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Opinion: Let’s turn the tables on useless tests

Should+politicians+take+competency+tests%3F+Opinion+writer+Isabella+Garcia+says+there+are+better+ways+to+utilize+standardized+tests+than+just+torturing+students.%26%23160%3B
Graphic by Corynn Young

Should politicians take competency tests? Opinion writer Isabella Garcia says there are better ways to utilize standardized tests than just torturing students. 

Halloween sure came quickly, but let’s be honest: nothing is scarier than exams.

As a teaching assistant, I’ve been able to see firsthand how the horror of exams has pushed unprepared students to do anything in the hopes of partial credit. The most common are the ones who will randomly start multiplying numbers together; their own kind of “spray and pray.” The repeated “I’m so sorry” and “Absolutely no idea” certainly gave me a laugh, but they only get partial pity points for originality. My personal favorite has to be the one exam I graded that was left completely blank — except for their name, of course. But hey, at least they got their section number right.

In high school, it’s AP tests. In college, it’s finals. Either way, both consist of regurgitating completely useless facts instead of actually learning real-life skills. No, I don’t really know how I’m supposed to get insurance or open a bank account, but the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. This high-stakes testing culture of the U.S. education system fosters a mode of instruction that fails to engage students at the cost of high-quality learning.

In light of these entertaining but slightly concerning observations, I began to wonder if we weren’t using testing to its greatest advantage. Here are some suggestions:

Politicians should be required to pass a competency test

It’s no secret that our dear President Joe Biden has received an extraordinary amount of criticism for his old age.

Upon typing “Biden forgetting things” into a search engine, the top results are endless headlines such as “Joe Biden completely forgets what he’s talking about and mumbles incoherently at camera in excruciating press conference,” “Biden ‘Forgets’ Ireland,” “Joe Biden forgets what year it is” and “Joe Biden Forgets Where His Grandkids Live.” You guys, I’ve watched the clips. They’re not joking.

This, coupled with 77% of Americans saying Biden is too old to run for office again, has led many to wonder if an age limit should be set on our politicians. However, there are several problems with this. Not only does it neglect that people begin mentally declining at different ages for various reasons, but it also doesn’t address the actual problem: competency.

Competency tests map existing capabilities against the capabilities needed to carry out a specific role. All of the skills needed to do a job well are broken down, and the extent to which you need to be an expert in a particular skill is examined.

Politicians have the responsibility of running an entire country. It should be important to ensure they have the brain capacity for the job.

High school graduates and immigrants should be required to pass the same citizenship test

What does being a citizen of the U.S. even mean? Basically, you can vote in an election and run for public office along with some other benefits. While this doesn’t seem like much, there are significant disadvantages to not being a citizen. You can get deported and lack access to healthcare and employment.

So, how does an immigrant become a citizen? Per the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, it’s an oral test wherein an immigration officer will ask up to 10 of 100 civics questions. These questions include, but are not limited to, naming your U.S. representative, listing three of the original 13 colonies, knowing who was president during World War I, the year the Constitution was written, etc. Considering only 15% of Americans can actually respond correctly to that last question, I think it’s safe to say this test is not an accurate measure of what it means to be a U.S. citizen.

If the foundational logic behind requiring this test — that you only get two attempts on — is to ensure immigrants have an “adequate … knowledge  of U.S. history,” it is then implied that all citizens should have this adequate knowledge. We don’t.

It’s only fair to hold all of us citizens to the same standard. Either we all have to pass the same test, or we don’t require the test at all. But something has to give.

Parents should be able to pass drug tests

Let me preface this with no, obviously the government should not be able to keep its citizens from having children. However, that’s not to say that as a society we still shouldn’t be able to hold ourselves to a certain moral standard when it comes to raising the next generation of teachers, policemen, politicians, engineers, creators and everyone in between.

Weed is not ‘Alright, alright, alright,’ and the same goes for any drug — including alcohol. You can mess up your own life all you want, but the bottom line is you’re not the only one affected when you do drugs, especially if you’re a parent.

There is a strong correlation between drugs and crime. As of 2020, 80% of prison inmates abuse drugs or alcohol. Over 80% of minors in state juvenile justice systems were under the influence of drugs or alcohol when committing their crimes, tested positive for drugs, were arrested for committing an alcohol or drug offense, admitted to having substance abuse or addiction problems or shared some combination of these characteristics.

Early drug abuse correlates with substance abuse problems later in life, and if you’re an impressionable young kid with a parent who does drugs, you’re going to have a significant disadvantage when it comes to socioeconomic status, academic and social settings, family functioning, abuse and neglect, and simple household resources to name a few.

Drugs, including alcohol, inhibit a parent’s ability to function in a parental role, facilitating abuse. How is any kid supposed to succeed in life when the ones who are supposed to be supporting them the most are busy worrying about their next fix?

Our education system forces us to prioritize passing tests without ever really learning what we’re tested on. Let’s end this absurd structure and instead put tests to better use.
Isabella Garcia is an economics sophomore and opinion writer for The Battalion.

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About the Contributor
Isabella Garcia
Isabella Garcia, Opinion Writer
Isabella Garcia is an Economics sophomore from San Antonio, Texas and has been an opinion writer for The Battalion since June 2023. After graduation, Isabella intends to earn a J.D. and pursue a career in corporate law.
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