Path of DESTINY!!!!! *cymbals crash*

Path of DESTINY!!!!! *cymbals crash*

I had a test yesterday that required the use of a scantron.

I haven’t used a scantron since high school fifteen years ago: I had to make a special point (no pun intended) of bringing a number two pencil with me to class. It has been so long since I’ve used a scantron that my name has changed. I had to fight the impulse to fill in the bubbles for my maiden name.  It turns out that it is a skill just like bike riding: once you’ve undergone the gauntlet of standardized testing foisted upon the public school system you just never forget how it’s done. We Millenials may be useless at real-world skills but we are bubble-filling ninjas.

Or maybe it’s because we’re bubble filling ninjas that we’re pretty useless at real-world skills.

I mean, considering how many standardized tests I took growing up the dearth (not just a paucity but a dearth!) of scantrons used in grown-up-real-world life seems a bit absurd. How do I know if I’m effective at basic skills? How do I know if I am performing competitively with the national average? Who is being held accountable for my success?

Here’s what I know: freshman year of high school I was an average student at best- and that is a generous use of the word “average”, because I was working reeeeeeeeeeally hard to not do any better than that. There was significant negative effort involved. Sophomore year I got into Chemistry. Average students went into Earth Sciences, but for reasons unknown to me someone shunted me over to the more difficult class of Chemistry. And I loved it. Suddenly the effort-switch went from one extreme to the other and suddenly I became a very diligent student. I never managed to get straight A’s, but I worked hard. The harder the classes the harder I worked; the harder I worked, the more interesting I found the classes. By graduation I would venture to say I was a pretty good student.

But I still wasn’t the best test taker. I took the SATs and the ACTs and the SAT IIs and the AP tests in English, Physics, French and Art (a portfolio class, rather than a test). I scored reasonably well, but by no means got a perfect score like some of my classmates. Reams and reams of scantrons were poured into the effort of quantifying my knowledge as a student and worth as a human being so that I could go to college and study Theatre Arts.

What a waste.

Not the theatre degree- no, I learned more useful basic life-skills in the theatre program than I ever did from the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

No. What a waste of scantrons. What a waste of time, what a waste of paper.

And what if those tests had held me back? What if I really did believe that my knowledge as a student and worth as a human being could be determined by a test? What if someone had looked at my test scores and grades and truly believed they showed the limits of my potential and had  held me back in a remedial science class to try to “fix” the problem instead of pushing me forward into something difficult and interesting? I would, truly, have become less of a student. My whole self worth would have been determined by a sheet of empty bubbles and a number two pencil.


~ by Gwydhar Gebien on May 7, 2015.

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