “perceiving” in the second (indicating spontaneity rather than careful planning). Neither of these types seem prone to believe in “skill and drill” teaching. Both would appear to be global thinkers, willing to experiment and innovate solutions to any educational problems.

So why the perpetually increased emphasis on testing, from conservatives and liberals alike? Don’t they realize that increased testing forces more “teaching to the test,” which crowds out individualized instruction, impoverishes arts programs, and drives the most enthusiastic educators out of careers in teaching?

Apparently not. I don’t, as yet, understand why. Your thoughts on the matter would be much appreciated.

—Les

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