(Tallahassee) As a follow up to the mediocre performance of its "Just Read Florida!" campaign, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart announced last week that the Florida Department of Education is launching its new "Don't Question! Don't Think!" campaign. A logo for the new campaign, with the initials DQDT is in development according to officials, and will feature images of a brain and question mark with a red circle around them and a red slash across them.
In the wake of recent questioning of the state's first round of FSA (Florida Standards Assessment) tests (and their resulting scores) by the state's board of superintendents, and also by parents, teachers, students, newspapers, and other people who care about education, Pam Stewart announced that the new initiative was an effort to "stem the tide of negativity aimed at our wonderful new standardized tests." When asked if the initiative was merely a piece of pro-testing propaganda, Stewart replied that "this is exactly the sort of pointless questioning we're trying to prevent. But since you asked, the answer is no. This is not merely to stop people from asking questions about testing. It is also to keep people from asking questions about Florida's charter schools, Florida's stance that opting out of tests is not an option, and the fact that we seem to want our public schools to fail. Nobody needs to question anything the state DOE does or in any way think about it. People just need to accept whatever we do to public schools and understand that we know what is best for students."
When asked to elaborate further, Stewart responded testily, "People just seem to be asking all kinds of questions about everything we do! They question the amount of time students spend in testing! They question whether their students have to take the tests! They question our schools' technology resources and media centers being completely unavailable to students for months on end due to testing. They question disrupting class schedules for weeks and months to accommodate all our computer-based tests. Some have even questioned our goodwill toward public schools! Of course we want our schools to succeed. That's why we demand measurable results, and attempt to get them by demanding that schools assess students nearly constantly. Of course we do give them time to dispense standardized, data-driven curricular materials. Some people even question that! These people need to realize that education is not about thinking for yourself, not about questioning, but about thinking in measurable, standardized ways that will profit our testing companies... I mean students."
Many parent groups, educators, school board members, and superintendents have been questioning many of Florida's policies surrounding public education. "I want to know why my child has to take a district intermim assessment in Reading for three days one week, and the state FAIR test for a day and a half the next," stated Shelly Rothman, the mother of two middle school aged children. "Couldn't they just be, you know, actually learning how to read instead? Maybe even learning to love it instead of associate it with drudgery and relentless assessment of discreet skills?"
The new "Don't Question! Don't Think!" campaign comes with many slogans and bumper-sticker-like aphorisms. Among them are statements such as, "Taking Tests Makes You Smarter!", "Compliance is the Key to Success," "Answer Questions, Don't Ask Them", and "Smart People Don't Think--They Just Score Well." Stewart concluded her press conference about the initiative by saying that "'Don't Question! Don't Think!' tries to put a friendly face on the idea that intelligence involves thinking in terms that can be easily measured by a computer algorithm. Which, of course, is true."