This spring, Illinois and a bunch of other states rolled out a new standardized test: PARCC. PARCC and, it seems, the very idea of standardized testing has become controversial, with organizations actively organizing against them. When I asked my son how it went, he said “fine.” This week, my son took another test, the NWEA MAP test. I also asked how it went. He said, even more anti-climatically, “fine.” He shrugged, then launched into a lengthy discourse about Fennekin, a fire-type that evolves into Braixen.
Given that my son’s feeling about testing was identical in intensity to his daily feelings about his lunch, it’s surprising how many parents choose to opt out of the exams on their child’s behalf. This is particularly curious, because -full disclosure- most people I know are privileged white people. Which means that:
(1) we likely chose our school based on the scores for tests that now we don’t want our kids to take
(2) our children will do well on these tests, since standardized test results track heavily to socioeconomic level
(3) we’re screwing the teachers we profess to love by removing our high-performing kids from the test results on which they’re evaluated
(4) we’re forcing the administrators to find something else to do with our non-test taking kids, which won’t be classroom learning because everyone else in the classroom is taking the test.
But let’s leave all that rationality aside. We’re well-off white people. Being privileged means not having to be rational (see for example not eating bread). But I am throwing off the shackles of my socioeconomic class to say this:
I F%$CKING LOVE STANDARDIZED TESTS.
I f%$cking love standardized tests because they prepare my kids for college. We’re only seven or so years away from my third grader taking the ACT or SAT so that he can go to a college everyone has heard of. A few years after that, he will take the MCAT, the LSAT, or the GMAT so he can get a good job, drive a late model import, and fill his open floor plan house with Pottery Barn. In the evenings, he’ll be on the junior leadership board of an organization that gives food or money to adorable minority children. Or badminton lessons to the homeless. I f%$cking love standardized tests because I want what every privileged white person wants for their children: to be happy. That is, to be happy with commonly recognized symbols of prosperity.
I f%$cking love standardized tests because they prepare my kids for life. Life is full of having to do long, stupid tasks because someone in charge tells you to. Do these opt out parents not have jobs? Have they never had a boss ask them to develop a bunch of SMART goals, then tell them to put them in a spreadsheet, not a Word document, then ask them to save it in the 97-2003 Excel format because they’re working off an old laptop at home, and then come back a day later and say they actually want SMARTER goals,because “evaluate” and “revise” are important steps as well, but not as important as the fact that she read a Lifehacker article on SMARTER goals on the elliptical that morning and thought it sounded cool? What skills learned in school will teach my kids to deal with this? Do “fact triangles” prepare you for the over-promoted? No. Does “chunking” words help you remain calm when dealing with the functionally illiterate HR person? Absolutely not. And what about dealing with the cable company, the county records office, or going to the Post Office?
I want my kids to know that life is about getting through 40 hours a week of inane, meaningless tasks for the few glorious evening hours on the weekend you get to spend farting on the couch playing Arkham Origins before you fall asleep. I f%$cking love standardized tests because there really is no better preparation for the endurance and endless humiliations required of an adult life.
I f%&cking love standardized tests because they turn your kid into a number. I read a parent’s complaint once about how standardized tests don’t tell you anything about the “real” child. That’s true. But do you really want anyone to know the “real” child? My real children, if left to their own devices, would eat cream cheese with their fingers, wash it down with Capri-Sun squirted in the direction of their face hole, wipe their hands on their shirts, and then sit pantsless on the floor staring at comic books until their eyes crusted over. The whole point of school is to keep my kids from being “real” kids! To give them a common knowledge base, something that resembles a universal set of skills, and the rules in which to live in a polite society. You know, standards.
But mostly, I f%&cking love standardized tests because with that number, I can achieve the one thing that all parents want: to know if my kid is better than yours. Remember when we compared our kids’ birth weights? Then we compared where they fell on the height and weight percentages. Plus, we could compare them on months to rolling over, sitting up, crawling, walking. And then school started, and, what? We’re too polite to do that any more? Bullshit. Grades only tell me if they’re meeting the teachers’ expectations, and who cares about the expectations of people who took low paying jobs to be public punching bags? What do they know? Worse, I don’t know what grades your kid got. so they’re not relative. Standardized tests are. With standardized tests, I get to know that in a room of 100 peers, my kid can read better than some number of them and do math better than some other number. That is a black and white number issued by the government telling me precisely how good my kid is. It’s parent crack. I want these numbers every day.
I f%&cking love standardized tests. And so do you.