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The Numerical Hierarchy and How It's Perverting Education

SAT's, ACT's, PSSA's, PSAT's, AP's. The acronyms are stifling the growth and development of students in America.

In early December, I competed as part of the team from Radnor High School at the Philadelphia Area High School Ethics Bowl Competition. We won all five rounds of debate, and prepared fifteen cases for discussion. One of the most interesting ones to me personally is the role that SAT’s play in college admissions, and as an extension of that, what the real purpose of education is. Our team took the position that the SAT’s role in college admissions need to be revised, that they’re inherently unfair and benefit the more affluent student who can afford tutoring and multiple tests. The second part of our argument was to analyze the real purpose of education.

Education has become so perverted since the 2002 implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.  This act promoted a standard of education that would be evaluated through testing, organized at the state level, to make sure that students were receiving adequate education. This is when the national focus shifted to testing.

Testing is inherently unequal and not a good benchmark of academic success. The student who is a great orator, a great artist, a great athlete, who may be incredibly intelligent may not be the greatest test taker.  Society would view them as not as intelligent as the student who is a trained test taker. The SAT’s evaluate reading/writing and math. For the student who is good in science fields, this test does nothing for them. Even the ACT – now widely accepted as an equivalent to the SAT – which has a section for “science” is more about reading comprehension than science itself.  

This brings up the question well what is the purpose of education? Is the purpose of education to teach students so they can pass a benchmark exam or an aptitude test? Or is the purpose of education greater? I contend that the purpose of education is to develop an engaged, well-rounded, thoughtful, contributing member of society. Education should be an ever-growing and ever-expanding experience. Education isn’t just in the classroom. When I traveled to Denmark and Germany in July, I learned a lot. I learned what I’m capable of. I applied skills I learned in my German class at Radnor, but I also continued to learn and develop as a person. And I believe that this served me better than a class ever could.

While I’m in the middle of the college application process, I’ve written literally dozens of essays on a variety of topics. One of the most profound to me asked, “if you were to create your own university, what would you mandate all students learn?” I focused on international cooperation and communication skills. These are two areas that I feel schools today lack in emphasizing. I’ve been lucky enough through Model United Nations, the Ethics Bowl, and the Radnor Patch to broaden my horizons in communication and public forums for discussion. But not every student has that opportunity. However, this has made me a better student, and – I believe – a better, well rounded individual. All students should focus on good communication skills.

In today’s test-crazy society, something must be done so as to not stifle the student who doesn’t see life’s questions and answers as bubbles on a Scantron sheet. We must encourage and foster growth and development in all areas of intelligence. If we don’t, our future leaders will be lackluster and the future of our country will come down to multiple-choice options. Let’s not let education slip this far. Let’s show the college admissions boards that SAT and ACT scores are a number, GPA’s are a number, and that students are more than just numbers. We’re people, not numbers. 

Just me December 14, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Great article and so relevant - really covers, not only the inequities of the SAT and ACT, but the riduclousness of students now having to take the PSSAs, MAP testing (at the middle school level) and Keystones.
Anthony Wayne December 14, 2012 at 06:17 PM
It is refreshing to see todays youth waking up to the reality that federal control of the education process poses a huge threat to our society today. Not for generations have so many been so unprepared for life, upon graduation from high school. Once the young begin working full time and further discover the deductions from their pay for social security, health care, and retirement will not be available to them as promised, they will begin to fully appreciate the folly that the welfare-warfare state represents. Burdened with the debt from their parents and grandparents, stripped of their civil rights and protections from our Constitution, they march towards the new world order. I pray they will make a beter job of it than those that have come before them. The youth, as always, is the hope of our future. I wish them God speed.
Christopher Merken December 15, 2012 at 12:12 AM
Thank you! And yes, all the state testing is ridiculous. I took the PSSA's last year, what was the last year they ever existed. The Keystone exams are replacing the PSSA's completely. But where the PSSA's didn't really matter (in terms of graduating) the Keystones will be similar to the Regents exams in New York State. They will be a graduation requirement for RHS and all public schools in Pennsylvania. The scores on these tests will also be factored into final grades for students in the classes which are tested. This entire system is flawed and action MUST be taken to stop these exams. Teachers don't want them. Students don't want them. Parents don't want them. Governor Corbett does because it will help him crush the teacher's unions. But these tests do nothing to benefit the state. In fact they will hurt our education so much it's not funny.

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