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In the "Cult of Escapism": Regatta

Monday, June 11, 2012


I once saw an interview where Malcom Gladwell criticized standardized testing. He argued, convincingly, that the tests were skewed against the poor because they often included words like “regatta” that may literally never come up in a poor child's life. In their wording then, he continued, the tests were both classist and racist and perpetuated inequality in public education. I saw evidence of a similar bias today while helping a neighbor with his English homework.

After struggling to pronounce “roller skates,” Emilio hesitated, “What is that?” After my own struggle with translation, I replied, “I don't think anyone here has ever done that.” Regatta. I had to explain that you put wheels on the bottom of shoes and roll around. For fun. He said, “OK,” but his expression said, “Whatever you say, crazy white man.”

We continued down the list: golf, sailing, trampoline, ice skating, tennis, skiing. Really? Skiing in Panama? Why would the Ministry of Education even consider that a valid example here? Regatta!

This inspired me to create my own fill in the blank English practice test. Maybe the Ministry of Education can add it to its curricula:

  1. I like to eat __________.
Choices: Sashimi; Humpback Whale; Beaver; Caviar.

  1. In my spare time, I ________.
Choices: Play Laser Tag; Play the Cello; Count Piles of Money; Trade Currencies on the International Market.

  1. Despite living in the fastest growing country in Latin America, I live in a region with 93% extreme poverty because _______.
Choices: I'm ignored; I'm educated in an antiquated, inadequate and racist education system. (Note: you may choose multiple answers in Question 3)


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