MAD DOG: Testing ... One, Two, Three
There's a major uproar going on in this country over testing. Not that this is anything new. After all, testing is always controversial. If it's not radiation testing in the desert, it's drug testing in the workplace. If it's not steroid testing in the Olympics, it's medical testing for an AIDS vaccine. Just saying the word testing seems to bring the worst out in people.Maybe it's the thought of using No. 2 pencils to blacken those little boxes coupled with the fear that if you don't fill it in completely you'll lose points even though you know the answer is "None of the Above". Maybe it's that feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach because you just know that they're going to tell you that the perfect careers for you are either turnip peeler or roadside car counter. But whatever it is, nothing gets people's blood boiling faster than bringing up the subject of standardized testing in schools. Except maybe the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, but that only works on half the population.On one side of the discussion are those who say national or statewide testing is the only way to ensure that all children learn the same things in school while offering a way to see how they rank among other students. On the other side of the argument are those people who are too busy watching America's Funniest Multi-Car Collisions to form an opinion. Just kidding. Actually if they were to quit stuffing Cheet-os in their mouth and loosened their grip on the remote for a second they'd tell you that standardized testing will make this country more homogenized than whole milk. Big deal. Like anyone drinks whole milk anymore.The question isn't so much whether standardized testing is good or just another sign of the coming Apocalypse -- after all, students have been taking standardized tests since blue-lined paper supplanted pieces of slate as the writing medium of choice -- the question is what these tests will be like. Who will decide what questions to include? Who will make sure they're fair over a wide range of socio-economic strata? Who will take the tests home and grade them while drinking Johnny Walker Red and watching reruns of Green Acres? And most importantly, will they really help predict which of these students will be the next Jeffrey Dahmer?In California, the state Board of Education is getting ready to review the first set of proposed statewide academic standards. A 21-member commission has spent a year researching, examining, writing, and trying to compile a list of achievements to expect from school children that they themselves can actually complete. So far three members have passed, two are in remedial reading, and one has been in detention every day since the sessions started.What they've done is set benchmarks in language and math for each grade level. In kindergarten the students are expected to recognize and name all upper and lower-case letters. In the twelfth grade they're supposed to understand how the inverse relationship between exponential and logarithmic functions can be used to explain the laws of logarithms. This won't be an easy task, since most high school students can't even explain the relationship they have with their parents and think logarithms are what they hear when they beat on drums all night after smoking that righteous weed they filched from Mom and Dad's stash.If anything, the problem with these standards is that they ignore the practical world in favor of academia. If they really want to test a student's ability to succeed in this world, they should set up standards that will reflect it, such as:Kindergarten: Be able to recognize the difference between an Oreo and a Hydrox cookie and be aware of the current exchange rate on the spot cookie market.1st and 2nd grades: Differentiate between gangsta rap and gangster movies and be able to sing the former while acting out the latter.3rd and 4th grades: Understand the TV rating system and be able to convince their parents that TV-14 means it's fourteen times less violent than Sesame Street.5th and 6th grades: Defeat any Internet child-proofing software on the market, call 1-900-HOTBABES while charging it to their father's American Express, and get a second trimester abortion without being detected.7th and 8th grades: Have the tools needed to survive middle school and be able to use them, in particular, switchblades, cheap handguns, semiautomatic rifles, and flame throwers.9th and 10th grades: Use blackmail to coerce the smartest kid in the class to take their standardized tests for them while they loiter in the bathroom smoking cigarettes, flushing cherry bombs down the toilet, and organizing a rally to elect Joe Camel as class president emeritus.11th and 12th grades: Explain to the 9th and 10th graders what emeritus means.With these national standards in place, we could once again sleep well at night knowing that our children will be prepared for the coming millennium, ready to take their rightful place among the future leaders of the world and to rush any fraternity or sorority in the country. Who says an education isn't important?