Testing mania has officially reached the pinnacle of absurdity. In an effort to make every square peg of text fit into the round holes of standardized tests, and the seemingly parallel goal of sucking every bit of enjoyment out of the act of reading, New York recently tested students on a tongue-in-cheek fable written by Daniel Pinkwater. He’s the author of books such as The Hoboken Chicken Emergency , Adventures of a Cat Whiskered Girl and Mrs. Noodlekugel , none of which I’ve read. However, it doesn’t take a genius to recognize his books contain an offbeat sense of humor that appeals to boys, quirky kids, and the creative right-brainers of the world.
Take a look at the passage from the test and the subsequent questions. How would you answer them? I’ll wait while you go visit the site….
Here are mine: reading on a standardized test is not the same as reading for enjoyment or for intrinsically-motivated information-seeking. When we read test passages we’re searching for the one right answer – by definition we’re not allowed to think outside the box or answer divergent questions. The most successful test-takers see it as a game where they try to “beat” the test creators.
“The Hare and the Pineapple” is not a story intended for literal comprehension. It would be like giving a college student their final exam on an episode of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show or treating Saturday Night Live as if it’s a documentary on American life from PBS. The fact that the Pineapple story was treated with such seriousness makes me feel that we’ve lost sight of our purposes. Not to mention our reason.
Standardized tests can give us some good information. But it can’t take the place of reading for enjoyment, and it certainly shouldn’t kill it. Please – leave some stories for kids to enjoy for the pure fun of reading, and give us at least a fighting chance of creating readers out of the students in our classrooms.