Scantraumatizing

Kaanchee Gandhi, Editor-in-Chief

It may have just been the circumstance, but the fall colors looked exceptionally brighter as I stepped out of Athens after taking the last SAT of my high school career. Finally, I was free of the hours spent in the brain-numbing classrooms – somehow always ten degrees colder than the rest of the school – attempting to code on that blue scantron, “I’m a wonderful human being, please accept me into your college.” I have unfortunately found this to be difficult when I only have five letters to work with.

From as early as Pre-K, I have been expected to bubble in areas of knowledge so people can assess my level of “giftedness.” I may be finished with the SAT, but throughout the rest of high school I will face curriculum tests, AP exams, and the newly implemented MSLs. Standardized tests will even follow me into college and creep up again if I ever wish to pursue a graduate program.

My hatred for standardized testing does not stem from ineptness; I have always been able to work my way around a scantron pretty well. What kills me instead is the unbending culture that has evolved out of these unreflective test scores.

Too often have I sat through classes where my teachers skip over intriguing topics because they will not appear on the upcoming test. They cannot be blamed in a society where teacher performance is based off of student test scores. Review time equates learning time in most of my subjects, which would be okay if this review were something other than the mindless drilling of formulas, vocabulary words and concepts.  My lust for knowledge was unadulterated before I learned a huge chunk of my future would be determined by my test results and grade point average.  Now I find myself shamefully questioning with everyone else, “Will this be on the exam?” – because heaven forbid I accidentally learn something I won’t be tested on.

Fortunately, this semester has been different from the last few. Because of the PowerSchool catastrophes at the start of the school year, my schedule ended up a lot lighter than I was expecting, leaving me with a free first and third block. I was worried at first that the absence of grades would discourage me from devoting time to the school day, (late arrival plus a two hour lunch period is incredibly tempting.) Instead, however, I have found myself more invested than before, spending my free time working on publications, personal art pieces and my graphic design business. Not only am I working harder than I have throughout all of high school, everything I do is almost entirely optional. I have no printed numbers to monitor that I am learning what I need to be and the only person I can disappoint is myself. Colleges may not be able to measure the amount of effort I am putting in this semester, but it has been a refreshing change of atmosphere. I only hope we can reach a point as a society where personal motivation is what drives students to succeed, rather than a scantron.