“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” - Henry David Thoreau
As the Super Bowl showed us, it’s important to have a healthy education system in this country, in order to support our even healthier football programs. That’s why American schools exist. You thought otherwise? No, if you want Super Bowls to be as entertaining as that one, then we have to sift through the detritus to find the Joe Flaccos and Colin Kaepernicks. The entire school system is a ruse to produce great football, just as Hollywood is an elaborate way to get good looking people to take their clothes off. What?
Part of the way we keep this order is with standardized testing (as opposed to individualized testing, which is done by your father in the garage). Millions of multiple-choice bubbles are produced every year and we need these kids to fill the damn things, or partially fill them, resulting in a lost mark. Such national tests ensure students are learning at a certain level, like six or blue zone or beta, which are levels I just made up.
One of these tests – the Measure of Academic Progress – is making headlines because teachers in Seattle and across the country are refusing to administer it, noting that it eats up valuable classroom time, does not reflect a student’s learning, and puts an unnecessary stress on students, many of whom don’t take it seriously. Man, I wish this article could play Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” right now. Can we do that? No? Fucking budget.
It’s hard to say how seriously we should take testing. For instance, none of the characters in “Animal House” passed their last exam, but according to the ending credits, they went off to be gynecologists and lawyers and senators. I think that’s pretty good. And how can a single test measure a child’s true capability, his uniqueness and full potential? Isn’t there more to a child than can be written on some computerized test? No, not really, but parents need to believe there is so it’s better just to nod and smile.
Personally, I was never one for testing. It wasn’t the exams or the pressure or the multiple-choice. I just found tests to be a great time to get some thinking done. When everyone is quiet and focused, it gives you chance to look over your life, ponder the possibilities and reach a general peace. Sometimes I would ask to go to the restroom and walk the hallways as if perusing the aisles of a video rental store. The school was so quiet! So peaceful! If everyone wasn’t so busy writing exams they might appreciate it. Eventually, I’d glance at my watch and notice I had 20 minutes left on the exam with about a third of it complete. That’s about when the peacefulness ended. Good times.
Superintendent Jose Banda (great last name) has gone ahead with the MAP testing, but said he is developing a task force (task force!) to find a better way to test students. As I see it, there are two approaches to testing students. The first is the strict military-like approach. You make the kids wear uniforms, test them constantly (like in “Gattaca”), and punish any deviation from the norm. If they talk back, they spend a night in the box. If they fail a test, that’s a night in the box. Scuffed shoes – a night in the box. They will be broken down into human putty, imbued with discipline and honor and a respect for their elders – if they resist, that’s a night in the box.
The other approach is the wishy-washy progressive style, where kids choose their grades based on how they feel. In this scenario there are no Fs and Ds and Cs, but moons and boomerangs and smiley faces. It won’t be important whether you fill in the right bubbles; what will matter is what pattern you made with the markings. Sure, you could tell kids what Batman’s dad said: that we fall so we can get up again, but in this system, you place pads everywhere and don’t tell the kids about the concept of falling. I don’t remember what this article is supposed to be about.
What’s important to remember is that children are our most important natural resource, because when they grow old and die we can use them for oil. So listen kids, I know its hard being forced to do all these tests, but when you get to college no one’s going care if you even show up to the tests! Isn’t that a reason to work hard now, so you don’t have to work hard later? While you think about that, think about this: if you find yourself staring at a question, and you don’t know the answer, and you’re worried about doing badly, disappointing your parents and having to scale back all your dreams…just stay calm, focus, and choose B. The answer’s usually B.