Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Little Bit Testy

One of the things I have noticed since I left school 35 years ago is that I don’t take many tests anymore. Oh, I took the driver’s written test when we moved to Pennsylvania (I barely passed, and I’d been driving in Georgia for 7 years, which speaks volumes about the Georgia DMV), but other than that, and quizzes in magazines (“Are You a Sensuous Woman? Six Sizzling Questions That Reveal All!”), I haven’t sharpened a No. 2 pencil in ages.

And it’s a shame, because back in the day I was a demon test-taker. In Catholic school we were awarded miraculous medals for perfect spelling tests, and I amassed a collection to rival the Vatican’s. In high school, I actually loved taking the SATs ( though I pretended to hate them, to fit in with my grumbling peers). I happily filled up countless blue books with exam essays in college.  There was truly nothing I enjoyed more than tracing the history of the Industrial Revolution in 15 minutes!

Among my children, several of them are also good test takers.  Multiple choice comes easily to them, and they can fill in the blanks with the best. They are proud of their prowess, and rightly so. I hate to tell them, though, that as soon as they leave the halls of higher learning, they’ll rarely test again. Oh, there are some professions that require more testing (medicine, law), but by and large, examination know-how is put in mothballs in adulthood.

Now, I move through my days and and months and years utterly untested (in the academic sense. Plenty of life tests in other areas, of course). But I do wish I was still graded as I was in school. I want a big fat report card filled with A plusses, several times a year! After all, I share, I participate in class discussions, I play well with others.  I can balance my checkbook while cooking dinner for five picky kids without missing a beat.  I’m the Carpool Queen, the Princess of the Pediatrician’s Office, Mrs. PTO America. And I have nothing to show for it all-- no shiny trophy, no papers with “Excellent Work!!” on them, no  Outstanding Student award.  Just the satisfaction of navigating my world fairly well, and who needs that?  I want gold stars, and lots of them.  And I’ll never get them.

I think we probably need to revamp our educational system, to better prepare our children for the Real World.  They should learn, early, that the world does not care if they can diagram sentences, or correctly figure out analogies, or spell “obsession”.  Useless information!  All google-able!  Tests as we knew them will eventually go the way of the dinosaur, and that’s probably a good thing. However, as a bit of a dinosaur myself, when that time comes I will feel a twinge of regret.  After all, where else in life do you get the thrill of putting down your pencil with two minutes to spare?

PJ, future high school teacher--and tester?

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