Test this

May 5th, 2011

During and  for years after finals week, the evaluations of instructors are exposed to the world. I find it only fair that student evaluations of test be released to the JCU community once and for all.

We’ve all been there, 12 a.m. on the night before a test, fretting over how much there is to study or the difficulty one is having learning it. Similar emotions are evoked in contexts outside of academia, namely, life. It is normal to be anxious when one is about to face a difficult task. There is the possibility of failure and that is scary. But how many real life tests have you not lived through? Since you’re reading this, I’m guessing the answer is zero.

From the beginning of our lives in this educational system, we are bred for perfection. We need to memorize nearly every detail of every topic we encounter. Certainly, this is necessary for professions in the medical field. But, in subjects of the liberal arts, that are supposed to study the products of human life (not really for a reason essential for the preservation of human life), students are penalized for something integral to human life: being wrong. We are told that the way to be successful is to never make mistakes. This idea makes most of us do all we can to be perfect.

If you look around at the people of the world, from the business people, to the intellectuals to the impoverished, you’ll notice something interesting. It is often the most perfect people, those with Ph.d.s, photographic memories, and 4.0s,  that have the most skewed views of reality. The people that seem to have the most wisdom are usually those who have made the most mistakes, no matter their educational background.

Being a Catholic university, our policies and missions are influenced by the teachings of the Church and its scholars. The well-respected St. Augustine is noted as having said, “Fallor ergo sum,” meaning, “I err therefore I am.” I concede that Augustine was a little wrong about some things, like the whole “sex is sinful” idea. But, his thoughts on being wrong are pretty insightful and express the essense of what it means to be human. Our superiors often treat us as if all minds have the potential to be perfect. Except, they’re wrong. All minds only have the potential to be human and to improve their humanity.

Self-improvement is what we should be evaluated on because, let’s face it, we aren’t all good at every subject or skill. Yet, we are judged  according to  the same standard as those who are talented in certain subjects or are just good at school. There is no allowance for individuality. The only solution, providing we stick with the same general education system, is to be evaluated on our own personal progress, whether it be improvement in critical, writing, or other skills.

Despite the number of people who share these views with me, we keep doing things the way we have for too long. The reason? Most are too lazy to have to evaluate on a subjective basis and society seems to want to breed an elitist population with the similar talents, all the while suppressing creativity. It is dehumanizing and ignorant.

So now you’re dead. You’ve worked all of your life striving for perfection but in the end you’ve failed life, the largest test. Except now you’re in the most perfect state that many believe is possible.