Over the past two weeks, the Virginia Board of Education has been in the process of forcing students and teachers to suffer through the yearly unbearable task of standardized testing. Standards of Learning, or SOLs, decide whether or not a student is smart enough or intellectually worthy. To be completely honest, it would take some time for me to think of something that could have any worse of an effect on students, the education system, and the community as a whole.
I understand the concept of an across-the-board system of measuring intelligence, but only on paper, figuratively. The current mandated system generates no creativity, insight, forethought, or real life skills. This system forces schools to favor certain types of inane education over what’s important. On the contrary, the International Baccalaureate Program attempts to create a real learning environment that will help students become better learners and people, but even here, the teachers and school must spend weeks to cram in content that, to put it simply, is absolute crap.
If schools taught how to learn more than what to learn, society would greatly benefit. I remember when an inspirational speaker at an SCA convention told me the jobs that people in my age group will have don’t exist yet. This has merit, and pretending memorization leads to actual learning is lunacy.
I have witnessed everything firsthand, and know how much of a crutch these tests are for students, teachers, administrators, and the general betterment of societal functions. The pressure and stress of administrators are passed down to the teachers, and from there to the students. So much intensity and pressure to pass these tests can break students, and if a subject is not your strong suit, you are done for.
Teachers and staff practically turn into mindless robots weeks before, days before, moments before, and during the testing. They aren’t even allowed to give out mints to the students because it benefits brain functionality. We are treated as lab rats required to meet an arbitrary standard of intellectuality.
Schuyler VanValkenburg, a teacher and Virginia Delegate, wrote, “Over the last decade, we’ve had tests that assess facts rather than skills and that analyze a school on an arbitrary cut-off score rather than on student growth.”
Personally, I love learning, and I am one of the few who knows it. I say this because, at heart, every single individual has a yearning for learning, but school, rather than engaging it, depletes it. This would not be the case if there weren’t any standardized tests. When schools have freedom, actual learning and a heart for it goes to the students. How can we learn if the government is actively tying us and our schools down? Without irrational limitations, schools could teach and cater for every intelligence method, type, and level. To quote Delegate Debra Rodman, “SOLs have long been a part of school curriculum, but standardized tests are not always a clear indicator of student and school performance.” Not only are the tests obsolete, they are also inaccurate towards measuring actual learning ability.
Why don’t we have an art SOL? Or a drama and musical one? Does philosophy or critical thinking even come into play? The government seems to get to decide what matters for us.
To raise another question, who benefits from these? Obviously not students, not teachers, not parents, not staff, not the workforce, and not the community. The remainder is at the top, consisting of big business and high-level government. Rather than asking how to strengthen the community, they ask if they are raising a factory workforce better than those before them?
If standardized tests are the basis of our education system, our education system is based upon the demolishment of individuality and true knowledge. True knowledge and individuality cannot be separated without disaster, especially in the present day, and more and more people are beginning to realize it.
If anyone can still look me in the eye and tell me that schools must continue to make students memorize the same thing that they have for decades, and what to learn is far more important than how to learn, I will commend them for their steadfast and courageous ignorance and blindness towards reality.