Doubting Standardized Exams

I have never hidden my rather negative opinions towards standardized testing. I sincerely believe they are a useless tool in education, as they fail to induce the hunger to learn everything that can be understood, and rather coerce students into chasing after grades. This is a problem for several reasons, which I will attempt to elaborate further below. My main points of argument will focus on the effects of positive—the A’s and B’s—and negative—D’s and lower—scores. As each of them have contrasting impacts that are respectively useful and utterly disruptive.

Standardized exams have been an educational tool in Indonesia since 1969, switching its name a few times after its conception. At first it seems to be quite an invaluable tool, as it allows educators to quickly evaluate the capabilities of the plethora of students present in this growing nation—which, of course is no easy task. However, as time goes on, the value of this academic instrument have continued to lessen more and more. Perhaps even to the point that it has become nearly useless or at worst harmful to the development of pupils. To arrive at this rather blunt conclusion, we must firstly assess the repercussions of utilizing standardized testing. With the starting point of asking “why should anyone go to school?” To know whatever we wish to know, or to simply look for the highest points attainable? Let us answer these inquiries with hopefully satisfying responses.

The idealistic vision of establishing schools is to educate the general population. To teach them how to read, write, understand the universe via both the natural and social sciences. This purpose of course means that a pupil should attend his classes because of a desire to comprehend all that happens around him, and maybe affect the status quo of his area of interest. Hence, educational facilities should seek to engross students with the subjects they’re offering, pique their curiosity through any method available, but this effort falls flat with the advent of standardized testing.

One of the cruxes of the issue with standardized testing, is that it fails to give constructive criticism towards students. A pupil would get his scores, sometimes not knowing where, how, and why he got things wrong, thus forcing him to somewhat blindly guide himself through the next exams on his list. This is not how education is supposed to work.

Learning is a process, and one of its most crucial components to be truly effective is by allowing students to learn from their mistakes; by showing them how to perform better, illustrating comprehensively the errors and successes they’ve made, alongside granting them hope that they can always do better as long as they keep trying and keep their past experiences in mind. When a test paper comes back with just a mark and corrections without explanations, then said student would be left bewildered and likely ascribe himself as someone who is academically problematic, without knowing why he met such a hurdle. Moreover, there would likely be very few—as far as my personal experiences tell me—people who could hold on to hope that seems to be getting ever smaller, as the low scores keep on pouring in without them understanding exactly why they perform so poorly.

Then come the ‘grade-chasers’. At first, this category of students seems harmless and could be the justification of standardized testing. However, when we look deeper into their motivations we would begin to notice that they are not at school entirely to learn (in the strictest sense of the word). Instead, what they look for is prestige, glory, anything which might allow them to harvest the respect of their peers and the approval of their caretakers plus educators.

From what I’ve seen, there are obviously plenty of those belonging in the group of grade-chasers who are unquestionably bright. They grasp complex theories quickly, memorize the important events and dates of history, generally being model students. And they benefit from nearly continuous positive reinforcement, a much better alternative to the negative version. However, one should not judge another to be intelligent on the basis of a sparkling report card.

Why I nicknamed these individuals as grade-chasers is basically because that is what they are. They might have a sense of wonder and a need to explore the various postulations conjured up by scholars, but their central objective is to always strive for the highest scores achievable. Which means if the need arises, they will not hunt for understanding, but basic memorization no matter what the subject might be. In other words, learning becomes a second priority, while arbitrary marks are launched upwards in terms of significance.

Thus a question arises, “are these students truly as intelligent as their grades say they are, or are they merely adept at following the dogmas of formal education?” It is difficult to give a satisfying answer to this query, as I have seen graduates of well-respected high-schools  either struggle deeply or succeed effortlessly in their universities. What we can take from that admittedly limited observation though, is that getting good grades at school guarantees nothing in the higher-levels of education.

Standardized testing ruins countless opportunities to urge students into becoming more than what they perceive themselves to be. It reduces them into cogs that have no other purpose in school other than to get better and better scores. While what they should be doing is explore whatever subject interests them, delve as deep as they can into it, make mistakes and learn how not to repeat them, all the while having a sense of progress toward their hopes and dreams. With standardized exams, where they are hindered from all these wonderful constituents of learning, the ideal purpose of education becomes blurred.

We as a society must find an alternative to standardized testing. Let the younger generations and the next study for the sake of studying; seeking knowledge because they wish to do so, not due to reasons as insignificant as praying for falsely encouraging arbitrary letters and numbers. One does not need to be a jack-of-all-trades to succeed, he simply needs to know his talents and amplify them as best as he can.

