Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Worm Turns: Testing the Candidates

The current governmental infatuation with one-size-fits-all standardized testing is a concern of many. But there is a remedy for this illicit love affair. Require every candidate for political office to take a battery of standardized tests. Then we will widely and repeatedly publicize the result. And to make sure no deserving individual escapes the net, we will also require aspiring high level government appointees, such as candidates for Secretary of Education, to also take the tests.

We could require every aspiring office holder to take the same tests he/she prescribes for others. Before being allowed to run for President, for example, Dubya would have had to pass the self-same tests he championed for high schoolers. Imagine him sweating and scratching his noggin.

Similarly we could require every aspiring state Secretary of Education to pass the battery of tests they propose requiring of aspiring teachers. In Pennsylvania, for example, he or she would have to pass separate NTE tests in Reading, Writing, and Listening Skills, (The later would be a tough one for any politician.).

An alternate plan is to design office specific skill and knowledge tests. A candidate for President of the United States, for instance, would be tested on their knowledge of world geography test, US and world history, basic economics, the environment and so forth. We could turn to ETS or the Psychological Corporation to craft the items. And they would be finalized only after a painstaking vetting. Blue ribbon boards would appraise and reappraise every question. Then every candidate’s test results would be announced to the world.

We could also test their moral and ethical views. Admittedly, dishonest answers would be a problem and safeguards clearly are required. One possibility is to administer this particular test while test-takers are hooked up to lie detectors. Imagine a candidate sweating and squirming as the polygraph relentlessly tells the tale. “Is that your actual answer? Is that your final honest answer?” (Philadelphia’s infamous late Duce/Mayor Frank Rizzo once failed a lie detector test while trying to prove the device’s reliability. Evidently the polygraph was more discerning than voters.) Alternatively, we could inject test-takers with scopolamine, a truth serum favored by secret policemen the world over. The test would be administered orally as the subjects drift guilelessly on a tripped out cloud.

Regardless of the method, however, we would have to be absolutely certain that our subjects answer truthfully. And we should keep in mind that most of them would be unaccustomed to doing this.

That, in broad outline, is the plan. But it needs filling in. That’s where you can help. Tell us what you think. Should aspirants for public office take the same tests they prescribe for others, or should they be required to take brand new custom designed tests of character and job-related knowledge. And should we test just once, or every year the person is in office? (Longitudinal testing has the obvious advantage of measuring whether or not the subject is improving while “serving.”)

You also might like to suggest specific test items. They need not be multiple choice. All types of questions typically found on standardized tests are welcome. Rush your comments and test item suggestions to The Worm Turns Foundation, c/o Newfoundations, P.O. Box 94, Oreland, PA 19075, or post them here.

To examine these issues further, see Justice Through Testing .

Best Wishes,

--- G K Clabaugh