When a poet can't answer standardized test questions about her own poems, kids are screwed.

This poet's struggle with test questions analyzing her work verifies what many of us have long suspected.

For the record, I enjoy literary analysis. In fact, I loved studying literature and poetry in school so much that I became an English teacher myself.

However, there are elements of such studies that have never sat well with me.


Most of us learned to dissect poems and pick apart novels to find hidden meanings, process metaphors, and search for an author's intent and purpose in their work. And at some point, most of us have probably questioned whether or not those authors would agree with our overwrought assessments. Even I—someone who enjoys such analyses and have taught kids to do them—have wondered whether we sometimes push it too far.

TL; DR: Maybe our over-analysis of poetry and literature is kinda bunk.

Kids can develop valuable critical thinking skills through such exercises, but we veer toward the cliff when we start assigning correct and incorrect answers to them. Exploring different interpretations of a written work is one thing. Assigning a specific intent to a writer as if it's indisputable fact is entirely another—which is where the problem of standardized tests comes in.

Poet Sara Holbrook has had her poems analyzed not once, but twice, on standardized tests. She says it's b.s.

In 2017, Holbrook wrote an article for the HuffPost about her experience trying to answer questions about two of her poems that had shown up on a Texas standardized test.

One test question asked why she, the poet, had separated one of the poems into two stanzas. There were two major problems with the question: 1) The test makers mistakenly printed the poem without the stanza break, so there weren't two stanzas shown. And 2) None of the given answers were the actual reason Holbrook created a stanza break. She's a performance poet and she put the break where she paused when reciting the poem aloud. But no one asked her for her reasoning, and the real answer was not one of the test question options.

Another question asked why Holbrook used a certain simile. In answering the question herself, Holbrook says three of the four answers are correct—but only one is considered the right answer for the test makers.

This year, Holbrook faces yet another standardized test conundrum. In test prep materials from Mentoring Minds, LP, her 40-word poem titled "Walking on the Boundaries of Change" has a whopping eight questions associated with it.

Peter Greene, who interviewed Holbrook for Forbes and has seen the test prep booklet, wrote, "once again, the questions turn on the issue of word choice, central message, and which part of the poem does things 'best,' all of which hinge on the test taker's interpretation of the poet's intent. And all are multiple choice questions with four possible answers, the kind of test structure that, Holbrook says, causes 'students to grow up believing the right interpretation of anything is out there on the internet, and to discredit their own thoughts.'"

How are kids supposed to stand a chance in this reality? How does a love of literature survive such a boxing in?

Holbrook advises that educators and parents stop putting any stock in the "nonsense" these tests perpetuate.

Standardized tests can be appropriate measurement tools for objective knowledge, such as math or science or the structure of language. But the craft of writing does not lend itself well to right or wrong, one-correct-answer assessments—especially when they try to assume a writer's intent without even consulting the writer themselves.

Such tests can cause real harm to kids, especially—and perhaps ironically—those who instinctively understand the nuances and intricacies of poetry and literature. These tests are a quick way to suck the love of learning right out of intelligent, thinking students.

Holbrook told Greene that there are several solutions to this issue:

"Parents, demand to see the test prep materials. Teachers, don't waste time on test prep: you can't teach nonsense. Administrators, take the money you are spending on test prep and spend it on classroom libraries instead. There are no quick fixes. Kids need to read and write voluminously...If a bike helmet fails to protect a child from injury, consumers can sue the manufacturer. These tests are injurious, but shrouded in secrecy and thereby beyond the reach of most teachers and all parents."

As Holbrook wrote in her HuffPost article:

"The only way to stop this nonsense is for parents to stand up and say, no more. No more will I let my kid be judged by random questions scored by slackers from Craigslist while I pay increased taxes for results that could just as easily have been predicted by an algorithm. That’s not education, that’s idiotic."

As an educator, a parent, and a lover of the written word, I 100% agree.

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We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

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Like millions of others, I tuned in last night to watch Oprah Winfrey's interview with (former) Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Although watching "The Crown" has admittedly piqued my curiosity about the Royal Family, I've never had any particular interest in following the drama in real life. As inconsequential as the un-royaling of Harry and Meghan is to me personally, it's a historically and socially significant development.

The story touches so many hot buttons at once—power, wealth, tradition, sexism, racism, colonialism, family drama, freedom, security, and the media. But as I sat and watched the first hour of just Oprah and Meghan Markle talking, I was struck by the simple significance of what I was seeing.

Here were two Black women, one who had battled sexism and racism in her industry and broke countless barriers to create her own empire, and one who has battled racism and sexism to protect her babies, whose royal lineage can be traced back through 1,200 years of rule over the British Empire. And the conversation these women were having had the power to take down—or at least do real damage to—one of the longest-standing monarchies in the world.

Whoa.

