This is a repost from a 12/23/2019. The original post is below.
My kids took a standardized test they’ve been studying for recently. I debated waiting until we received the scores before writing on this topic. But the results don’t matter. It’s a hot one for me so expect it to rear its three headed ugliness again. In case that last sentence didn’t reveal my feelings toward standardized tests, then let me state bluntly I hate them. I hated them when I had to take them and I hate them even more now that my kids are taking them. Especially since I now know my rebellious hate of them as a child/young adult, founded in the spurious measures they used to reduce me to a number, was wholly and accurately founded.
What a waste of time and talent. We spent weeks studying for this thing, even putting on hold their core curriculum to study. Explaining to teachers why we were falling behind to study for this. It sends an angry itch all over my body to know I wasted so much time and energy preparing for something that is at best a game with a sliding scale that is allusive without intense training and illusive in its value.
Take the ‘Medley’ question. It was a synonym question on one of the practice exams. It boiled down to two answers: A. Song and B. Mixture. The answer was mixture. My child answered song because they do a lot of musical theatre at the local conservatory. Yes, a medley is a mixture of songs but in the end it is one song arranged in a melodically pleasing way from a compilation of them. If not, it would suck and it wouldn’t be a medley.
However, the ‘most right’ answer was mixture. Most right answer. WTF are we even talking about? Am I really wasting time and energy addressing this mincing, calculating crap? Yes, yes I am because this won’t be the last of these tests that my kids see. Is this really the measure that the great institutions of our world judge a student by? Because if so how, pitifully 19th century.
Entire school years are dedicated to preparing kids for these types of tests. How much innovation and creativity and excellence have we silenced in order to measure obedience? Which is what these tests test. It’s very the meaning of the word ‘standardize’ – compliant. Are you obedient enough to learn the game the way they want you to learn it regardless of whether it makes one damn bit of sense? It almost seems like an inside joke that the rest of us are not privy to.
An entire industry has developed around taking these things. Many would argue that those that score the best on these tests are the cream of the cream. Bullshit. Let me say that again, Bull. Shit. The fact that it takes those with every opportunity available to them thousands and thousands of dollars – that huge swathes of the population can’t afford – to prepare for these tests should tell you we’ve narrowed the pool laughingly.
Those that perform well on these tests might be the best of the best but if we leveled the playing field, we might find that they are simply well-trained robots. The deceiving AI units of the suburban landscape. If we start judging on innovative thinking, creative and chaotic learning (the sort that develops revolutionary ideas), they might not prove to be the best of the best, after all, only highly trainable workers.
At the very least, they would find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having a much heavier and more level set of competition. And in my opinion, that alone would be worth the outcome.
***Update: The scores are in! They did pretty well. Does this change my opinion. Not even a little bit. I think of my youngest coming out of the test crying because they weren’t sure about their performance on a test that tests nothing but whether or not they are good at taking tests. In between that moment and the scores arriving, that child published a new educational app available on both stores. My oldest published 2 new animation videos using Animate a software they self taught. I really don’t give a shit if they ever go to college if it means performing well on a pile of crap like a standardized test. I’m much more interested in their real accomplishments. Compliance is for robots and I’m not raising robots.