I wrote this editorial for the latest issue of our school newspaper about final exams and tests in general.
As we start off the new semester, one can’t help but relax a little. Finals are over! I somehow survived all those giant review packets and didn’t get too stressed about any of my exams. But I can’t help but wonder, what was the point of all that? Do finals really matter that much?
Students feel obligated to give heaps of their time and energy to studying and stressing out about tests and finals. To them, it would seem like exams are imperative, and whether they pass or fail determines the rest of their life. Of course, there are some students that just wing it, (and to be honest, I’ve been that student more often than I’d like to admit) and get whatever grade they get. But why is it that some students can get good grades without studying and some students can’t?
Test taking is a skill in itself, and some students are very skillful at it. But for other students, spitting out facts and figures they learned months ago doesn’t come naturally. What happens for every exam is the good test takers get good grades and the bad test takers get bad grades, even if both understood the material the same.
Albert Einstein expressed it more eloquently than I can. He said, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will spend it’s whole life believing that it is stupid.” Everyone has different abilities and talents, but the school system only pays attention to how good you are at school.
Tests, finals included, measure only a few things: memorization and retention. But neither memorization nor retention reflect intelligence. So how can tests, or grades for that matter, claim to reflect intelligence? And school is supposed to teach us more than facts and figures and basics; aren’t we supposed to learn how to become successful members of society, build character, and be prepared for life in the real world? How will a scantron and a 100 question multiple choice test measure any of that?
What I’ve said isn’t some new, revolutionary idea. It is known that the way tests are done just isn’t going to cut it anymore. New ways of learning have been introduced, such as new requirements for graduation (Comm App isn’t needed for the sophomore and freshman classes), and new enrichment courses that allow students to focus their classes on their potential career path. School is changing for the better. Rumors have been passed around about getting rid of state testing and replacing it with something that measures individual progress or something else called STEM. Change is on it’s way.
So if you are talented in an area that’s not related to taking tests and acing finals, don’t worry. Soon school will be more accommodating for people like you, even if soon isn’t quite soon enough.