Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Why Even Try on Tests?




I've been in the process of taking the Praxis and Praxis II tests for my teacher certification.  These are of course multiple choice tests which mean that, no matter what the subject is that they're supposedly designed to assess, the only thing they really assess is how good you are at taking multiple choice tests.  I have a cousin who claims that with a minimal amount of preparation, he could pass a multiple choice test on any subject just by using common test taking strategies.  I'm inclined to believe him.


The first test was the General Science test and I have to admit, I studied fairly hard for that one.  It wasn't too miserable either because I kind of like reading up on the history of science, and I was able to bush up on a couple concepts that have been floating around in my brain for a while but have become more or less dusty through disuse.  I took the test and scored high enough on it to receive my certification to teach general science, so yippy for me.

I then started studying for my English test, and frankly, about two days into it I just lost all patience with test taking and test preparation and the whole stinking concept of tests.

At this point in my life, it's almost insulting for somebody to give me some sort of written test.  Actually...forget "almost" it flat out IS insulting.

First of all, those stupid standardized tests are just a major money printing scheme since whoever it was that wrote a paper saying you could accurately evaluate people through standardized tests was obviously lying through his/her teeth.  You have to pay something like $200 just for the privilege of some faceless jerk who you have never seen getting to evaluate you on the basis of the most black and white data.  Seriously, a standardized test is much the equivalent of some hotshot corporate lawyer insisting you answer all his/her questions "yes/no" even though the truthful answers require some extremely graceful footwork through the world's vast mires of shades of gray.

For the love of god...more tests?  Seriously?  At this point I'm 35 years old and I've seen and done things that you simply can't quantify in a multiple choice test.  A much better evaluation of me would be to publish some fifty page document I'd written in the Washington Post and see what kind of a reaction it gets.

You want to confine me to a stupid test?  You think you can draw some sort of conclusion from that?  Seriously?

There was a time in my life when I felt a little surge of excitement at the prospect of taking a test.  I'd study hard and then do well and I'd feel pride in what I had accomplished.  Perhaps this is a progression a young person has to go through.  You start out having faith in your masters, then you start to question them, then to doubt them, then to resent them.  I'm full on in the resent them stage.

It seems that the time I spent frittering away worrying about tests was utterly wasted time.  I sincerely believe that I didn't acquire any skills other than the ability to consistently get a passing grade on standardized tests.  What kind of a person would I be today if I'd spent the same energy I used to acquire that ability on something more creative or inspired?

Who knows?  Nobody ever will I guess.

As I started studying for my English test, I eventually became overcome with a sense of just fury.  I closed my book and decided that if I didn't pass the test, it was because there was something wrong with the test.  On the test day itself, I was barely able to contain myself as my rage built and I became more and more tempted to just wad the answer sheet into a ball and throw it at the supervising authority.

To hell with them.

But I buckled down and finished the test and scored well enough to get the certification that I need.

You know, I guess the fundamental philosophical shift that I'm feeling right now is that at one point in my life I had all kinds of extra energy to study for these tests and I sincerely wanted to do well.  Now, it's all I can muster just to do the bare minimum to pass.

I do reserve true energy and enthusiasm for other things...things that bring me rewards and joy.

Scoring well on a test has never been a barrier breaker for me.  Even if you do score well on the impossible exam, the scorers just find a way to discredit the result.  Then again, I don't know what kind of barricades they put in your way if you score poorly.  I guess at this point I have to have faith that those must come...otherwise it'd be almost too utterly depressingly apparent that all my test preparation time was even less worthwhile than I had previously feared.

At some point I suppose you have to let go of the railing and just launch yourself into oblivion.  You might be able to delude yourself into thinking that you're beating the system by beating the tests...but somehow I think you have lost just in the fact that you've sat down and taken the test seriously.

There's always a bigger conspiracy than the worst one you can imagine.  Heck...you might even be an unwilling accomplice to one or two of them.  You might be sitting right there on the board of directors with a 401K and a golden parachute.

Maybe it's best not to ask so many questions.  I've got my passing grades...that should be the end of it (until they ask me to take another test to prove yet again what I've already proved in countless other ways).



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