I hate standardized testing. Not, like, I have some great philosophical challenge to it; I don’t have an opinion on it’s effectiveness in education one way or another. I mean that, as a student, standardized testing suuuuuucked. Sitting in the school cafeteria (or, later, home room) with your No. 2 pencils and Scantron sheets probably bought as surplus from the Apollo program circa 1970, the stale smell of recycled wood pulp as you turned the pages of the test booklet, the combined thrill-fear when doodling on the page that boldly exclaimed DO NOT WRITE ON THIS PAGE.
When I was in elementary school I may have taken these tests seriously, because the Vice Principal would give this rah-rah speech about how “this test is important, etcetera” (but much like a microcosm of American democracy, in hindsight you realize the Vice Principal did the jobs that needed a veil of authority but weren’t really important enough for the Principal to handle). In high school, as they handed out the booklets for the test (the Forward Exam, or whatever it was called back then) they also gave each student a slip of paper, with a typed message that read something like this:
“In a hundred years it won’t matter what kind of job you had, or the car you drove, or the house you lived in… BUT IT WILL MATTER THAT YOU TOOK THE FORWARD EXAM.”
That memory stands out to me because, even as a stupid Sophomore, I read that slip of paper and thought to myself what a load of horseshit.
Since then I’ve had different jobs, and driven different cars, and lived in different houses. I’ve also stood along different trout streams and dipped my feet into the edges of different ponds and lakes and cast different rods and lost plenty of different flies in different types of trees. I hope only one of those things will still matter a hundred years from now. It’s the reason I invest so much of time with Trout Unlimited, and supporting other conservation groups along the way.
If in a hundred years, a different kid, with a different rod, can sit along the same stream, and still catch the same fish that I do today… then everything that I ‘m doing now with have mattered.