11th Grade, Cooper Yeshiva High School for Boys
A Flawed System
“Five minutes remaining.” My heart begins to pound. I hear the clock ticking. Ticktock, ticktock, ticktock. I read over number 21. ‘I have four more questions left after this.’ ‘What if I don’t finish?’ ‘What if I don’t do well?’ These thoughts fill my head, distracting me from the question I’m so desperately attempting to answer. I take a deep breath: In, out. In, out. In, out. Finally, I zone in and push out 5 more answers before time is called. By this time, my brain is begging me to shut it down-I’m fried.
“Turn to the next section, read the instructions, and begin.” So much for shutting my brain down.
I suffer through two more grueling sections, somehow confidently answering each question. I walk out of the testing room and I’m overcome with an epiphany. We’re taught to believe that the SAT can determine your future, but I think that’s bologna. Only you determine your future. The simple fact that our future in college, our future in life, largely depends on one, three hour test makes me question why I even want to go to college. Why would I want to be a part of a system like that? It’s simply impossible to base someone’s academic abilities off of one pressure-filled, miserable day.
Here’s the perfect example. Last year, Rabbi Perl wrote a piece in the weekly newsletter about a young woman with a stellar GPA, amazing extra curricular activities to boast, and all around classiness. Her dream was to get into an Ivy League college; the only thing holding her back was her inability to perform on SAT testing day. This stirred thoughts in my head. College isn’t a sprint. You don’t go for one year and get a speed course on how to succeed in life. College is a process. It’s a leisurely stroll. College is four years so that you can stretch out the intake of a ridiculous amount of knowledge, hoping to retain half of what you learn, if you’re lucky. The SAT does not reflect one’s ability to understand and retain information. The SAT is a sprint. The SAT asks one to access everything they’ve learned in their multiple years of schooling and put that to use, all in thirty minutes or less. Is it okay to teach the next generation that everything needs to be rushed? That you don’t have to worry about enjoying your academic experience, you just have to suffer until you make it?
“Funny the way it is, if you think about it, one kid walks ten miles to school, another’s dropping out.” As Dave Matthews so powerfully summed up in his song “Funny the Way it is,” the reality of the academic system is that dropout rates are far higher than they should be (they should be zero). The world is slowly becoming a free for all. How can we teach today’s youth that not everything in life is a competition? There may be methods, but the SAT certainly isn’t one. The SAT is like throwing a piece of deer meat into a cave full of lions. Everyone scrambles to get the meat, leaving the others dead. Sometimes the good ones end up dying. The ones who enjoyed their courses, who wanted to learn. You see, the passion for knowledge is slowly dying. Schools no longer teach to spark a love for the infinite knowledge that is attainable in life; they teach to keep their stats high. They teach to prepare us for one stupid test that, unfortunately, will determine the rest of our lives. Where will this take us in fifty years?
We’re headed downhill, ladies and gentlemen. A change needs to come fast.
This piece originally appeared in the CYHSB Weekly newsletter