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Bastardizing Feminism

There is one question I wish to ask, “what is the first thing that comes to mind when one hears of the term ‘Feminism’”? Is it the image of women demanding their rights to vote, to have careers of their own, to learn whatever they so wish and suchlike things or something else entirely? Perhaps what pops up in our heads are the endless posts on social media that proclaim how women are always right, that women are superior to men, basically amounts of ceaseless arguments about how the gentler sex are superior to their masculine counterpart. It goes without saying, to anyone with a clue about what Feminism actually is, that the authors/posters/whatever-they-are’s of the latter category have pretty much missed the entire point of the Feminist ideology. For the purpose of conjuring up Feminism in the first place is not to displace men, to overthrow one gender for another; rather its central goal is to establish equality amongst the two disparate groups.

It is a bitter truth of humanity’s history, that womenkind have been oppressed by the patriarchy of men. Why such a thing could happen remains debatable. Some theorize that the oppression stemmed from men’s luck of not having to be pregnant, thus allowing them to continuously hunt, battle, and do all sorts of activities that raise one’s prestige. The more sexist of these theorists—if we were willing to grant them such a title—suggests that females are inherently inferior and thus should bow down to the superiority of men; these people should of course be ignored, for reasons as simplistic as common sense. Regardless of the root cause(s) of how and why women were, and in most parts of the world still are repressed, we must accept that this revolting phenomena persists to this day and that it needs to be eliminated. However we must never use them as justifications for deepening the chasms between genders in favor of the feminine, though there are tempting reasons to do so.

Even in states as developed as the United States of America, the average woman’s salary is considerably lower than the men who hold the same positions as her. In Middle-Eastern nations, the rampancy of abuses towards women, from rape, “honor” killings, and so forth are not out of the ordinary. In India, one of the fastest developing economies on the planet, forced marriages are still a daily occurrence. And not so long ago, my home, Indonesia, authorized the marriage of an Imam with a girl still younger than fifteen. These are all atrocities, and they barely scrape the surface of what men have done to women in the millennia we have coexisted. Though again, I must reiterate that these crimes should not prompt anyone to seek vengeance either through expanding and/or reorienting the gender gap.

Men and women are inherently different, from biological and maybe even psychological attributes, it is of necessity to treat them equally. Not in the sense of bastardized Feminism, where men need to be thrown under buses and such, but with the very definition of the word ‘equal’ as advocated by true Feminists. Which, dictates that all woman, child, and yes men, or those pertaining to any other categories should never be treated differently based on the traits they were born with—or whatever other factors that fall outside of their control. Of course, this view is not applicable to the disabled or mentally handicapped, and that pretty much goes without saying. Hence, Feminists did not declare that women should hold stations above men without question. They sought a meritocratic society, where all of humanity are evaluated based on their talents, abilities, as well as any quality we could attain after we’ve arrived on this Earth.

What “Tumblr Feminists” desire is the exact opposite of the noble objective to finally bring about an egalitarian utopia. Instead, they tarnish this aim with random demands with the intent of initiating feminine superiority; a repeat of what men did and are still doing. Rants on why women should hold positions of power at all times, that women can do no wrong, the list of idiocies go on and on. Replace the word “women” with “men” and it’s really just classic sexism. Ergo, it is of utmost necessity to salvage the stature of Feminism, for its utter usefulness in social justice and academics, to put a stop to the raving, sexist mob undeserving of the title “Feminist.”

There is much work to be done for actual Feminists. As peaceful as the world is today, sex-related crimes have not yet faded away. Women are treated unfairly in the workplace and sometimes in their own homes. In certain societies, they are perceived as nothing more than objects for men to enjoy. These are the wrongs that need to be rectified, by both men and women. Feminism is one of the most powerful tools we have to combat these injustices. We must not lose it, especially by letting the faith of the public waver simply because certain groups keep on preaching of the superiority of females—a severe detraction of Feminism’s ideals.

Preserve the integrity of Feminism. It has done such wonders as ushering in voting rights for women, creating a new class of people who do not devalue themselves into obedient housewives, push countless men into—at long last—acknowledging that the two sexes are equal. Remind ourselves that Feminism does not proclaim the eminence of females alone, but all of humanity, and that its aspiration is to haul each and every disenfranchised persons out of the socio-economic pits they’ve found themselves in.