Guess What’s Wrong with US Schools

Marion Brady (via the Washington Post) has a story about his school board member friend who “took versions of his state’s standardized math and reading test scores for 10th graders.”

Even though his friend is a success “by any reasonable measure,” he was not too pleased with his results. In the friend’s own words, he knew the answers to none of the 60 math questions. Fucking none. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero.

Brady’s story is supposed to make the reader think there is something wrong with the standardized test. Instead, by his own friend’s account, a competent reader will realize there is something wrong with his friend. He didn’t know the answers to any of the math questions? Seriously? Fucking none? What a shithead.

The idiot friend goes on the say that he got 62% of the reading questions correct and that he has “a bachelor of science degree, two masters degrees, and 15 credit hours toward a doctorate degree.” But come on, fucking anybody can go to college.

Brady and his friend’s larger message is that we should not place too much emphasis on standardized tests. I can agree with that. When I was in tenth grade, I famously* drew a psychedelic mushroom on the essay part of my state standardized test. Brady’s friend has this to say about the problem with the emphasis on these tests:

If I’d been required to take those two tests when I was a 10th grader, my life would almost certainly have been very different. I’d have been told I wasn’t ‘college material,’ would probably have believed it, and looked for work appropriate for the level of ability that the test said I had.

Judging by his own admission, one has to believe that the school board would be in better shape today if Brady’s friend had taken a standardized test in tenth grade. But I digress…

This friend has a range of questions about the test that he is in no way qualified to answer, including “Who decided the kind of questions and their level of difficulty? Using what criteria? To whom did they have to defend their decisions?” It’s a classic Rich White Man Predicament™ – (i) If he’s rich and (ii) if he can’t confidently answer a single math question on a tenth grade test, then (iii) there must be something wrong with the test.

Nice try, dipshit.

There is a problem with the education system in America. I know. I went through it. Now I live in Finland, where public education has been ranked the best in the world and the problems are obvious. But the problems can’t be boiled down to a fool and his inability to pass a test. If you really want to know what’s going on, I suggest poking around the PISA website. PISA is an international test performed by the OECD which rates students on reading, math, and science. Instead of also giving their test to incompetent adults, they make detailed and informed debates about why students from certain countries performed the way they did. It’s not perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better than Brady’s friend. You can see a Wikipedia summary of the PISA test and results here.

Brady says his friend concluded with this choice remark: “I can’t escape the conclusion that those of us who are expected to follow through on decisions that have been made for us are doing something ethically questionable.”

I can’t escape the conclusion that Brady’s friend is blind to his own idiocy. Wait, yes I can. That kind of thing is pretty common.

Brady himself says, “He’s wrong. What they’re being made to do isn’t ethically questionable. It’s ethically unacceptable. Ethically reprehensible. Ethically indefensible.” No, dummy. If dumbass can’t take a test designed for tenth graders, then there’s something wrong with him, not the test. It’s not ethically blah blah blah whatever. It’s a fucking test that your dipshit friend couldn’t pass. Perhaps the problem with US schools lies not with the tests, but with the school board members. Hmmm?

If you don’t believe me, take some sample questions for yourself. The reading questions are here and the math questions are here.

And they’re fucking easy.

*OK, so my action wasn’t so famous. But when I showed it to the girl sitting next to me, she freaked.


Author: Joe McVeigh

I'm a linguist who researches email marketing. I also teach at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland. I write about language and linguistics on my blog, ...And Read All Over, and I write about language and marketing on my other blog, Email and Linguistics.

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