+
Most Shared

How I learned from my sister that standardized tests have nothing to do with real life.

My delightful sister, Annie — the Queen of Seeing Through B.S. — posted this image on Facebook the other day:

Image provided by Ben Thomas, used with permission.


Leaving aside what you may or may not like about this image itself, it made me wonder:

What do standardized tests actually tell us?

Here’s what my sister — who is now 28 —  says:

"Dear 16-year-old Annie, you suck at standardized tests. In 10 years, no one will care, and your path in life will have nothing to do with your SAT score. Get graded now, and prove them wrong later."

Go, Annie.

My sister was always the social one.

While I was in my room with books as a kid, she was in hers with clothes in front of the mirror. When I was 12, I thought she was vapid and shallow.

What I didn’t realize is that she was systematically hypothesizing, testing, and analyzing what the Italians call la bella figura — the way she would present herself to the world. Her personal brand. She was doing this when she was 8. Younger, even.

Meanwhile, I invented imaginary continents, drew imaginary maps of them, populated them with imaginary cities full of imaginary people whose clothes and weapons I also drew, with elaborate ecosystems of fictional creatures whose life cycles I documented with all the loving detail of a field biologist.

Our home was 20 miles from the nearest significant town, and we were homeschooled.

We lived in a place called Wayside, Texas — except that there was no more Wayside, Texas. People abandoned the town back in the 1970s, leaving a dried-up ruin of concrete foundations and artifacts on which our brand-new house sat.

My hometown. Image provided by Ben Thomas, used with permission.

I used to have nightmares about running across those flat plains forever, getting nowhere. Sometimes I still have those dreams.

Every morning I’d wake up, microwave something for breakfast, and look over the index card that my mom had prepared with my assignments for the day: "Do math lesson 34. Do exercises 171 to 175 in English workbook. Read pp. 471–503 of history book."

12-year-old me would brew a nice cup of green tea and get down to business. Three or four hours later I’d be done, and I’d spend the rest of the afternoon designing my own role-playing games or digging up the archaeological ruins on our property or trying to learn to code in C++. Or watching music videos.

Annie on the other hand — let’s put the cards on the table: I thought she was dumb.

All day, she’d sit there with Mom, talking about her schoolwork.

She actually, physically asked questions when it was so much easier and faster to ask a book or the internet — not to mention that with books and the internet, you had direct access to the accumulated knowledge of 5,000 years of human memory. When you talked to Mom, you had access to — well — Mom. Annie also got very stressed when she had to take an exam.

This was another reason I thought Annie was dumb:

To achieve a "100" on an exam, I knew, all one had to do was create simple mnemonics, memorize the necessary information, then select the right answers on the exam. Or if it was an essay exam, just write the author’s arguments back to him or her in a slightly altered way. Simple. Like baking cookies.

Annie would cry about her exams, and I’d go up to my room, cranking up the Weezer or Chopin . I was certain nothing of value was transpiring in that pink, bookless wasteland of her room. She had so many stuffed animals they couldn’t fit on the bed.

Image via gfpeck/Flickr.

Now, everyone knows that when a kid arrays her stuffed animals on her bed and conducts a parliament with them, this is more than just play. This is the development of an important technology: the ability to infuse inanimate objects with aspects of one’s own consciousness, then interact with them to talk out a problem, wage battle among conflicting thought processes, or just shoot the shit with oneself. This process requires physical objects to which the consciousness-aspects can be assigned — it can’t be achieved within one’s own mind.

Thus, stuffed animals, dolls, action figures, fetishes, graven images and idols — they’re  all essential tools for a person trying to work something out. Clothes can work that way too; the trying on of different personas. But I just didn’t see it that way then.

At some point in all this, Annie and I both took our standardized tests.

In America they call it the SAT, but it's basically the same everywhere: battalions of tiny ovals on white pages, questions about "If A is to B as B is to C, then what is the relationship of C to A?" and "Would you say this passage is more perspicacious or percipient?" and "If George the intern deposits $3,750 in his account, and that’s 25% of his intern salary, then how much is his monthly pay?"

Monsters is what they are.

Image via Butz.2013/Flickr.

Every kid fears them. Except for me for some reason. I asked Mom if I could take them early. She said, "Sure, why not." I took the SAT — which you take when you graduate high school — at age 12 and scored high enough to get into a university right then. I asked Mom if that meant I could skip the rest of school and go straight to a university. She said, "No, you are not going to a university at age 12." I was too angry to see the wisdom there.

Annie put her SAT off as long as she could.

She did not enjoy the exam nor was she especially proud of her scores. But she scored well enough to get into a respectable university, where she studied brand communications and marketing and social dynamics and all the stuff she always played at up in her room in front of that mirror.

She went to Manhattan to be an actress for a while, got a lot of roles but wasn’t into it, came back to Texas, bounced from one job to another, fell in love, bought a house, adopted a diverse cast of dogs, and found her way to a laid-back desk job where she feels at home.

As for me, I lost patience at age 16.

I typed up a five-page proposal in which I detailed the reasons I should be allowed to skip the rest of high school and go to a university. I presented binders containing this proposal to my parents, who caved.

Image via State Farm/Flickr.

I was the only 16-year-old freshman at Texas Tech University. The university paper did a feature about me. I studied Latin and spent most of my time in the university’s five-story library, which was my favorite place in the world. I didn’t really have any friends. Sometimes people let me hang out with them. Mostly I hung out in the library. Or in my room at my parents’ house after the 20-mile drive home.

When I was 17, I talked my parents into letting me drop out of the classics program at Texas Tech so I could go study film in Los Angeles.

