TESTS! TESTS! MORE TESTS!

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Jeff Bertot

 

There is a fundamental mistake happening in our education system when the focus of learning becomes testing. Students today are thrown into a maze of standardized tests that indicate little more than whether or not a person can take a test. We lock precious minds up in a thousand different testing environments and act like learning is taking place. Instead of inspiring young people to think and create for themselves, we waste away our energies as an educational society jumping through a litany of different hoops: this week SAGE, next week the ACT, now here comes the PLAN. Before too long it all starts to blur into another multiple choice daydream.

As teachers, we are supposed to inspire curiosity in young minds, offer our students a chance to grow intellectually, and find ways to challenge standardized thinking; however, we too can become lost in the maze of a, b, c, and d. The beauty of teaching and learning is the process of passing knowledge down from generation to generation and watching as the next generation pushes beyond society’s current limits. Discovering new knowledge, pushing beyond the present limitations of our collective mind takes courage and commitment. It takes the ability to simultaneously think inside and outside of the box. It requires the ability to work both with and against the current. It takes finding joy in learning. It takes the ability and willingness to make mistakes. But instead of fostering the kind of lifelong learners this challenge necessitates we (as an education system) end up focusing our energies on making sure students know how to play the game. We accidentally-intentionally teach students that the most important thing is earning a good grade; we accidentally-intentionally teach students the reason they should learn is to get paid with a letter grade. And in so doing we turn them away from the inherent joys of learning. There is an almost instinctual drive in us as humans to learn new things, but our education system seems full-bent on hammering that natural joy out of our schools.

The purpose of education needs to become reinvested in creating and gaining authentic knowledge. There needs to be an effort made on our part (as a society) to make schools about self-expression and intellectual experimentation rather than filling in bubbles. We spend way too much time talking about how to get kids to do better on tests, rather than openly discussing whether or not the tests kids are taking have any validity in terms of real world transference. Moving away from a test based society doesn’t mean we should dissolve schools into anarchy and shy away from intellectual struggle, but it does mean that we need to encourage students to learn for the sake of learning, for the sake of growing into responsible (and educated) members of society.