Tom Chapin, “It’s Not on the Test”

A couple of recent studies show the moral, intellectual and educational bankruptcy of the so-called No Child Left Behind Act.  The groundswell necessary to scrap the thing has not caught up to the urgency of doing so, alas.

Tom Chapin, the youngest of the musical Chapin Brothers who once included Harry Chapin, worked in advanced childhood education before we knew what it was.  As host of ABC Television’s “Make A Wish,” Chapin significantly contributed to one of the finest education programs ever broadcast.  It’s a sin that it’s not on DVD for kids now.  “Make A Wish” demonstrated what television could do, in that era before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) turned its back on the public interest requirements of the Communications Act of 1934, and before commercial television pulled the plug on dreams that commercial television might be a great engine of education and cultural enrichment.

Chapin is back, with a modest poke at the NCLB balloon, and a more powerful vote for arts education in public schools:  “It’s Not on the Test”:

I ponder the research I’ve seen over the years, both inside the Department of Education and out, and the statistical and anecdotal stories that show art training and education (not the same thing) improve academic performance, and I wonder what squirrels have eaten the brains of “reformers” who kill arts programs for the stated purposes of “improving test performance.”  Einstein played the violin.  Feynman drummed.  Churchill painted, as did Eisenhower.  Edison and his team had a band, and jammed when they were stuck on particular problems, or just for fun.  When will education decision makers see the light?

May this little spark ignite a prairie fire of protest.

Where are you protesting this week?

7 Responses to Tom Chapin, “It’s Not on the Test”

  1. mark says:

    IMO any involuntary art classes or any kind of creativity classes beyond pre-school contributes little to improve creativity. Creativity requires passion and a free spirit, but these 2 features get crushed once a student is required to sit through these routine. It also tends to increase a student workload.

    Rather than creating classes for math we should instead break it apart into its constituent subjects namely calculus class, algebra class etc. Art classes ought to be broken up into painting classes, sculpture class etc. Students ought be given complete liberty on their choices of subject, especially the liberty from pressure of their parents, the job market and society. This is the only way a student can empower himself beyond the ordinary.

    Quoting from Orwell’s The Prevention of Literature (1946) “… loss of liberty is inimical to all form of literature.” clearly express his belief that the more we attempt to regulate the more we hamper creativity. Only by giving a free rein to the student to think and take the subjects of their choice, only then can we expect them to produce the spark of creativity we are searching for. Art classes instead will only try to mechanize art of which the consequences will be detrimental to art and creativity itself.

    Personally, I hate all the subjects I learn at school, especially the ones that I was forced to learn. I love math, but I don’t learn them from my teachers. I love physics, but those too are self learned. I once love art too, but test results dampen my spirits to learn further. I love programming, those that i taught myself. I love history, especially those not included in the syllabus. In fact, i dare attribute that all my education beyond the first 6 years of school is self educated. Coincidentally my interest help me in my exams. What about the students who can’t match their interest and the demand of their school?? The result is they got left behind.


  2. […] to Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub for the link. […]


  3. Bug Girl says:

    hey, I’d rather have someone who can evaluate evidence they looked up than someone with a head full of facts. Some critical thinking is better than none.

    The exams I’ve seen in Michigan don’t do much for thinking, other than rote regurgitation :(


  4. Ed Darrell says:

    Actually, critical thinking is on the Texas tests, TAAS. Alas, that’s about all, in social studies. It doesn’t test much for achievement or knowledge in social studies.

    Thanks for the bark out to Zeno’s paper. I ought to do something with it . . .


  5. Bug Girl says:

    I thought you might be interested in this miss-interpretation of history:

    Critical thinking isn’t on the test, either. :(


  6. zhoen says:

    I adored that show, and Tom Chapin. Bless him for this eloquent bit of pointy satire.


  7. QrazyQat says:

    Tom Chapin is great. One of the pleasures of having had a much younger brother was that as a teenager I watched Make a Wish because he did.

    “Anything you want to try, just let go fly high… and make a wish.”

    “Imagine the possibilities.”


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