Standardized test

The 3 Barriers to Educating and Raising Citizens of Character

Part II: The Achievatron

Note: Find Part I: The Cult of Self Esteem here

In an article titled “Stressed for Success?” in the NY Times (3/30/04), columnist David Brooks wrote:

Many of you high school seniors are in a panic at this time of year, coping with your college acceptance or rejection letters. Since the admissions process has gone totally insane, it’s worth reminding yourself that this is not a particularly important moment in your life.

You are being judged according to criteria that you would never use to judge another person and which will never again be applied to you once you leave higher ed.

For example, colleges are taking a hard look at your SAT scores. But if at any moment in your later life you so much as mention your SAT scores in conversation, you will be considered a total jerk. If at age 40 you are still proud of your scores, you may want to contemplate a major life makeover.

Our culture clings to a preoccupation with grades and test scores despite the fact that no correlation between them and later success and fulfillment has ever been conclusively demonstrated.

Cheating is at an all time high in all studies.

Many top students avoid taking challenging courses for fear of adversely affecting their GPA.

A Hyde graduate, one who recently earned a Fulbright, recently wrote:

Unfortunately, an educational system valuing only achievement can make it extremely easy for test scores and awards to lure the “good kid” into a false sense of fulfillment. This fulfillment is false because it founds itself on the static expectations of someone else, like grades and rules for behavior, and not on standards for one’s own potential. Many students can meet the standards set by teachers or a school’s curriculum, but remain apathetic children, too lazy or cowardly to risk challenging themselves much beyond the status quo of their own boredom.” 

This is the barrier I have named the Achievatron. For further reading, see my recent article “The Odds of Selective College Admissions Always Favor the House” published in the Portland Press Herald (02/14/13).

On to Part III: The Most Supervised Generation