Thursday, August 29, 2013

Standardized Tests

Oh yes, standardized tests. I took them every year in Texas growing up, and though I've always done well on them, I've always despised them. Here's why as explained as succinctly as it can be, which simply made my day. This is from the book Gross National Happiness by Arthur C. Brooks.

The purpose of administering them, at least originally, was to see whether schools were providing an adequate education to the majority of their students. When the students at a particular school perform poorly, on average, the school faces sanctionsthus the teachers have incentives to "teach to the test," focusing on preparing students to take the test instead of teaching the content the test is supposed to measure.

In essence, the purpose of standardized tests is completely undermined by the resulting responses from administrators and teachers to improve scores. So even though standardized tests are implemented with good intentions to improve education, they actually have the opposite effect.

I watched this happen in my own schools.

I remember my freshman year English class, we spent countless days taking practice exams for the TAKS test. I hated that class. Besides it being unproductive and time-wasting, that kind of "learning" took all the fun out of education. I knew I wasn't absorbing anything useful or enlightening in that class. It was dull and monotonous to everyone, including the teacher, and so all joy of learning was sucked out of us. Standardized tests are probably the very reason I detested English so much, however good I was at it. I only learned to love English in collegeafter standardized tests no longer loomed over my teachers' heads and I was free to learn and therefore free to love to learn. In fact, my passion for English blossomed in college, and I ended up graduating with a major in English language and a minor in editing; I currently work as an editor.

Perhaps someday the gross irony we call standarized testing will be ripped away from our public schools. Until then, I suppose we can only do our best to nurture a love of learning in our children and teach them that intelligence and success is not defined by a test score.

Monday, August 5, 2013


Do you have relationships in which you feel taken advantage of? Do you feel resentful at times? Do you ever regret agreeing to things? Do you have long-time friends or family members who push your buttons, sometimes in ways you don't quite understand and have never confronted? Do you feel like all you do is give while others take from you? Do you need some of these relationships to change in your life?

You need to read Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

I finally finished it. Every chapter has something wonderful in it that helps you analyze and understand your own feelings in relationships and how to better those relationships, whether with a spouse, a child, a friend, a fellow church-goer, or a co-worker. Boundaries create the environment for healthy relationships and the opportunity for you to take responsibility for your own life. It also gives you the confidence to say no when you need to.

Trust me, it's worth the read!

Steam Powered Giraffe - Honeybee

I first saw this a week or two ago, and I thought it was super weird, but I liked the song and bought it. It's really grown on me, and I actually have come to love the music video too. Its robotic, steampunk-y mesmerizing, animatronic, pantomimey, melodic, tender wonderfulness just got to me.