Tuesday, May 09, 2006
posted by Q6 at 11:15 PM
You wanna see the youth of today at their best? Proctor an AP exam and you'll see why the future is gonna be pretty screwed up.

Taking an AP test is supposed to be this big deal: a mountaintop experience for high school students who have slaved in college-level courses--many of them in more than one such class. They are supposed to represent the elite of a school's student body, the tip of the spear. They are supposed to be dedicated, committed, and deadly serious about what they're doing. So you can understand my frustration when they treat the test experience itself like a frat party, obeying only those laws which cannot be circumvented or ignored (the law of gravity, for example).

By the time I'm picking up their answer sheets, they've been told THREE TIMES that they are not to discuss the test with anyone--not teachers, not other students, not the media, not small animals. While I'm picking up their answer sheets, they blurt things out like, "Man, could you believe those questions about gravity?" After enduring this for two days, I finally looked at a kid with my sharpest disciplinary glare and said, "Are you seriously discussing the test questions with other students after being told not to? Are you seriously doing it while students still have test materials on their desks? Are you seriously doing it with me standing sixteen inches from you? And do you realize that if I write it up, everyone's test score gets invalidated??" I gotta tell you: throw one out like that, and the room goes completely silent. Mausoleums aren't that quiet in the dead of night.

I recently read Dan Brown's Angels and Demons, a book I quite enjoyed (you know someone enjoys a book when they rip through 710 pages in two days). A lot of it takes place in the Vatican, where the priests and cardinals are following very strict Catholic doctrine to the letter (except for the bad guys), and where the Swiss Guard are doing their jobs with a seriousness that makes the U.S. Marines look like a Marx Brothers movie. So when I see people slacking off when they should be honed to a razor-sharp edge, I get pissed. And ALL of the tests have been like this.

So I go back to a point made in an earlier blog, in which I was asked what I would do differently with next year's AP tests: I would ask the teachers to not only prepare these kids for the exams, but I would also ask them to teach these kids HOW to take these exams--seriously.