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At Best, Silly, At Worst, Racist

At          Best, Silly, At Worst, Racist

The difference between a diploma and doomsday cannot possiblycome down to a Byzantine trivial pursuit. That is, unless youcan make the implausible case that six or seven years from now,when these students are trembling job applicants, their bosseswill look them dead in the eye and actually ask:

"Hmmm, your resume looks interesting, but to get this job youmust tell me why King Henry issued the Edict of Nantes, the purposeof the Treaty of Tordesillas, and the function of the lord ofthe estate in medieval Europe."

Those are real - or surreal - requests of students from last month'sMassachusetts Comprehensive Assess-ment System (MCAS) 10th-gradehistory and social sciences test. Some educators let me read thefull test last week.

Many parents, educators, and business leaders are already concernedabout the more subjective aspects of the MCAS. Some have calledfor any high-stakes testing for graduation in 2003 to be limitedto basic literacy and math.

The 10th-grade history test should call into question the politicalintentions of the entire test. At best, it is silly. At worst,it is racist.

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