Students quickly find out as school starts to become serious that tests aren’t just multiple choice quizzes anymore, our grades depend on what we write on these sheets of mass produced paper. And we can’t pass if we don’t study. This means long night spent up with a cup of coffee in your left hand, while you balance a textbook in your right. You spend 20 minutes rereading a single page because you keep zoning out. You spend an hour trying to decode your notes that were scrawled on a sheet of scratch paper in the middle of the night as a last ditch effort to cram before the big test. We’re writing the answers down as fast as we can before we forget them. And as soon as we leave the class we forget everything we wrote down, we forget everything we just spent the last week learning. But what is this all for? A big A+ that only marks our ability to memorize information for a fixed amount of time?
Wouldn’t it be much more effective to give students topics that they want to learn about? Because I doubt even kids with a talent in math are spending late nights reading about quadratic equations. Why don’t we teach kids about things like what’s going on in the white house, how to avoid getting into trouble online, how to help themselves be successful once their futures don’t rely on a test score? Why don’t we give students a reason to want to study, instead of punishing them for not studying we should give them reasons to study. Because the students sitting in the back of the class sleeping isn’t going to do their work unless they want to, they are only going to get involved if we give them a good reason to. And interesting them in the material is the most effective way to do that while maintaining our academic focus in the classroom.
What about all the students that talents lie in art, music, and theater? If they can’t pass a math test then they have a big hole their report card that can never be filled with a good grade in theater. Why do we value conventional intelligence more than creativity? As great as math and geography are, when have they been responsible for our happiness or entertainment? Truth is, we are admiring art on the weekends but slapping the paintbrushes out of the hands on artists everyday at school. “Everybody is a Genius. But If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing that It is Stupid.” This quote was believed to be said by Albert Einstein, one of the greatest minds in history. And I highly doubt that he had any issues passing conventional classes, so maybe this issue that has been ignored for decades is much bigger than we think. Because if someone who has no reason to pay attention to the topic see’s a problem, maybe we all should.
I know, you’re probably thinking, what do you mean these tests aren’t helping? This forces students to study so that they will understand the material meaning that we can prove that they are learning. But does it really? If you had to take a test today, that you also took three months ago, you probably would have forgotten most of it. I like to think of our brains like a TV’s DVR, we remember that material as long as we have to, but as soon as we no longer need it, or we need to remember something else, we let that information go. We aren’t learning or understanding the material, we are memorizing it so that when the time comes we can spew out all this information and never use it again unless necessary.
This isn’t helping our students. And it sure isn’t helping their futures. So why do we keep these tests that are just a bunch of trouble for everyone? If no one does anything to fix this does this put our futures at risk? Maybe, or maybe not. But what I do know is that it sure isn’t helping our students learn to be confident in their abilities, academic or not. So let’s do ourselves a favour and stop putting so much pressure on students to pass tests that more often than not, are not true indicators of their true talents.