Sunday, March 22, 2015

Keeping up with the times

You don't need to be an avid baseball fan to know about Pete Rose. An incredibly talented (most hits all time at 4,256), durable (played in 3,562 games ‑ the most for any MLB player) and versatile player (appeared in 17 all-star games at five different positions) with a gambling problem, Rose was given a lifetime ban by MLB baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti in 1989. While betting on baseball is against league rules, it has never been insinuated that Rose cheated or did anything to “throw” a game. Through today's post-steroid lens, Pete Rose's "crimes" against baseball seem minor. As Alex Rodriguez comes back from his year-long suspension and takes the field in Yankee pinstripes, making more than $21 million, Pete Rose remains in limbo, serving a life sentence for an infraction that pales in comparison to some of the offenses of today.

Thinking about Rose and how he would fit into today's game - and perhaps the Hall of Fame ballot this year - made me think a bit about the lens we are looking through as we educate our children and the recent controversy over the PARCC test. When I hear groans about “what was wrong with the NECAP?” I want to reply that nothing was wrong with it, but maybe, just maybe we’ve learned something in the ten years since the NECAP was first used and PARCC represents that progression. If education continues to move forward, ten years from now parents will surely be complaining about moving away from PARCC testing and onto the next kind of assessment. Times have changed - and will continue to change - and we need to adapt our standards to today's norms — or get left in the dust. What was cutting edge in education just a few years ago may no longer be relevant just a few years from now and because this is about preparing the next generation to be the next leaders of our country, we should be thinking ahead, not looking backward.

While I certainly have my own beefs with standardized testing and would prefer that students are focused more on understanding the material than learning to take the test, the reality is that we need to be able to set a bar for performance and measure to it. And truthfully, those of us who are parenting — not educating — don’t even really know what they bar looks like. I learned through a conversation with a very local teen that (sigh… eyeroll) “80% of the careers that will be open to me haven’t event been invented yet.” While serving its purpose of making me feel alarmingly old and uncool, her statement also made me realize how quickly things do change in a generation. It is so easy to leave kids behind with small minded and parochial thoughts like, “when I was in school we didn’t learn that way” and “we never took those tests and I turned out just fine.”

So maybe the answer is this: we have to continue to innovate in testing and in teaching, and we have to continue to challenge the next generation more than we were challenged. After all, the world we leave them to run hasn’t even invented the issues that they will need to face and address.

And for what it’s worth, we also should forgive Pete Rose. If A-Roid is off the hook, then surely Pete Rose deserves a break.

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