A lot happened after that: I worked as a courier, and a receptionist, and a mailroom guy, and a checkout guy, and a mailroom guy again, and a government-check-collector for a few months when medical marijuana had just become legal, and holy cow, did I get good at Starcraft.

Somewhere in there, though, a realization was forming: What the people with money actually want is skills.

Image via Fredrik Rubensson/Flickr.

Like, oh my god, it’s all about the actual practical ability to do useful things for other human beings!

And as for the ability to pencil in little ovals on a sheet of cardstock that corresponds to accurately constructed metaphors and vocabulary definitions …

Well, the only guarantee for that ability is that it promises you a place using those same skills somewhere else, filling out similar little cards behind a desk in a little red building.

All it guarantees is a place where, if you’re lucky, some kid might dig those cards up from under the West Texas dirt someday and squint at the markings on them under the summer sun and wonder just what in the hell those little slips of paper were for anyway.

Pop Culture

One moment in history shot Tracy Chapman to music stardom. Watch it now.

She captivated millions with nothing but her guitar and an iconic voice.

Imagine being in the crowd and hearing "Fast Car" for the first time

While a catchy hook might make a song go viral, very few songs create such a unifying impact that they achieve timeless resonance. Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” is one of those songs.

So much courage and raw honesty is packed into the lyrics, only to be elevated by Chapman’s signature androgynous and soulful voice. Imagine being in the crowd and seeing her as a relatively unknown talent and hearing that song for the first time. Would you instantly recognize that you were witnessing a pivotal moment in musical history?

For concert goers at Wembley Stadium in the late 80s, this was the scenario.

Keep ReadingShow less

Tater Tots, fresh out of the oven.

It’s hard to imagine growing up in America without Tater Tots. They are one of the most popular kiddie foods, right up there with chicken nuggets, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and macaroni and cheese. The funny thing is the only reason Tater Tots exist is that their creators needed something to do with leftover food waste.

The Tater Tot is the brainchild of two Mormon brothers, F. Nephi and Golden Grigg, who started a factory on the Oregon-Idaho border that they appropriately named Ore-Ida. The brothers started the factory in 1951 after being convinced that frozen foods were the next big thing.

According to Eater, between 1945 and 1946, Americans bought 800 million pounds of frozen food.

Keep ReadingShow less
Internet

Relationship expert tells people to never get married unless you're willing to do 3 things

"If you and your partner (both) are unable or unwilling to do these 3 things consistently forever, you won’t make it."

Relationship expert gives people advice on getting married.

Being in a relationship can be difficult at times. Learning someone else's quirks, boundaries, and deep views on the world can be eye-opening and hard. But usually, the happy chemicals released in our brain when we love someone can cause us to overlook things in order to keep the peace.

Jayson Gaddis, a relationship expert, took to Twitter to rip off people's rose-colored glasses and tell them to forego marriage. Honestly, with the divorce rate in this country being as high as it is, he probably could've stopped his tweet right there. Don't get married, the end. Many people would've probably related and not questioned the bold statement, but thankfully he followed up with three things you must be willing to do before going to the chapel.

Before going into his reasons for why he tells people not to get married, Gaddis explained that he is a person that "LOVEs being married." I mean, it would probably make him a pretty weird relationship expert if he hated relationships, so it's probably a good thing he enjoys being married. Surely his spouse appreciates his stance as well.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

Developmental scientist shared her 'anti-parenting advice' and parents are relieved

In a viral Twitter thread, Dorsa Amir addresses the "extreme pressure put on parents in the West."

Photo by kabita Darlami on Unsplash, @DorsaAmir/Twitter

Parents, maybe give yourselves a break

For every grain of sand on all the world’s beaches, for every star in the known universe…there is a piece well intentioned, but possibly stress-inducing parenting advice.

Whether it’s the astounding amount of hidden dangers that parents might be unwittingly exposing their child to, or the myriad ways they might be missing on maximizing every moment of interaction, the internet is teeming with so much information that it can be impossible for parents to feel like they’re doing enough to protect and nurture their kids.

However, developmental scientist and mom Dorsa Amir has a bit of “anti-parenting advice” that help parents worry a little less about how they’re measuring up.

First and foremost—not everything has to be a learning opportunity. Honestly, this wisdom also applies to adults who feel the need to be consistently productive…raises hand while doing taxes and listening to a podcast on personal development
Keep ReadingShow less

A guy with road rage screaming out of his car.

A psychologist who’s an expert in narcissism has released a telling video that reveals one of the red flags of the disorder, being an erratic driver.

"Most people, when they tell the story backwards of a narcissistic relationship, are able to see the red flags very clearly,” Dr. Ramani said in her video. “However, seeing them forwards isn't hard. But if you see them too late, it means you've already been through the narcissistic relationship, you're devastated and have likely wasted a lot of time."

Dr. Ramani Durvasula is a licensed clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, Professor Emerita of Psychology at California State University and author of several books, including “Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving A Relationship with a Narcissist.”

Keep ReadingShow less
www.youtube.com

Man hailed 'Highway Hero' for running across four lanes of traffic

Holy cow, Bat Man! You're always supposed to be aware of other vehicles when you're driving but what do you do when you notice someone has lost consciousness while speeding down the highway?

It's a scenario that no one wants to see play out, but for Adolfo Molina, the scenario became reality and he didn't hesitate to spring into action. Molina was driving down the highway when he spotted a woman in a blue car who lost consciousness as her car careened down the shoulder of the highway. The concerned driver quickly pulled over in order to attempt to rescue the woman.

But there was a problem, he had to cross four lanes of traffic on the highway just to make it to the woman's still moving car. That obstacle didn't stop him. Molina sprinted across the highway, crossing right in front of a black pick up truck before running at full speed to attempt to open the woman's door and stop her car.

Keep ReadingShow less