The American education system has become obsessed with standardized test scores, in the name of accountability and leaving no child behind. That makes “cram schools” inevitable. It also sucks all joy from the learning process.
I remember my public school experience and how we learned then. My best teacher—and one of my best friends to this day—was my senior English teacher, Mary Driscoll. When she taught us English literature, she also taught us what was going on in the world at the time a particular work was written. There was music and art from the period to establish the writer’s creative milieu and to put the piece in context. There is no way Mrs. D could do any of that today; she would be fired for incompetency.
Sure, we had a few standardized tests. I took the ACT and an advanced-placement English test. That’s it. I went on to glory in a liberal arts program at a state university and did fine…aced everything in my major but, more importantly, got a broad education in everything that matters to me now. My education informed my life and wasn’t some sort of ghastly exercise in rote learning or a fight to the death for a better score than the kid next to me.
As an evening tutor of sixth-graders, I saw many that had already taken the SAT and knew their scores. Every single child I taught was exhausted from heavy homework loads, multiple sports and other extra-curricular activities pushed upon them by their parents to pad their resumes. Even though most were from financially well-to-do families and were destined for fancy colleges and fabulous careers, I felt sorry for them. Still do.
Mrs. D didn’t just teach kids, she created teachers. I’m not sure what teachers today are allowed to create.