My son loves math. I’m gonna straight up brag, not even humblebrag. He’s gifted in math, way above grade level. Super bright.
3rd grade standardized math tests were yesterday.
He didn’t finish the test.
He got caught up perfectionizing on one problem he couldn’t figure out the answer to. He felt so stressed that he shut down and gave up.
If my son, who loves math and is gifted in math, and who is a privileged white boy, bombed this test, imagine how many other kids are not showing their true potential, for a myriad of different reasons.
Brains are not standardized. Teaching cannot be standardized, humans cannot be standardized. Why do we think that standardized tests are a good measurement of much of anything other than :
A. being privileged (like my gifted little white boy)
B. being able to take tests well
So my privileged gifted white boy bombed.
That tells me that it’s mostly about being able to take tests well.
Life is not a sprint. It is not a series of stressful tasks to be white-knuckled through. It is a marathon, where we have to learn to find joy and hope in our daily grind, whatever that may be.
Learning should be taking place every day, as a natural part of curious human life. Testing happens randomly; you don’t know when life is gonna throw you a curveball. It isn’t something you can cram for. We need to be cultivating resilience instead of creating fake stressful events to teach our kids how to be stressed.
I have so many bright students who get good grades and get caught up in the competition game. Many kids by 8th grade end up not caring about what they are learning, just whether they got a 100 instead of a 99. Or that they did better than whoever they are competing against. Of course competition is not bad in and of itself, but if it becomes the primary goal, rather than actually changing one’s mind and engaging with problem solving, then the primary skills learned are:
A. Competition; they get their brains stimulated by beating others, not by cooperating to solve real-world problems
B. The mindset of white- knuckling it through life. Jumping hoops to get to rewards; the next sugary snack, the next drink, the next day off, the next like on facebook, the next video game, or quick wealth and early retirement. Testing culture teaches kids how to be stressed and seek escape. We need to be teaching them that difficult things like living, learning, and relationships are their own rewards, to be lived FOR, not to be white-knuckled through or escaped.
The question should not be “what are we teaching?”.
It should be “What are kids actually learning about how to live?”