Of Memorization, Standardized Tests, and Passion

This song came to me at a graduation ceremony I attended over the weekend. The class president gave the below remark while giving a speech to his fellow students, in this part of his address he talked about the difficulty of coming up with an original speech for graduation; then he said this:

“…but I didn’t not earn my degree by original thought, I earned it by memorization and mediocre performance on standardized tests.”

This statement sent the crowed roaring with laughter and applause.

Why did it strike a chord in everyone in the room?

Because we know for all our hard work and many many hours that’s what our efforts boil down to: Memorization and Performance on Standardized Tests. The argument can be made that we did actually retain information and we did learn. And I would say yes; but what is the amount that I actually learned compared to the amount that I was tested for, or expected to “know”?

And to the point of Standardized Tests; the way we approach tests is to teach for the test. So basically we only “learn” what is on the test and we learn FOR the test. Once the test is over, what is the point to what we have learned? We only put to use most of the information we learned for only a section or year; so really the only bits of information or learning we ever really retain is what is repeated year after year.

I love history and literature, I can dig science and can tolerate math. I think teachers are awesome. But I also think we should reevaluate why we put our kids through school for 12+ years to only retain what might boil down to 5 or 7 (ball parking that figure).

I get that we should be well rounded and have introductory knowledge to a lot of stuff, but regurgitation does not excite people. I did not marry my wife because I knew information about her, I married her because I loved being around her, I loved joking with her and talking to her. We become passionate about things when we interact, when we get our hands dirty into something. Information always has its place, but if it’s the core of education then we have missed the mark.

I work as a Business Intelligence Developer for a living, my job is to give people information; but to give them information that is meaningful and impactful SO they can retain the information and making insightful decisions. So knowing information is one piece of the puzzle.

It’s time for schools to get the other pieces.

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