One of the new classrooms in Belfast Area High School's renovated special education area after the school completed a $7.6 million construction and renovation project in 2019. Credit: Abigail Curtis / BDN

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I think Max Provencher’s call in a recent BDN column for educational reform is based upon misinformation, bias and myth. His article reads as a conspiracy theory with school against students when he says public education “forces conformity” (maybe in Texas) and punishment for “trying new things.”

His main assertion is that nothing has changed in the last 60 years. I have the advantage here since I attended high school in the 1960s and have just finished serving middle school and high school students for 30 years. I can instantly count six student-centered innovations that transformed the very school from which he graduated. He included support from a British educational adviser, which is irrelevant; this is not Britain. He gets a zero on this one.

Provencher naively favors grants, which are based solely on the grantor’s whimsy, undergo no validity or reliability studies, and are notoriously unreliable and short lived.

Stangely, he disfavors exams (testing) while colleges favor them and professional licensure requires them. Students need to be prepared for such. Besides, neurological studies on learning indicate that testing enhances certain cognitive skills especially in solidifying long-term recall. The author complains that many graduation requirements are not useful to most students. He cannot even know this. He can only know what is useful to him.

From all of this, it is clear to me that Provencher has little idea as to the purpose of public education and the value of a liberal arts curriculum, which develops well-informed citizens familiar with the scientific method, logical thinking applied to current events and versed in critical thinking for a few examples.

I think Provencher’s hackneyed argument smacks of anti-intellectualism tinged with elitism. It is well to call for reform but it seems Provencher has yet to grasp the fundamentals as to why.

Keith Dunson