Back in 7th grade, I had the pleasure of participating in the class of one of a series of amazing history teachers. (For anyone who needs to know, she was a Chicago Public School teacher.)
Mrs. A did that whole “lighting a fire of curiosity” thing that great teachers do.
She had a knack for teaching us things that we never would have figured out on our own and making us curious to learn more.
One of the (many) things she said that I’ll never forget was about standardized testing for second graders (if not second graders, at any rate very young students). Chicago has had loads of standardized tests, each with a more opaque acronym than the last, each eminently forgettable.
So, let’s take a test!
Identify the following image:
If you answered “garage,” good on you, that’s what it is (at least according to a Google image search).
Using this example, Mrs. A explained (just) one shortcoming of such tests. Sure, the tests for second graders involved pictures instead of analogies, but even identifying a “garage” is incredibly context based. This type of information gap manifests later in schooling, as well.
What if you don’t have a garage? If you live in an apartment building (and lots of people do), then your parents might park in the street. Or you might take the bus (which lots of people do). And if you’re in second grade, how often do you take your car to the garage to get repairs? When do you learn what a garage is? Why do you need to be tested on that?
Now, keep asking questions until you die.
That was the lesson I learned from Mrs. A.