Standardization Undermines Our Abilities (On College Admissions)

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I remember my first day of high school very well.  All of the freshmen had to assemble in the theatre for an introduction to high school by the current seniors with the main message of: do your homework, pass your tests, and — more importantly — don’t mess up your GPA! For when your GPA is not up to the standard of your college of choice, you will never accomplish your dreams. Being the pink-haired, studded-vest, loud, fast music and ripped up jeans type of 14-year-old, I thought to myself, “I don’t need no high school prison telling me I won’t make it in life if I don’t get with the program and abide by their regulation.”

Later, I found out that even if I made good grades, if I didn’t pass the standardized tests which also rank me amongst my peers, I would have done all of that hard work for nothing. When you’re so young, what does that tell you? It made me feel like mistakes were not going to be forgiven, so why should I even try? A lot of my friends either felt the same way or got so anxious about their performance at school, that they could not fathom life being any other way. Grade point averages, standardized tests, and other forms of testing are methods which imply that the individual’s worth is based off of their performance compared to the likes of their peers and not based off of their individual abilities.

At the end of my freshmen year, my GPA was a whopping 1.7. I had a hard time recovering from living on the streets of California during the last months of the school year and did not have the time nor the ability to care about something as meaningless to me as a grade point average. Throughout the rest of my high school years, I was able to successfully raise my GPA to a barely-graduating rate of 2.7. That’s good enough to get into community college, sure, but I was under the impression that any university would look at my GPA and laugh — a waste of time. I felt like the actual number of my GPA did not show my character as much as the increase did, and I couldn’t understand why that would not be taken into consideration. It made me feel like I wasn’t going to amount to anything even though I was determined to be the best that I could be.

Needless to say, I didn’t do too well on the standardized tests either. You mean, I lose more points if I answer a question wrong than if I don’t answer it at all? What kind of conditioning is that? Not trying is better than trying? I felt like this same oppressive aspect was applied to the grade point average: if you make a mistake, you will be punished by not being as competitive in the college market. I believe “college market” should be used to describe college admissions and the relationship between college and student. The more higher-performing students they have, the more government subsidies they get and higher tuition they can charge. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, and not everything about receiving a college education is bad at all — it’s how you get there that causes such financial and psychological problems. This is why it is important for higher learning education centers to not base admissions off of frivolous scores and averages, but off of the individual as a well-rounded being.

What our society has is a mental slavery to standardization — one that Slate.com claims to increase depression and anxiety in over 80% of students. It suppresses the individual by forcing different personalities into one classroom and teaching them as a group and not individual beings. Does this mean that every student should have one teacher? Well, as a mandate, that may not be plausible. The solution to this problem is to repeal compulsory laws of forced education, and to return education to a free and compulsory market where the individual is allowed to express himself and perform in manners which apply to his personal abilities. Such and education would  allow the individual to choose how he will be educated which will allow for greater self-awareness and a more intellectually and emotionally fulfilling society.

Contrary to popular belief, formal and public education has not been around forever. Humans have the capability to learn great things without the force of state mandates for every child to attend school. Perhaps these types of laws proved to be beneficial to some people at some point in history, but any long term regulation has adverse affects on the generations that come after the laws. As humans and our technology become more advanced, society should be able to adapt to its advances. It’s about time America rethinks its education system, and give it back to each individual and beautiful student.

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38 Comments

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38 responses to “Standardization Undermines Our Abilities (On College Admissions)

  1. We’re definitely in the golden age of standardized testing. With such a low applicant-to-evaluator ratio, they are simply the only feasible way to offer any sort of measurement on students at all. The nature of bureaucracy always means that people will slip through the cracks. Without tailoring the test to the individual, there will always be unfairness. Unfortunately, modern standardized tests seems to be promoting the wrong kind of behavior and discouraging the right kind.

    • “Testing to the individual” is a contradiction–tests are only useful as an estimate of current or future performance, and when you’re working with an individual you can measure actual performance, rendering testing moot. (For more on this idea, see http://paulgraham.com/credentials.html) The problem isn’t that we’re using the wrong tests to measure students, the problem is that the idea of “measuring” a student’s education was fundamentally flawed to begin with.

