When I was in school, I participated in a tradition widely practiced throughout the US education system: cramming. The night before a test I would re-read my class notes and review my highlighted and sticky-noted text book, attempting to cram every bit of fact or figure into my brain. The next day I would sit for the test and regurgitate as many of the details as I could recall. Then, as soon as it was over, all that information would leak out of my memory like soap bubbles down the bathtub drain.
I vividly remember that time in college I sat in the hall 10 minutes before class memorizing the order of a particular financial statement. I wrote it out and re-wrote it and re-wrote it and wrote it again. The second we got into the classroom, I wrote the order out on the top of my answer sheet so I could refer back to it during the test. Having that structure to visually reference helped me remember all the other tidbits I needed to explain the structure’s functions. I guess that's a shout-out for open-note tests.
I'm sure cramming happens in a lot of places. It seems like a pretty universal reaction to a rigidly structured scholastic testing mechanism, which unfortunately exist in many countries. Japan puts students through highly intense testing beginning in middle school. My first experience of my teacher teaching to the test was in 3rd grade. The UK likewise begins academic testing in grade school. So all around the world students are regurgitating data in predetermined formats so adults can run statistics and make decisions about things like resource allocation.
Which all seems weirdly contrived and counter-productive. If the point of the testing regime is to capture a snapshot of how well students are navigating their learning journey, why on earth would you tell anyone what was on the test? And then, if this bizarre exercise was actually meant to accomplish its stated purpose, why would executing the testing system require teachers teach and students learn in the least effective way for humans to actually learn things? It seems like yet another example of people in official roles working very hard to make it look like they are solving problems without actually having to solve any problems.
How humans learn best is no secret. The internet contains mountains of observations, opinions, and studies from teachers, education experts, and students of all subjects. If you’ve every successfully learned anything, you probably have a good idea about what worked and what didn’t. Little bites of information consistently over a period time is a common theme. Opportunity to try things, make mistakes, and try again also pops-up a lot. As well as having a safe and supportive environment to learn and grow in.
The same things plaguing society are also the things preventing our overall education system from providing a glorious learning environment to all students: we're running old protocols from a bygone era. When our current education system was designed, it was meant to produce factory workers. The world has since moved beyond the industrial revolution of the early 20th century, but our schools are the same. Wealthy and resourced districts can afford to work around the limitations of the current education system and provide actual education for the world of tomorrow. Schools under the thumb of poverty and racism aren't so lucky.
And we seem to be doing this to ourselves just about everywhere. We need to reshape cities to better manage the effects of hotter and longer-lasting heat waves. We need to restructure the global shipping industry to stop it continuously contributing significantly to climate change. We need a different kind of economy to equitably distribute the benefits of modern living to all people everywhere. And yet we continue perpetuating our current systems while we send delegates to conferences to sit around and talk about resolving the causes of climate change.
We're still cramming for the test because that's the system we continue to operate in. As a society we have not taken the time to craft new systems; we just keep patching-up the old ones and crossing our fingers. And we've been doing it for so long that all the patches are springing leaks. We're now so busy running from crisis to crisis it's hard to find the time to consider an alternate system. If we let more people from broader subsets of society work on the problems, I bet we could make some progress. But that requires the people in power give up the complete control they have enjoyed for a very long time.
We have more people from a greater variety of backgrounds on this planet today than when most governing bodies were established. To solve the big big problems we're all faced with, we need to hear from everyone. We need more people empowered to create change at every level from their local communities, to national governance, to the collaborative efforts of the whole world. Otherwise we're going to hop from crisis to crisis, cramming for each test as it arrives. Then we'll look back at our ruined, uninhabitable planet full of starving, dying, and diseased populations and not know how we got there.
Information and Inspiration
Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.