Published in the opinion page, as a member of the Community Advisory Board of the Holland Sentinel, the newspaper of Holland Sentinel.
Last Friday I enjoyed the privilege of taking the 2011 Advanced Placement U.S. History examination. Serenaded by the pounding drum line and blaring trumpets of the Holland High School marching band, I frantically shaded in lettered ovals to regurgitate my knowledge of America’s past and then dashed off three essays, taking care to pick arguments that could be defended simply and concisely.
My mission: to weasel in as many points as possible so that the College Board’s all-important scoring formula might deem me a bona fide student of U.S. history. This was a chance to prove myself.
Yet amidst the focus on one standardized, official assessment, I cannot help but feel a hollowness. On my AP U.S. history exam — and indeed all standardized exams — we test-takers work solely toward a score, a result that requires minimal consideration of the meaning and impact of the knowledge being tested. For too many, I think, this makes history a dull drill, a monotonous marathon of textbook-reading and text-based test-taking too abstract to connect to real life. History becomes a game for professors.
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