culture / November 2016 / Walter Proulx

Rise of the Talking Pineapple

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A new generation of students is rising above the ashes of the old-school standards and it is looking like shit. Education went from teaching a student new skills to the intent of teaching a student test-taking skills. Tests fucking blow.

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Standardized tests have wreaked havoc on a once moderately sound system for educating people. The whole system is becoming seriously corrupt, and students can’t do anything about it. From early ages, students are signing contracts that say they must not discuss the content of the tests with each other, and teachers are denying students access to better education when they want it. (Sounds like a conspiracy theory, you say?) All of this is sadly true, and I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing this problem firsthand. Although my education wasn’t absolutely awful, part of me is angry that I couldn’t get more out of system.

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Standardized tests are the bane of my existence. Take one yourself if you get the chance, they suck. Not only do they take painfully long, with a duration usually lasting over two hours, they are often riddled with questions that make little to no sense. One standardized test had a question about a talking pineapple that was so nonsensical and confusing that it got into mainstream media. Other questions have been flat out wrong or complete nonsense, yet every student must sign saying they will not discuss the contents of the test. You even have to write a statement in cursive about it. There isn’t anything good coming out of this.

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The purpose of these tests mainly ties to one thing: No Child Left Behind. The original intent behind this act was a good one. In theory, you could use a standardized test to evaluate schools across the country and identify the ones that needed financial support. Obviously, this didn’t work in real life. Schools took the test results and started evaluating teacher performance based off of whether or not students were improving their scores. Keep in mind, this is not what the test is engineered to do. Then, schools thought it was a good idea to place students in different classes based on their test scores. (This is what stopped me from going into Algebra one year early. Thanks, New England Common Assessment Program!)

Before you knew it, SATs and ACTs were being used as intelligence tests for colleges. Fun fact—the SAT was built to predict college readiness. Scientists have agreed, it doesn’t measure college readiness in the slightest.

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While standardized tests were busy being used for all the wrong purposes, private companies jumped on the bandwagon and started selling their own tests. The false claims that these tests make in saying they can predict where a student can be placed are accepted blindly. Apparently schools listen to capitalists, not scientists. (Recent studies show grit and determination actually predict how well a child does in school. Not intelligence.) But now, there is a whole market on selling these standardized tests, and there is so much fucking money to be made.

Think about the AP tests. Students can spend upwards of $80 for one test. A test in which only a certain number of students are allowed to get a 5 (highest score) on. College Board is in complete control of how many students will get credit for their college course. A majority of students will take an AP test and have an iffy chance, at best, of receiving credit. Meanwhile, College Board pockets the money regardless of whether the piece of paper you wrote on helped you at all. Lucky for College Board, they get to make over sixty million dollars a year in their business. The president of the company alone is making over one million dollars a year. 

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Technology is another hotspot in which private companies are completely trashing education. With recent advances in technology, laptops and tablets are becoming more affordable. Schools across America have decided it’s a good idea to toss laptops to students, hoping to make their education system better. The result? No one knows. While some schools benefit from the use of new technology, others are thrown into chaos. Teachers often don’t know the full capabilities of their technology, and students get distracted. Meanwhile, companies are getting sick deals on selling laptops in bulk to a customer that is sure to come back for more.

The result of capitalism in the education system is making students’ lives much less efficient. The focus of education is shifting from the learning process itself to the assessment of learning. Companies now have the opportunity to make money in a secure market where schools become regular, loyal customers. This needs to end, and it needs to end right now. Students’ education is being limited by talking pineapples.

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