I was just talking to my sister Rebecca tonight after a long hiatus and we happened upon the subject of standardized testing. Both of us remembered taking all of these idiotic tests in school. I’m sure all of you remember taking these. I always hated taking them since they gave you thirty minutes in which to do ten minutes of work. Then you were left for the remaining twenty minutes staring at the ceiling, playing with your pencil, trying to see how many words you could make out of the letters in the word “completely” (as in, “fill in the circle completely”), etc. The first time I took such a test I think I was in first or second grade and I spent my idle time drawing little pictures in the margins of the testing sheet. The monitor was horrified and I spent the rest of the allotted time painstakingly erasing all of them so my answer sheet wouldn’t be rejected by the computer.
Anyway, we were mostly talking about the ambiguity of the questions. I would stare at a question for minutes on end thinking, “yes, the answer would be “a” if this condition prevailed, but if this condition weren’t met, the answer would be “c”. I would ask the teacher/testing monitor for clarification and was always given the same stock (and brilliant) reply, “Answer the question.” Rebecca told me she had such a question in first grade. The question showed a picture of a pig looking at you head-on and objects on either side of the pig. You were then instructed to circle the object on the right. Rebecca said she stared at that question forever thinking, my right or the pig’s right? She told me she distinctly remembers saying to herself, “Become the pig.” Of course, she circled the object on the pig’s right. The teacher later called her up to the desk and told her that by first grade she should know her right from her left!
When I was in second grade, we were writing out math problems on the board and then reviewing them. Some poor child had vertically written the problem 12-4=8 as 4-12=8. The teacher announced confidently that you could not subtract larger numbers from smaller numbers. I raised my hand and said, wouldn’t you just get a negative number? You could hear the proverbial crickets chirping in the silence that followed. Lesson learned? Don’t speak in class.
One final trip down memory lane: Does this ring a bell for anyone?
“A balloo is a bear, a yonker is a young man.”
That one goes back to seventh grade. As I remember it, you were supposed to listen to these phrases and then were tested for recall about twenty minutes later in the test. Unfortunately, they have never left me. Instead of remembering them for twenty minutes, I have remembered them for more than twenty years. This should be counted as a form of child abuse.