As the postmodern takeover of American education nears completion, the practice of assessing student performance with letter grades is under attack. Education disrupters claim grades and GPAs create an unfair academic hierarchy and put undue pressure on high-achieving students, leaving the rest mired in low self-esteem.
Combine these objections with the political insistence that all students graduate “college ready” and armed with “21st-century skills,” and a revolution in assessment is well under way.
Many elementary-school teachers years ago abandoned letter grades in reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead they write progress reports that assess, on a scale of 1-3 (or 1-4), the student’s proficiency in various skills. The reports typically indicate whether the student has achieved competency, is “progressing” toward competency, or has not made progress.
This type of “standards-based grading” (as it is called) represents more than a change in nomenclature. Whereas letter grades (or numeric percentages) measure the work a student has completed, the new system is concerned primarily with what the student will be able to do by year’s end. Teachers expect most students to be “progressing” toward the standard on their first report and then to have “met” the standard on their last.
From THE HILL
Confirmation battles that pit one party’s nominee for federal office against senators from the opposition party long have been spectator sport in Washington. But when extremists from the nominee’s own party attack, well now, there’s a “man bites dog” story.
The most recent example is the curious case of Kenneth L. Marcus, President Trump’s nominee to be assistant secretary of education for civil rights. The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights is charged with ensuring equal access to education through enforcement of the nation’s civil rights laws.
Marcus is well-suited to the task. He ran the same office under a grant of delegated authority in the administration President George W. Bush, while simultaneously serving as deputy assistant secretary of education for civil rights enforcement. Marcus later served as the staff director to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (a bipartisan federal civil rights agency), where we overlapped for several years when I was one of USCCR’s eight commissioners. Currently, Marcus is president and general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center, a civil rights organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism on college campuses.
Bashing Christopher Columbus has long been de rigueur among the liberal elite. Today, it has infiltrated our nation’s classrooms and poisons our public discourse. You know the mantra: Columbus was a greedy and egomaniacal villain who brought slavery, disease, “genocide,” and ecological ruin to a previously undisturbed land. Rather than honor this legacy of “hate,” the argument goes, Americans should celebrate the peaceful indigenous peoples who populated this hemisphere long before their lands were stolen by European explorers.
The war against Columbus is cloaked in the lexicon of “diversity” and the rhetoric of “inclusion.” But what many of its foot soldiers do not realize is that in fact it has its intellectual roots in the not so tolerant ideologies of Marxism and white supremacy.
Karl Marx, of course, viewed history as the product of a great class struggle between those who control the means of production and those who do not. According to Marx, history should be understood not as the story of humanity’s progress but rather as an ongoing clash of opposing forces, a battle between the haves and the have-nots. Friedrich Engels, who with Marx authored the Communist Manifesto, lambasted Columbus as the godfather of modern capitalism. According to Engels, Columbus’s westward journeys unleashed the era of “big commerce,” the world market, and the birth of the bourgeoisie. “The discovery of America was connected with the advent of machinery,” he wrote in 1847, “and with that the struggle became necessary which we are conducting today, the struggle of the propertyless against the property owners.”