June 6, 2018

this will be on the test

It's not duck season, or rabbit season.  It's testing season.

My son woke up just as I was leaving for work this morning.  I knew this because of the heavy thunder-thud footfalls upstairs and the three buffalo in the bathroom and water running for exactly four seconds, which is how long he chooses to brush his teeth.

I whispered up the staircase, "Have a great day!"

Him:  "What, you're not going to wish me good luck on my final exam?"

Me:  "World History, right?  You don't need luck.  Which you said doesn't exist anyway."

Him:  "Yeah, but you could say 'good luck'."

Me:  "Fine.  Good luck.  But you've got this."

Him:  "I have every point in history memorized."

Me:  "So you're God."

Him:  "Seriously, name any point."

Me:  "Okay.  April 7, 1841.  France."

Him:  " ........ "

Me:  "Really, any point?  Deity status revoked.  Thank you for playing."

Him:  "Well, I don't know that specific date, but I'd say that was when France was beginning to industrialize.  And if you'd said 1741, I'd say it was the beginning of pre-Revolution unrest among the people."

Me:  "1641?  Shit, that's the clock.  Got to go.  Good luck and own it and break a leg and all that other mom-shit I'm supposed to say."

Him:  "Louis XIII."

They test the living Christ out of kids now.  It's already ten miles past absurd and it gets worse every year.  Third-graders taking their first "real" tests and throwing up in the hallway from stress, because sometimes it means the difference between being retained or moving on to fourth grade.  Parents being recruited as warm bodies because of the sheer en force numbers required for proctoring.  People posted at the school doors so the buzzer won't sound if someone needs to come in, because that sound would butcher some entire classroom's concentration rubric, defined per federal requirements, and would result in the need to re-test.  Guards around the fire alarm pulls.  God forbid someone sneeze or snap a pencil lead.  You can slice the tension with a knife, as long as it's a very sharp, expensive Japanese knife.

And this is just the end of the school year.  They take benchmark tests at the beginning of the year, then tests every nine weeks to measure progress, then extra tests if grant funds are involved, and then these end-of-year nightmares cap it all off.

The tests are also administered online now, in middle and high school.  This means that there is a 97.2% chance that the network in any given school building will go down at its opportune time, or that the program will not accept passwords or codes, or their servers will crash across the country.  Murphy reigns and will not see his Law broken.

Teachers hate testing the way doctors hate insurance.  They would, if permitted, just chuck it all out the window into the bushes and instead practice their art.  But the government doesn't trust art.  Art can't be measured.  That's why it's art.  You can't prove art has an effect and you can't control the effect it might have.

My teachers were handed chalk and dry-erase markers and left alone.  But that's history.

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