I believe in the power of spontaneity, enthusiasm, and curiosity in the learning experience. I also believe in the power of teachers who can create the atmosphere for students to harness these powers in their formalized school experience. Unfortunately, I also believe that the extensive use of standardized testing for students in vogue today has created an atmosphere in schools that, for me, has smothered these powerful tools for learning. As a graduating high school senior, I have found myself pondering my high school learning experience, and must admit to a certain sadness that it was the exception rather than the norm for me to leave school with some concept, idea, or new bit of knowledge that would stimulate me to the point that I would raise the subject with friends or family. I am told that the concept of standardized tests was to test students in each subject each year to ensure we were learning what we needed to learn and it would also provide information on how well our teachers were doing. It seems like a first-rate idea, but for me, it has mostly ruined my formal learning experience. I don’t blame the teachers for this, but rather the original faulty idea that any subject could be reduced to a set number of facts to be “learned” and at the end of the school year regurgitated on a test. This approach to education has resulted in my high school assigning students a state approved text book that contains all the required facts, and then spending most class time assigning work designed to reinforce those state approved facts. Any of my teachers who had the audacity to deviate from this chosen curriculum risked his or her student’s possible poor performance on the standardized tests, and the negative reflection on them this might inspire. Fortunately, some of my teachers had the nerve to fight the system in place, and to challenge the state sponsored facts to test their correctness or usefulness. They helped me to understand that just because they were state sponsored facts did not mean that they were necessarily wrong, but the very testing process helped me to not only learn them but to believe in some of them. Others could be discarded as unconvincing. Facts learned in this way will not soon be forgotten, and results in what I consider true learning. I believe the educational system needs to be changed to encourage rather than hinder the power of spontaneity, enthusiasm, and curiosity in the learning experience for those students who follow me, and teachers who create an environment conducive to developing those powerful learning tools need to be encouraged and rewarded, not disciplined. I believe students who come away with those tools well learned are the best evidence of a great educational experience, not the average mean score on any standardized test!
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