Monday, May 21, 2007

"Bubble Your Answer Sheets Completely..."

In this fine country where the idea of freedom has become as much of a marketing ploy as the increasingly complex, baffling cavemen in the Geico commercials (although arguably less effective if you look at Ford Motor Company's and General Motors's returns over the last few years), much of our overtaxed, overstimulated brains are devoted to memorizing the idiomatic, nuanced language of the bubble-in answer sheets. An American high school student these days may not know who Paul Laurence Dunbar was, but could quote you word for word the directions from these mind-numbing three or four hour monstrosities. Their brains, force fed a diet of highly particularized knowledge, are adept in wading through such ridiculous trivialities as:

No. 2 Pencil
Scantron Form
Bubble in (verb)
Essay question
BCR (Brief Constructed Response)
ECR (Extended Constructed Response)
Multiple Choice
Multiple Guess
Selected Response (SR)
Standardization
Which of the following does NOT answer my ridiculously formed question?
Do not go on to Session 3 when you are finished with Session 2. You may not go back to Session 1. You may sit quietly and diddle your thumbs or doodle your scratch paper until I (almighty Test Administrator, temporarily your Golden Calf God du jour) say you can play Simon Says.
You may write in the test book as much as you like. However, no credit will be reported for answers not appearing in the answer book. Bugger all if we'll count it.

And so on...

Now... I ask you, my readers, who are probably at least as well versed as I in the fine art of standardized testing plesantries... Will lack of knowledge of the aforementioned things (and others I'm sure you could add) prevent you from being a successful writer? Or a prize winning scientist?

Did Shakespeare ever have to mark his ethnicity down in tiny little circles or Einstein be sure that his essay response was contained inside the space provided?

What on Earth are we teaching these children? (Well, of course, I know what we are teaching them... How to obey directions finitely, unquestioningly. To remain firmly inside the carefully measured box we have made for them until such time as they will take their final repose inside a carefully measured box that is buried underground. How to keep their place in the social hierarchy so as not to disrupt the balance of the universe...)

Is there value in learning the rules of a game and being able to play it effectively when the stakes are high? Certainly. That's what landing a job will be like for them; what selling a novel or story will be like for me; what opening a business will be for others. However, we could learn that just as effectively from poker or sports or theater as we can from bloody stupid TESTING.

So I ask you, one final question. Worth 100 points. No cheating.
When you have finished bubbling your answer sheet completely, what will you do next?

No, it's not multiple choice...

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