Michaels: ‘Do you know why the peanut went to jail?’

"If tested for joke comprehension at this tender age I’m pretty sure he’d bomb the exam..."

Why did the peanut cross the road

Why did the peanut cross the road

“Do you know why the peanut went to jail?” asked my four-year-old earlier this week.

“No, why?” I said, expecting a punchline from the Batman joke book, I’d bought the day before.

“Because he’s a criminal,” said The Child, smiling from ear to ear.

“Get it? A criminal.”

(Insert long pause)

It will likely be a good long time before he “gets” what makes a traditionally funny joke, but that may have been the best zinger I’ve heard in years. It was indicative of a curious mind exploring new material.

He’s going to be hilarious one day. He’s already well on his way, but if tested for joke comprehension at this tender age I’m pretty sure he’d bomb the exam.

It’s what people who weigh in on the worst-day-of-the-reporting-year (AKA the Fraser Institute School Rankings release) call a “snapshot.”

While the joke-making skills of my slapstick-loving, aspiring Jerry Lewis make for an incredibly endearing snapshot, I understand that in the years to come there will be some less welcome versions.

Like when he’s much, much older and decides to really resist authority and do something known in the common parlance as stupid. Or, maybe it will be earlier, when he’s not doing as well in Grade 4 reading comprehension and his school is ranked low on a right-wing think tank’s Top 10.

That’s another image I won’t cherish.

What I intend to do, however, is collect them all. Good or bad, I’m the keeper of the album and the curator of his experiences. I can put each high and low in context and make for a more fulsome portrait.

That’s one of the many reasons I don’t understand why parents would pull their Grade 4 and Grade 7 children from the Foundation Skills Assessments.

For those who haven’t heard the participation rate across B.C. has dropped to 78 per cent from its all time high of 95 per cent.

Sure, standardized tests aren’t the way of the future, but knowing an individual child’s strengths and weaknesses at a specific point in time gives parents a tool to help them move forward, so they can improve and eventually flourish.

Or, maybe, if they’re never destined to flourish in a certain area, that knowledge can be used to build understanding or buoy lagging spirits. All of which are part of the job description. It’s written on the egg.

This line of thinking, I know, doesn’t apply to all cases —there are many legitimate reasons for a child to not be tested.

What isn’t a legitimate reason, however, is politics.

The argument that the Fraser Institute has used the results of these exams to erode faith in the public school system and make a case for further privatization is all well and good. In fact, it’s all sick and terrible. But we, as voters, get to decide if that’s the route we want education to go when we head to the ballot box every four years.

A child’s education shouldn’t be guided by the politics that surrounds the school system.

Whether a child can read, write and do a little math is all that should be tested by the Foundation Skills Assessments. Not a parent’s political leanings.

If a school falls somewhere in the middle that doesn’t make the teacher good or bad. In fact, some of the teachers at the so-called worst schools are about the best you’re going to get. The Fraser Institute knows nothing about the intricate details that answers that question.

But it’s our job as parents to know all about them. To look at empirical data, apply it to everyday experience and the larger context. We are not stupid. We all are able to make these judgements.

So use the information that’s available to lobby for your child.

Leave the politics to the teachers union and our elected officials. Most importantly, if you see anything shoved into a Top 10 list in the months and years to come, remember to ignore the packaging and look into the details. That’s the good stuff.

In the meantime, here’s a little something for you: “Why did the student take the test?”

“To find out what he was learning.”

 

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