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Tory Burch

Courtesy of Tory Burch

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This March marks one year since the start of the pandemic… and it's been an incredibly difficult year: Over 500,000 people have died and hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs. But the pandemic's economic downturn has been disproportionately affecting women because they are more likely to work in hard-hit industries, such as hospitality or entertainment, and many of them have been forced to leave their jobs due to the lack of childcare.

But throughout all that hardship, women have, over and over again, found ways to help one another and solve problems.

"Around the world, women have stepped up and found ways to help where it is needed most," says Tory Burch, an entrepreneur who started her own business in 2004.

Burch knows a thing or two about empowering women: After seeing the many obstacles that women in business face — even before the pandemic — she created the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009 to empower women entrepreneurs.

And now, for International Women's Day, her company is launching a global campaign with Upworthy to celebrate the women around the world who give back and create real change in their communities.

"I hope the creativity and resilience of these women, and the amazing ways they have found to have real impact, will inspire and energize others as much as they have me," Burch says.

This year's Empowered Women certainly are inspiring:

Shalini SamtaniCourtesy of Shalini Samtani

Take, for example, Shalini Samtani. When her daughter was diagnosed with a rare immune disorder, she spent a lot of time in the hospital, which caused her to quickly realize that there wasn't a single company in the toy industry servicing the physical or emotional needs of the 3 million hospitalized children across America every year. She was determined to change that — so she created The Spread the Joy Foundation to deliver free play kits to pediatric patients all around the country.

Varsha YajmanCourtesy of Varsha Yajman

Varsha Yajman is another one of this year's nominees. She is just 18 years old, and yet she has been diligently fighting to build awareness and action for climate justice for the last seven years by leading school strikes, working as a paralegal with Equity Generations Lawyers, and speaking to CEOs from Siemen's and several big Australian banks at AGMs.

Caitlin MurphyCourtesy of Caitlin Murphy

Caitlin Murphy, meanwhile, stepped up in a big way during the pandemic by pivoting her business — Global Gateway Logistics — to secure and transport over 2 million masks to hospitals and senior care facilities across the country. She also created the Gateway for Good program, which purchased and donated 10,000 KN95 masks for local small businesses, charities, cancer patients and their families, immunocompromised, and churches in the area.

Simone GordonCourtesy of Simone Gordon

Simone Gordon, a domestic violence survivor and single mom, wanted to pay it forward after she received help getting essentials and tuition assistance — so she created the Instagram account @TheBlackFairyGodMotherOfficial and nonprofit to provide direct assistance to families in need. During the pandemic alone, they have raised over $50,000 for families and they have provided emergency assistance — in the form of groceries — for numerous women and families of color.

Victoria SanusiCourtesy of Victoria Sanusi

Victoria Sanusi started Black Gals Livin' with her friend Jas and the podcast has been an incredibly powerful way of destigmatizing mental health for numerous listeners. The podcast quickly surpassed a million listens, was featured on Michaela Coel's "I May Destroy You," won podcast of the year at the Brown Sugar Awards, and was named one of Elle Magazine's best podcasts of 2020.

And Upworthy and the Tory Burch are just getting started. They are still searching the globe for more extraordinary women who are making an impact in their communities.

Do you know one? If you do, nominate her now. If she's selected, she could receive $5,000 to give to a nonprofit of her choice through the Tory Burch Foundation. Submissions are being accepted on a rolling basis — and one Empowered woman will be selected each month starting in April.

Nominate her now at www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen.

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When 59 children died on Christmas Eve 1913, the world cried with the town of Calumet, Michigan.

Woody Guthrie sang about this little-known piece of history.

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AFL Labor Mini Series

A one-man drill operation

In July 1913, over 7,000 miners struck the C&H Copper Mining Company in Calumet, Michigan. It was largely the usual issues of people who worked for a big company during a time when capitalists ran roughshod over their workers — a time when monopolies were a way of life. Strikers' demands included pay raises, an end to child labor, and safer conditions including an end to one-man drill operations, as well as support beams in the mines (which mine owners didn't want because support beams were costly but miners killed in cave-ins “do not cost us anything.")

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Few child actors ever get to star in an award-winning film, much less win a prestigious award for their performance. That fact appeared to hit home for 8-year-old Alan Kim, as he broke down in tears accepting his Critics' Choice Award for Best Young Actor/Actress, making for one of the sweetest moments in awards show history.

Kim showed up to the awards (virtually, of course) decked out in a tuxedo, and his parents had even laid out a red carpet in their entryway to give him a taste of the real awards show experience. When his name was announced as the Critics' Choice winner for his role in the film "Minari," his reaction was priceless.

Grinning from ear to ear, Kim started off his acceptance speech by thanking "the critics who voted" and his family. But as soon as he started naming his family members, he burst into tears. "Oh my goodness, I'm crying," he said. Through sobs, he kept going with his list, naming members of the cast, the production company, and the crew that worked on the film.

"I hope I will be in other movies," he added. Then, the cutest—he pinched his own cheeks and asked, "Is this a dream? I hope it's not a dream."

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