      • scythewieldor

        So, instead of training & testing for individuals we should train & test for the job market? Doing that makes a glut of people with a very limited skill set. Gluts are deflationary- meaning, you don’t have enough jobs for the workers, &, the wages for most of the surplus are too low, anyway.
        Besides that, the limiting of the skill set leaves individuals dependent upon the job market.
        Each should educate himself according to his interests & aptitudes. That’s the path to freedom.

      • No, I don’t think we *should* be doing training and testing at all. Training and testing have their place, but they should not be mandatory–I agree that students should have the freedom to educate themselves. My point was simply that “testing to the individual” is a contradiction in terms–if you can tailor a test to an individual, you must know them well enough to render the test moot.

      • CassandraRoseArthur

        I am inclined to think that the testing of the individual occurs during times of acquisition of new knowledge which allows for a greater and more fulfilling life.

      • Sure, but the best tests in those cases are almost always “let’s try to put this new knowledge to practical use,” not “let’s sit down with a #2 pencil and fill out this form.” I’m assuming (perhaps mistakenly) that the original commenter meant the latter.

      • scythewieldor

        Agreed- probably, 100%.

  2. The reality is that many parents view school as day care for their kids. Compulsory education turns into guaranteed childcare for parents, especially when both work. I’m all for removing compulsory education, but we homeschool our children and my wife does not work outside of the home. Not a solution for everyone.

  3. Arianna Editrix

    As a former teacher and student, I’d like to disagree in part. I agree that “teaching to the test” and “unfunded mandates” (see NCLB) are a recipe for disaster, but not having FREE and PUBLIC, basic education available to all children is to careen towards an even greater disaster. The reason our founders insisted on a public education for all was so that we’d have an educated and informed body politic. Yes, so we’d know what the issues were, how they could be expressed and what we wanted to do about them. College, up until the advent of the GI Bill after WWII, was not in the realm of possibility for most people. But, now we need people that have higher education in order to capably deal with new and more complex technology. Does everyone fit in college? No, and those people should be afforded educations that speak to their strengths as well.

    • Available or compulsory?
      A majority of college grads don’t work in their field of study, and going by my own experience i’d say that with a very few definite exceptions, college does not impart skills necessary to the job market; rather it imparts a punched ticket necessary to the job interview. The problem is that even though employers (other than engineering firms and academic and scientific institutions) know that they will gain nothing by hiring a college grad as such, no extra skills, no expertise, no particular understanding of the work, they still use level of education as a quick way to narrow down overabundant applicants. This makes education a “necessity” even for those who have no interest in it; they are drawn into an arms race in order to secure the relatively few good jobs available. This is what ruins the hopes of those who have continually pushed for greater and wider education for the masses: Education is only a competitive advantage, it can only help you specifically by causing somebody else to fail. The only good your degree can do is to cause you to win an interview, and another person to lose. If we sent a million more kids to college next year, yet did nothing to unleash industry and entrepreneurship, in four years we would simply see a huge plague of unemployment overtake those same kids, as their numbers were increased by a million, but their job opportunities by zero. The most fortunate of them would up the ante on level of education, and by and by the four year degree would be taken for granted, just as the high school diploma is today, and postgraduate degrees would become “necessary”. Calls will go out about the sad plight of the poor who can’t afford postgraduate education, and public funding will be diverted to increase the numbers of Masters’ etc. and so it will go ad infinitum. By this mechanism people are saddled with the time and financial sacrifices required for an education they do not desire, and will not actually assist them in the performance of their job, merely because the best jobs are held for ransom, at the cost of a college degree. By this means what was a blessing when it was voluntary has become an obligatory economic burden, one which it is extremely costly to cast off. And as long as this course of increasing education is pursued while job opportunities remain relatively stagnant, the added resources and years spent on education are completely wasted.
      All the “good” that has been done with increased compulsory education and increased numbers of disillusioned and indebted college grads could have been done better with an opening up of the job market. We’re wasting our time increasing the number of “qualified” applicants applying for too few jobs; if the number of jobs available increased, people could pursue the level of education suited to them rather than submit to society’s demand that they do such and such with their lives or face rejection and poverty.
      If i desire education i will pay for it, to put into my mind the things i want to know. But if another man desires to put into my brain things he thinks i should know or believe, practices he thinks i should perform, ideals he thinks noble and best for me…well, paying for it with money he taxed away from me is hardly enough to make this more of a positive service, or less of a servile imposition.

