Arne and the Alien is a satirical serial I posted on my blog in which I imagined an alien, having heard of the U.S.’ education reforms, visits with Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan in order to gain insight into how he can launch his planet’s first formal school system.
“Of course, of course. No one argues that,” replied the alien. “Say, Arne, would you be able to fit me in for a visit to your nation’s schools? I know you’re busy reading Race to the Top applications and No Child Left Behind waivers…”
The alien watched as the teacher’s face reddened. “Mr. Secretary,” she started, “you tell me my students don’t progress, but it might shock you to know that these students already learned 12 of the letters in the alphabet in the short time they’ve been here. That is progress. But you want them to be able to write essays and read Greek mythological tales. Is that reasonable? They are scraping to survive.”
“At first, I thought, ‘There’s no way I can work any harder than this.’ At the time I had no life outside of my career. But then I thought, ‘What if I gave it a try? How about instead of wasting all my time at home, I just make worksheets and practice tests?’”
The alien stopped smiling. “Practice tests?”
“I’ll say it again,” said Duncan, this time pausing for emphasis and with his mouth betraying the slightest flustered annoyance. “No one. Wants. Teachers. Teaching. To. The. Test. When we measure effectiveness, though, we must place a major emphasis on test scores. Is there any other way?”
“My work isn’t quite done, but when it is, we’re going to have the greatest system in the universe.”