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Career and college ready? Not with New York state tests and curriculum!

Opinion-Editorial

By S.E. ANDERSON | 3/27/2014, 1 a.m.

Education has become more about profit and power than children learning. Both important and insidious, this profit and power ideology is behind what’s going on with testing and school curriculum.

Students will only have the skills necessary to pass the mandated tests to move up to the next level. Practically speaking, they won’t be career and college ready! It’s this ideological component of numbing mind control that we, the Independent Commission on Public Education, are bringing to light in this article.

A short passage with the accompanying question and “correct” answer about Africa serves as a case in point. This exact question appeared on the June 2013 high school global history and geography Regents exam and was written not by an educator, but by a journalist, Fareed Zakaria. It reads as follows:

Europe’s waterways were also a blessing. Its rivers flowed gently into sheltered, navigable bays. The Rhine is a wide, slow-moving river that can be used as a highway for goods and people. The Mediterranean is calm, almost a lake, with many big ports.

Compare this to Africa. Despite being the second-largest continent, Africa has the shortest coastline, much of which is too shallow to build major ports. Most of its big rivers—fast-moving, dramatic, vertiginous—are not navigable. Add to that the tropical heat and propensity for disease and food spoilage, and you have a compelling geographic explanation for African underdevelopment—surely not the only factor, but a significant one.

Which conclusion about the geography of these continents is best supported by this passage?

  1. Europe and Africa have the same climate.
  2. Europe and Africa have many deep major ports.
  3. Waterways are a geographic blessing in both Europe and Africa.
  4. River systems have helped development in Europe and hindered it in Africa.

One only needs to know how to read to get the “right” answer. There is no opportunity to critique the point of view in the passage. In fact, the more one knows about Africa, the more difficult the passage becomes, emotionally and intellectually. Consider the main idea the passage’s author is promoting: Europe is geographically “blessed” while Africa’s geography lies behind African underdevelopment. By all indications, it is Eurocentric propaganda.

What if you, or another conscious educator in your child’s life, had taught them to understand the following, or suppose their inquisitiveness had led them to research and understand on their own that:

  • Africa also has many ports along the Mediterranean coast.
  • There are many deep water ports in West, Southern and Eastern Africa.
  • The big rivers of Africa, like the Congo or the Nile or the Niger, are, for the most part, calm enough to be navigable and to have had thousands of years of trade and commerce upon them.
  • Tropical heat exists in some parts of Africa, but not all of Africa! And where it does exist, the people—pre-slavery and colonialism—had found ways to preserve their food and treat many common diseases.

There were many well-developed cultures and empires in pre-colonial Africa, from the ancient Egyptian empire and the Nok civilizations in sub-Saharan Africa to the Sahelian kingdoms, including the Songhai empire, just to name a few.