    • scythewieldor

      I’ve studied the Constitution of the US. The founders that gave us that plan for a free State didn’t, in that document nor in the Bill of Rights, say anything about a debt-funded public school system. The public school system is nothing more than a 12 year indoctrination camp set up to condition all people for submission to bankers & merchants.

  4. I totally get what you’re saying. Thanks for saying it.

  5. joleefinch183

    Thank you for this post.
    At 15 I “decided” to drop school and get into music. My mom stopped me dead on my tracks and here I am doing an MA in literature. I always did well, scored well, followed everything (except math, I sucked there), but overall I was bored. I just never liked the environment. Once you know how to “crack” standard tests, there’s not much left to figure out other than attending every day.

    By some twist of fate I decided to go and take up secondary education and get a degree in English. Most of the prison-like behaviors you mention here are ingrained even further in pedagogy students (and I mean any subject). Everything is a system, if you don’t measure up, you can’t teach. Plain and simple. I’ve seen people having meltdowns over time. Others I know end up quitting. I quit. Not because I didn’t feel up to par. It was the economy, plus I felt I could do better somewhere else. Literature doesn’t always correlate to teaching anyway.

    The moment you try and tell your supervisor you’d rather not use Power Point during class or you want to get rid of the smart board, that’s when you get labeled as a rebel. Or as a threat if it gets nasty. My first “official” class was ironically traditional: all lecture. Afterward, I was told I did great, BUT, no technology earned me a negative evaluation. I was told to incorporate next time, you know, for my sake.

    I’m not against technology at all, but my caveat is basically personal in nature. I’d rather have students focus on how I’m teaching them and what I’m teaching them long term than having them switch gears with technology in the room. If technology is important beyond actual my skill, then what’s the point, see? Let’s hope the A.I. can hurry up and do for me what I’m required. That, or I get a say on what to use as I learn along the way.

    Yeah, basically what I’m getting at here is that students and *some* teachers do resent standards in their own way. I’m saying *some* on purpose. Not all teachers are the same. Some are in it to make a difference and others are in it for the paycheck. That’s truth.

    Again, thanks. Will reblog.

  6. joleefinch183

    Reblogged this on Finch By An Inch and commented:
    Please read this.
    You REALLY need to read this. 🙂
    Enjoy.

  7. I got a free ride to college due to very good grades, but even that feels like a waste. I have learned SOOOO much more on my own than I learned in the ‘forced’ education of college.

  8. As a former teacher, I agree with what you say. In my state, we are stifled by “the test.” We are told to teach students with learning disabilities on their ability level, but we MUST make them take “the test” on their GRADE level. NCLB and the disregard of changing it by the current administration is an injustice to our education system. I agree we need to have free and public education. However, it needs a HUGE overhaul.

    Also, I get so sick of our education system being compared to other countries, especially China and Japan. They don’t test their learning disabled students. We do. There cannot be a comparison. How can there be? We test ALL! My opinion only: Standardized testing has dumbed down our future adults to the point I am scared of what the future holds.

    My daughter graduates high school next month as an Honor Graduate, yet does not know how to address an envelope to send an invitation. I showed her how last night. Why? Because it was taught in 6th grade and never mentioned again. Same for balancing a checkbook. She’s had every high level math and science though. Great test-taker! But is she prepared as a so-called adult? No. Was I? Yes.

    Thanks for posting!

