At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

An Open Letter to Westminster Christian Academy Students

Dear WCA-St. Louis students,

Well, at least I think I'm speaking to all of you. Some seniors might continue to slog along on the ACT. But we have you juniors eventually getting hit with the PSAT, sophomores encountering the ASPIRE test (a.k.a., the pre-ACT now) this Friday, freshman take the ERB Wednesday and Thursday this week, and middle school students doing the ERB dip next week.

Standardized testing. Like death and taxes, it's a part of life. If things haven't changed since my student days, you students look forward to taking these tests about as much as the Luxembourgish army would relish attacking ISIS with nothing but Twinkies. I remember almost every test--whether it be the Stanford Achievement Test, Iowa Test of Basic Skills (which I rather liked because Iowa is near Kansas), or others--had the unmistakable effect of making me prefer getting a back massage with pliers dunked in SuperGlue. Maybe it was the fact that I was never a good standardized test-taker. Maybe I found a lot of other things a lot more interesting.

But in looking back on it, I think I knew instinctively that--as important as these tests are for National Merit qualifying, colleges to get a look at rising possibilities, and so forth--none of it would ever give the world a glimpse at the real me. And so as you Wildcats take these tests over the next few weeks, take them seriously. Don't just breeze through them. But that seriousness needs to be kept in proper perspective. A standardized test has limits, and even though it can give a snapshot of your learning or aptitude, it does NOT define you.

Don't believe me? Here's a list of things a standardized test cannot measure (with thanks to Craig Dunham for dealing with much of this before):

(1) Your creativity, your love of the art gallery that God has made this world to be, and your ability to add to that--to quote Gerald Manley Hopkins--"universe...charged with the grandeur of God."
(2) Your integrity and willingness to tell the truth, to be honest and clear and responsible no matter what the consequences.
(3) Your desire and ability to rise above the greatest pain and most abject trials, to suffer redemptively and endure well, and to encourage those who bear life's pain.
(4) Your aptitude of taking needed risks, to be an entrepreneur, to be an original and innovative thinker and doer.
(5) Your ability to receive constructive criticism and learn from it, or your ability to humbly receive praise and grow rooted in God's grace and delight.
(6) Your ability to empathize with others and forgive them if they wrong you, or your ability to ask forgiveness and reconcile with those you wrong.
(7) Your ability and desire to ask deeper questions, demonstrating the type of critical thinking that leads to more questions.
(8) Your willingness to work and partner with others to learn from them and with them.
(9) Your love of reading...because no matter what a test does in testing reading ability, it cannot measure the passion and delectable desire to curl up with a great book and lose yourself in another world.
(10) Your smile, the twinkle in your eye, and any other noticeable feature that gives joy to the heartbeats of others just to be in your presence.
(11) And a standardized test will never...NEVER pursue you, live the life you are incapable of living, die the death you deserved, and rip up its own grave so that every day it can live to delight in you and empower you to follow it. 

You are worth infinitely more than any score on a standardized test. So go out and do your best, Westminster students. Just keep this whole thing in proper perspective.

Rabbi Davis

1 comment:

Robert Marshall Murphy said...

As someone who is good at test-taking, I agree whole heartedly. It does not define you. Being good as filling in scantron bubble is not a life skill. This does measure your worth as a human being.