It’s one of my fiercest enemies, I’m 100% sure you have no idea what I’m talking about, but soon enough, you will relate. You and twenty-four strangers cramped into a high school chemistry lab, on a brisk, and typically overcast Saturday morning; the malevolent, sulfuric stank of yesterday’s experiments still permeating the senses.
Every one walks, no, shuffles, into the classroom, single-file, with zombie-like enthusiasm. Everyone finds a desk, except it isn’t a desk. The school you take the test at can’t afford real desks so you have to sit in one of those combination things, don’t you hate those? On command, everyone dawns their desk with the proper equipment for battle—a calculator, two sharpened #2 pencils, a manual sharpener and a water bottle, if you get thirsty. After a few short moments, each kid commences their journey into the ultra-mundane, redundant, obvious, and irrational: the standardized test. Now, I, and I would assume, all of you, are not totally unfamiliar with the ritual of test taking, for we’ve been doing it all our lives.
Ever since the ITBS and the WASL, we were singled out among the rest of our peers, and sometimes ridiculed. Since then we’ve taken the ISEE, some twice, and we’ve PSAT, at least once. Others may be the American standard SAT, SAT II, AP or ACT. Pick you’re poison. Ever since coming to Lakeside, the stigma one receives for academic prowess is clearly lessened, if not embraced. However, I also see this as a breeding ground for over-achievement, a feeling that is only propagated by tests.
Constant talk of percentiles, fractiles, dectiles and quartiles make me want to projectile. In the few moments of break I have a week, nervous energy devoted to Ivy League colleges is the last thing I want to hear. Not only are these tests inconvenient and unhelpful, but they at their worst, are extremely dehumanizing. I cannot count the number of times, when filling in the basic information section on the SAT, coming across the part of the test where the prompter says: “If you are an, African American please check the box for the National Scholarship Service Program”. Given the demographics of Seattle, someone from say, New York or Atlanta or D.C.
would probably call it “wonder bread”. So you can kind of imagine the kind of limelight I’m thrust into. Now I am not a fan of any test; whether it’s geometry, physics, Spanish, history, and yes, even English. But the pursuit of “excellence” causes many people to become trapped in the maze a multiple choice questions and 25 minute essays. When am I ever going to have to find the circumference of a circle with a radius of 2 cm? When will I ever have to write an essay about the importance of defiance in American culture? I doubt I’ll ever be in a life or death situation where someone asks me to use proper subject-verb agreement.
The point is, these tests are based on essentially useless information, and people know that. So if you feel like I do, stand up for yourself, colleges like leaders right?