The current issue in school is that there is not much emphasis on values that are not related to standardized tests. There seems to have been lost the sense of just learning something new and exciting. Nowadays, people are too worried about the mechanics of education. People seem to have lost interest in the power of creativity and expression. It seems to be more on the public schools, but probably also in the private ones. In most public high schools, there are not that many art or music programs in their curriculum. Art and music get taken out mostly because they do not seem to fit with the current standardized test system. The time specially put aside for a student to learn to play an instrument of their choice has now been converted into an extension of math and English grammar study. Many students referred to this time as “homeroom,” now they call it “bore room.” The purpose of school now seems to have changed to fit the standardized tests. How did society let this problem happen?
Parents and teachers wanted to see students perform in math and English well and wanted proof of that progress. Not long ago, many parents complained that their kids were not doing as well as they wished to on English and math. Complains began when they compared their kids’ performance to that of other kids from other countries. Parents and government officials pressured schools to change their curriculum where math and English were the main subjects, and they came out with the idea of testing students each year to see how they progressed, at least on the public school system. But, the government did not stop with just asking schools to administer tests each year. They also required them to get good scores to receive funding for the school budget. There are few options for public schools to do nothing else than to work their curriculum around the test and focus on getting good scores to keep receiving funding for their limited budget.
We are not creating critical thinking children but good test-takers. Now the place where kids most looked forward to on the week, after physical education, “homeroom,” was converted into “advisory,” where the focus is not on helping kids with homework questions or just learning an instrument. The place has been converted into an extension of math and English classes, where test-taking skills are learned. When I went to High School, I saw how things were before school was a place for test-taking techniques and how they changed to test-taking methods. During my “homeroom” classes, the teacher used to spend the time trying to teach us test-taking techniques. Even though we were still learning English, we were mostly ESL students, and on top of that, it wasn’t easy to understand many of the test-taking techniques that the teacher was trying to teach us. For example, the teacher was trying to teach us a test-taking course where we needed to read the question’s answer. It did not only require us to know English somewhat well but also to relate the questions to the answers. There were times when the teacher got frustrated and just told us to use the technique of choosing “B” as our answer. I know this example does not give the whole picture, but I think it illustrates the problem with basing the curriculum around the standardized test. The point here is that kids today are not learning why they are learning to write correct grammar or why they need to have those endless introductory math sessions. They know they need to do well, and that applying the test-taking techniques will get them by even though they do not know the correct answer.
The school was not created to make skilled test-takers but was created to make critical thinkers. There are many ways to go back and teach again, as the old ways, there was no pressure to do well on the standardized test. But, if we were to do that again, we would run in the future into the same problem that we are right now. What needs to be done is to provide a meaningful purpose or narrative for students to go to school. As Neil Postman, the author of the book The End of Education proposes that education needs to focus on meaningful gods or narratives to provide students with a useful school purpose. One of the gods or narratives he suggests to follow is that of a fallen angel. Students get to study how people have failed before them and what they did to overcome those failures. Also, they would learn to always look out for losses.
Studying the mistakes of others teach students to understand why things are the way they are. Students often wonder why there are so many rules in place and why they need to follow them. I know for a fact that I once hated to follow school rules, especially when we needed to wear a tie on Mondays. But, rules as everything else are there for a reason. If students are allowed to study what previous generations did and how their mistakes affected the rest of history, they would better understand why things are the way they are. As Postman argues, if we look into others’ failing errors, we will be able to make better choices. But, not all mistakes are bad. There are mistakes where we can learn a lot from them and improve. That’s why it is dangerous to be a skilled test takers and not critical thinkers. If we cannot understand the failures and not just the easy “choose B” way, we will never really learn. And the more time we spend becoming skilled test-takers, we would have lost the purpose of going to school.
The standardized test needs to be taken out of school curriculums. There need to be other ways to study students’ progress and not just by taking a test. I think that the test makes students lose the purpose for going to school, which is terrible for our future. Children do not have to be limited to just learning English and math; they also need to know about literature. There are many to improve students’ math and English skills. For example,e students are learning to read works. They are also learning English grammar by reading what famous writers have written and even think critically about the passage or a story. Math skills can be improved by teaching art, yes! In many art forms, math is essential, art does not only require knowing what it is, but it also can work with how an object has different surfaces and what mathematical formulas as Da Vinci used on their paintings. If we do this, I am sure students will be better off, and if they are tested, they will know the answers.
School should be a place for creative and critical thinking, not skilled test-takers. If we ought to give students a meaningful purpose for going to school, let’s not bore them with long and endless math and English hours. Let’s make them into critical thinkers and hungry for more knowledge. Rather than just going to school for a test, the student will learn something new and exciting, as I always felt school was.