BY EDEN FARBER / AJT //
Just how deep you’re part of the system becomes clear when you receive a text from the College Board wishing you luck on your exams.
Just to be clear, I’m probably cramming for the SATs as you read this column. I’m not proud of that, but I’ll be taking the exam soon and want to be prepared.
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Truth to tell, a lot of my time – also my peers – is devoted to memorizing strategies, reading passages and practicing filling in those little bubbles on the test. Okay, the bubble bit is a little overstated!
But as much as I’m learning from analyzing random paragraphs about ant farmers and sailors, what I’m learning from the SATs and what it says about life is much deeper. Basically, I’m learning how to judge myself.
I was talking to a good friend the other day, and we were discussing the upcoming exams. She said she wasn’t taking it in November because she wants to push off the stress – she just can’t handle it right now and is hopeful she can pull it together a few months down the road.
The saddest part of the conversation is that I knew exactly what she meant. In fact, I’m doing just the opposite of what she’s planning, but pretty much for the same reasons.
I’m traveling later in the year, so I don’t want the emotional and mental stress then. I’d rather take the test now when I can handle a little more anxiety than usual.
Recently I asked someone why I should even care about the SATs.
“Because you want to go to a good college,” they responded, “and have a good job, find a good spouse, and have a good life.”
Well, I must admit that all those things sound mighty nice. I’m not anti-good life, or anything. I just think we all may be going a bit too far with the “Good score = good life” idea.
I understand that I’m not exactly a perfect example to talk about the burdens of the American education system. I’m not in it, but that’s a story for another day.
I believe, however, that I could walk up to anyone my age in America and in five words or less learn their sleeping pattern, how much they believe in themselves, and what their parents’ expectations of them are.
The SATs aren’t just a test we take; they’re a measure we all hold ourselves to. Suddenly, many teens in America are judging themselves on the same meter, working on the same skill-development, and striving to reach the same numbers.
What strikes me as odd about that is that all the teens in America aren’t the same. So why are we trying to be?
It seems to me that no student in their junior year of high school is concerned whether or not their creativity is thriving, if they are feeling artistically enriched, or if they are learning things they are interested in.
It seems the only thing that matters right now is how we all do on the SATs.
Well, enough is enough. We can’t rest all of our life’s goals on the SAT exam – especially if it doesn’t test who we are as people. Let’s be human for a little while.
I’m not saying that while you’re reading this I’m not studying for the SATs; I most probably still am. I’m saying that we, the youth of America, have to remember that the system doesn’t define us.
About the writer
Atlanta’s Eden Farber, 16, was recognized in the Jewish Heritage National Poetry Contest of 2010 and has published op-eds and poetry in Modern Hippie Magazine and the NY Jewish Week’s Fresh Ink for Teens section.