Wednesday, February 1, 2006

I'm taking the GRE tomorrow, so I'm naturally livid. In my mind, ETS has orchestrated this huge standardized testing scam on the academic community, convincing our intellectually vacant educational leaders that my scholastic history can be meaningfully reduced to a few essays and some multiple choice questions. I am white, cosmopolitan, upper middle class, so I don't care that much about the tests' cultural bias, or students spending thousands on test-prep (like I did with the SAT's — huge waste of my parents' money), or the tests' original purpose as tools for social engineering a master race; however, I am a solipsist and I'm only too happy to get riled up at the way ETS is gonna waste two and a hours of my life asking vacuous questions with absolutely zero relevance to anything I could possibly learn in grad school. Like one day, my professor's gonna ask me, "Mr. Harris, which of the five following words is the best antonym for 'fulminate?'"

Being born in the era of that machine that reads bubbles filled in with number two pencil, I'm pretty familiar with the standardized test and I've had plenty of time to cultivate a seething disdain everything standardized testing: those monotonous instructions ("Choose the answer that BEST describes blah blah blah," with BEST in like capital letters and bold, because there's always one special kid who really ought to have an IEP who's filling in the WORST answer choices), finishing the test in ten minutes and then having to spend the next fifty minutes "checking my work," and how all of the sentences are about Julio or Tyrese and how they always include that same goddamn passage from The Joy Luck Club to give the test a veneer of ethnic diversity. It's the most condescending experience: apparently, whoever writes these things believes that we're all retarded, but they'll just let the colleges deal with inflating our grades and industry deal with shipping our jobs off to better-educated, less-expensive Vietnamese workers. Seriously, on that test they gave us in high school that we had to pass to graduate, one of the questions was something like, "Tamika has three quarters and a dime. How much money does Tamika have? A) 35¢ B) 85¢ C) 95¢ D) cow E) $250.00"

Things haven't improved. The GRE, for instance, has two essays on it, ostensibly because grad schools have been complaining about colleges granting degrees to idiots who can not write. Which, okay, if English isn't your native language and you graduated from college with some sort of math or science degree, I can see how you might get through secondary school without knowing all the ins and outs of the language. But if you grew up in America and you spent sixteen years writing English in school, that fucking Bachelor of Arts ought to mean that you can string together a subject and a preposition in a complete thought. Maybe you get a Master's when you can demonstrate your understanding of the intricacies of direct and indirect objects. Instead I've gotta respond to, "It is primarily through formal education that a culture tries to perpetuate the ideas it favors and discredit the ideas it fears." Yeah, there's a topic that'll receive a thorough treatment in five paragraphs.