Right now as we speak, March Madness is in full swing. I’m not talking about the NCAA Tournament. I’m talking about the millions of high school students that are obsessively checking their emails and mailboxes, awaiting college decisions.
As a college freshman, I remember this feeling all too well: my heart accelerating every time my phone would beep, checking my email frantically, only to find more promotional emails from Forever 21. I vividly recall the stress of the college process: putting in countless hours for test prep, flash cards all over my bedroom floor, neverending calculations for my GPA with and without AP classes. And I remember the essays, with extremely vague, yet self revealing prompts that ask you to “Tell me about yourself?” (Seriously, where do I begin?) and “What is something you can’t live without?” or the best: “Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?”
But despite all these prompts, there still lies an unnatural emphasis on test scores.
Almost all competitive colleges say they have “holistic admissions,” meaning that a strong academic record won’t guarantee admission. You need interesting extracurricular activities, glowing letters of recommendation, an awesome application essay, and demonstrated interest in the school. Mix it all up and maybe, just maybe—with a little luck—you’ll get into the school of your dreams. Now that may be too much of a gamble for some wealthy parents like Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman who, along with others, were arrested for their alleged involvement in the college admissions cheating scam, where they paid millions to get their children into some of the most elite schools in the country, namely Southern California, Yale, and Stanford.
Seriously, it’s irritating that students have to jump through all these hoops and compete with meddling parents bribing their way into college, jobs, and anything else you can think of. But are we shocked? Nope, don’t think so.
The parents’ good intentions for their child’s college success led them down a winding road of cruel consequences for everyone, especially their children. But if the college process is strenuous and stressful for celebrities who have access to the best of the best, imagine how the rest of us feel, particularly those of us who can’t afford tutors, test programs or even a prep book because we belong to a lower economic class. Standardized testing is, and has always been, discriminatory on the basis of both race and class.
Even though race and class are regarded as separate, they go hand-in-hand and are connected in a complex way. Let me set the stage. The class system in the United States was constructed 400 years ago when African-Americans were brought to this country, not as immigrants or refugees, but in bondage through the brutal institution of slavery. Because wealthy white landowners and slaveowners came to this country setting up and imposing the class system that is still in place today, people of color have always and will always be at an appalling disadvantage.
Because of America’s history, this largely contributes to who makes up the top 1 percent of the American economy: 96.1 percent are white and 1.4 percent are black and .9 percent are Latino. Because of this colossal gap in wealth, minority groups have their hands and feet tied when it comes to the preparation and completion of the SAT, ACT, LSAT and MCAT. Because these tests are centered around preparation, those with an economic advantage are better suited to post higher scores. Moreover, due to the fact that a significant number of children people of color make up two-thirds of the nation’s poor, are of a lower economic status than whites, they are ultimately being set up to fail with standardized tests. Ultimately, standardized tests are inadequate, lazy, and antiquated ways of testing knowledge.
Throughout my 12 years of education, never did I think that the path for my future and measure of my knowledge would come down to a four-hour timed test in a cinderblock room. Because of standardized tests, our education system has changed drastically. While the tests have been around for years, schools are placing increased emphasis onto them. .Getting an education isn’t even about learning anymore. It is about being force-fed information and not having the time to comprehend or understand it and then being told to regurgitate it onto a test that is supposedly “measuring my intelligence.”
I can’t tell you the amount of dates, numbers and events I have pulled all nighters trying to memorize only to forget after the test to make room for more information. Educators need to understand that standardized tests and our education system today is hurting and stunting the growth of students minds. These examinations don’t test for creativity: They test for conformity, and if the emphasis on testing in our education system doesn’t change, students will be set in a unoriginal and uninventive mindset for the rest of their lives.