Raise your hand if you agree with this sentence:
“Everyone’s experience should be the same.”
I suspect you balk at it, much like I do. The most amazing thing about being human is that we are individuals. We can read the same poem, listen to the same song, eat the same meal…and have different experiences. I do not smell, taste, hear, see, or touch the same way that you do. And that difference is beautiful. If you rub my back, I’ll be yours forever. If you touch my stomach, I’ll injure you. But how many people feel the reverse? (I know my dogs would vote stomach every time, but I’m focusing on people.)
I read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and fell in love with Hazel and Augustus, and cried at the end. Jordan said, “Meh.”
We both are.
I walk in the woods and notice the small. My husband notices the big.
Who’s paying better attention?
We both are.
Wendell Berry said, “The world is wide and wonderful, and we do not know what we will need to know.”
But if we all know the same things, then what is lost?
The drive in this country to standardize everything (kids, food, stores, the environment) is the most misguided, frightening, Big-Brother-Control-Freak behavior that it is possible has ever existed. And who does it benefit? (Hint: Not kids, food, stores, or the environment)
It benefits those who stand to make the most money from this standardization, which is not the largest percentage of the population. We keep hearing that as a nation, we’re falling behind, and standardized tests are the answer.
We’ve been hearing that for about twenty years now, since right after I began teaching. And you know what? Since those standardized tests began, things have gotten worse. Just listen to the news, and the government officials pushing those tests. If we “build a better test, they will learn it.” If that’s true, why hasn’t it worked yet? We’ve had twenty years to tweak and adjust. Is it possible it isn’t true?
Standardized testing will not improve the United States’ standing in the world, because it stifles the very creativity and originality that is necessary for continued forward movement. If every child is having the same experience in every classroom, then where do we leave room for Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking and Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau? Some of our most lauded, celebrated, and loved intellectuals were (are) as non-standard as they come.
I know we need base-line standards that students can meet. I’m not an idiot. They have to read. They have to write. They have to think. But this obsession with more and more testing, and shiny new standards, and insisting that every teacher does the same thing so that every student has the same experience, is out of control.
And, I’d like to smugly point out, impossible. I don’t care if teachers read from scripts, students still don’t have the same experiences.
Because we are individuals, and do not see the world the same way.
And that is beautiful.