Crash test dummies

Why standardized testing is ruining education

Matthew W. Urner is a a musician, cyclist, art enthusiast and Catholic who has a paid internship with the Congress of California Seniors, a local nonprofit legislative advocacy organization.

I remember as a kid diligently penciling in bubbles on Scantron forms. There was a time when I took the tests seriously and got high scores. But after years of this, the exams grew boring, devoid of character. I’d become interested in music, sculptures and paintings that validated the feelings that came with cerebral questioning. I became entranced with the ballet. As my sense of nihilism rose, my test scores declined. Sometimes I would express myself by shading the answer bubbles in an E-X-I-S-T-E-N-T-I-A-L pattern.

There are plenty of kids who can relate to my exam-laden childhood. Standardized tests do not accurately grade intelligence and are ruining education by forcing educators to conform to a curriculum that is cheaper and faster than conventional teaching methods. Some material won’t appear on standardized tests, because machines can’t adequately comprehend the answer. The grading machine can easily tell whether or not you marked the right date an event occurred, but it can’t tell if you’ve correctly judged the social consequences of that event. Subjective material that requires deep discussion is being thrown out. Students are being programmed to answer questions that can be quickly graded by machines. Humans are designed to move, contemplate and socialize. Standardized testing is reshaping young minds and bodies.

Teachers get their tests from the same corporations that produce textbooks. If teachers want their students to do well on the manufactured, machine-graded tests, they teach kids exactly what is going to be on the exam. They do this by assigning homework created by the publishing giants that pertain to the tests.

Many schools limit instruction to only the material that appears on the manufactured exams. An opportunity to learn a rich curriculum is lost, while students are being coached to pass exams. In many states, the gauge of students’ learning is being reduced to reading and math scores. As a result, thought evoking subjects like social studies, art and music are being pushed out of the curriculum.

As people become intellectually defenseless, they will no longer be able to utilize language, creativity or ingenuity as tools to defend themselves. When history lessons are trashed, suddenly voting and rallying seem less important. With the corporate takeover of education, it is no longer about learning. Instead it is about boosting profits while rewiring future rank-and-file workforces and consumers. As physical education is phased out of schools, people will resemble, in more ways than one, the cattle that roam corporatized farms. The masses will be drained of their health, foresight and desire to learn outside the No. 2 lead-only boxes.

Corporations such as McGraw-Hill and its subsidiary Standard & Poor’s, are, of course, being responsible to their shareholders by ensuring profits. But this translates into education being sacrificed to the rich and powerful. What will CorpoAmerica conquer next—religious institutions? As corporatism increasingly sells the image of godlessness, it can soon become the omnipresence to whom humans will turn.

Where teachers and legislators have failed, perhaps the faithful, the religious will unite against the corporate goliaths. Shall the pulpit become another trashy billboard? Perhaps it already is.