  9. To begin: I would like thank YOU for following our team.

    Secondly, this statement here: “As humans and our technology become more advanced, society should be able to adapt to its advances. It’s about time America rethinks its education system, and give it back to each individual and beautiful student.” – right here, speaks so many volumes. You are SO right, we are advancing in so many ways on this planet. Technologically, educationally, and I dare say spiritually.

    Old ways of thinking an viewing this country – this PLANET, must end if we are ever going to progress with the times in which we are creating.

    AMAZING article here.

    -N.N.

  10. Standardized testing is a method of creating a “one-size-fits-all” education, one that actually works against diversity. We need a far more creative method to education, something beyond the standardized tests, as these tests often do not reflect intelligence.

    Essentially, what you wrote points to the overall philosophical problem of education, something I wrote about recently:

    http://thechristianwatershed.com/2014/03/26/the-philosophical-problem-of-common-core-or-why-all-modern-education-fails/

  11. Ernst Jung

    You’d be a terrific teacher in a Waldorf/Steiner school. It does not suprise
    Me at all that every kid at some point is filled with anger because nobody has been taking care of the most important lesson: learn who you are.

  12. Very well written! I will share this with some people who are trying to stop Common Core.

    I led protests against centralized, standardized tests when I was in high school. It got to a point where I was called in to the principal for a lecture on obedience and the virtues of conformity. One of the more memorable experiences of my high school years…

  13. Reblogged this on Yet another fine blog … 😀 and commented:
    I agree.

  14. It does seem counter-intuitive that the standardized tests really hold more weight than the GPA. I was an average scorer on such tests, but I squeaked by. I wasn’t trying to get into Harvard or anything, so I didn’t get too worked up over it. They start the standardized testing early. (My younger son is in second grade and they just finished testing. AIMS testing is required every year for older students and failing that test means you don’t graduate high school. So, the teachers basically spend several weeks teaching to the test so the school’s scores are higher. Such a game.

  15. So many problems with the education “system” indeed. But it all happens from the top down. The bureaucracy looks for the easy system not the best system and everyone else falls into line, because, what else can they do?

  16. phadde2

    The education system was oppressed upon and you’re mostly likely still a victim of it since you wouldn’t conform to “their” box “they” wanted to put you in.My major in college was Classics, and I wished that we still had more Classical schools around to teach people the ability to think rather than what to think, of course this is just my opinion.

    You’re above the GPA assigned to you, always remember it.

  17. 4t4m4t4

    we didn’t needed your education …. always ask for a rare education

  18. Well stated. Your writing belies the GPA and the standardized test scores. Clean, complex, clear, strongly messaged without hysterics. The web could use a lot more of that.

  19. Morgan Cleage Coby

    This post is really good. I agree with this wholeheartedly …

  20. Great article.There is too much I would like to comment on, being an inner city kid from Los Angeles myself. Thanks for this article.

  21. Reblogged this on Composing Philosophy and commented:
    My gf’s TOK presentation is on education, this is a great addition to the discussion about education. I totally agree with what this post is saying.

  22. Lovely post. And thanks for the follow. Being a guy from India who is planning to go to the United States next year to pursue MFA in creative writing, I’m in a pickle myself by having a very hard time in understanding and boiling down the whole American Education system and choosing a few colleges to apply to. I guess every country has its own differentiating education system, but that takes a toll on the student.

  23. Michael Fitch, Jr.

    Absolutely right. Guaranteed customers and no competition never equates the best product at the lowest price. We’ve got a crappy product that never seems to get any better no matter how much money we throw at it. Your solutions are right on; open it up to the free market. Personally, I value home or community schooling.

  24. Cannot agree more. And I see same in other educational system (french, irish…). Time to change!

  25. I agree with your thoughts here. We are definitely more than our gpa. The school system is less about academic ability, and more about crushing the student to conform in my opinion. They want to destroy individuality and creative thought because that is dangerous for a society ever advancing toward authoritarianism. Authoritarians do not want you to question and want you to learn instead to blindly accept their premises, decrees and demands. If you look at the school system through this lens then it makes perfect sense why things are done the way they are to me.

  26. Good Article. See also

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