How I caused America to be one step closer to Idiocracy

I got into a car crash the day I took the ACT. More on that below.

Students everywhere are worrying their young brains out over standardized testing. ACT. GRE. SAT. MCAT. LSAT. State testing.

There are crazy things people do to get prepared. And mountains of money being made off test, prep materials and courses.

Although standardized test may have some value I think they are ridiculous. I’ve never done poorly on them. But I’ve never thought they were an accurate reflection of what I know. They test very specific skills. Such as guessing the correct answer. And making other people believe you know what you’re talking about. Skills which may not be too far off from the real world skills that we need in everyday life.


I think the testing and certification scene is a racket.

With specialization of industries there are certifications for just about everything. And these certifications come through testing. Testing where they charge test takers hundreds to thousands of dollars per test. And the great news is, if you fail you have to pay for it again.

Because there is a natural fear of failure in our society there’s plenty of books and study aids and classes you can sign up for. All for money. And all the while dangling the promise that if you get the certification then one day you might make money.

But there is no guarantee.

In fact it sort of works in the reverse. If you don’t have the certification you don’t have an opportunity. But if you do have a certification then you are just the same as everybody else. You are not really worth anything more than the next guy. Kinda reminds me of getting a college degree.

Although I got my BA I think college is dumb. And yet I am enrolled in courses for my MBA. This is because people are biased.

I don’t think college is for everyone. I think one day more people will realize that there are people like Robert Kiyosaki from Rich Dad Poor Dad and James Altucher from Choose Yourself that say similar things about college. Yet most people keep going to college and keep paying for it.

It was too late for me.

However I feel about it, it does make a difference in other people’s eyes. So I’m doing it. It may lead to more money. Or it may not. It may open more doors. Or it may not. At the very least it gives me a goal to work towards in the short term. And hopefully I will improve myself to be better. Smarter. Faster. Stronger.

In elementary school we took a Texas state standardized test called Texas Assessment of Academic Skills or TAAS for short. I always thought that was a dumb name. In third grade I also took a test to see if I should be in the accelerated program for gifted and talented students called LEAP. The test had division on it. Which I had yet to have encountered at the age of 8. So I know I didn’t do well on that part of the test. Whatever else I put on the test it wasn’t good enough.

I wasn’t accepted.

We had TAAS test in middle school. I think the 8th Grade one was required for us to pass to advance. And the final test I had to take and pass was in 10th grade. It included portions on reading, math, and writing. I know I did well on the reading and math portions. But I got it 2 out of a zero to four scale on the writing.

Two was the minimum so I passed.

My excuse for doing so poorly was I thought the prompt was poorly developed. It was something such as:

“If you could place an object in a time capsule for future generations what would the object be?” I had prepared in English course for writing compare and contrast papers. Or narratives. Or argumentative papers. Or persuasive papers. But writing a fantasy fiction wasn’t one of the lesson preps.

I have no idea what I  would put in a time capsule. And I still don’t. Being someone who loves to read, I finally decided the object I would pick for the time capsule would be a book. I then went on to explain all the benefits of a book. How you could have books of any particular type. Fiction. Non-fiction. Historical. Biblical. Etc. And I told about the pros and cons of each and why it would be good for the future generations. I may have even said something hokey about passing on wisdom. I don’t know if I explained myself well. Or they just didn’t like or get the concept behind my object. And so I got a terrible grade.

Or I may have just sucked.

I didn’t want to believe this option because I had done well in English classes. In my junior year of high school they wanted to switch the TAAS to a new test called the TAKS (Texas Assesment of Knowledge and Skills). It always sounded to me like the word “tax”. Anyways, seeing that I passed my required TAAS in 10th grade I didn’t have to pass the new TAKS to graduate.

They did however make us take a TAKS test sample. Because it didn’t count, many of us decided to “throw the test”. We figured it didn’t affect our graduation status anyways. So why try? Plus we pictured that if we all did poorly, maybe they would ease up the questions for future generations.

We might have contributed to the dumbing down of America. Oops.

The SAT seemed like a scam to me. So I skipped it entirely. Never studied for it. Never worried about it. Never took it. On my way to take the ACT I got into a car crash. I was driving along and suddenly the white mid-sized SUV in front of me came to a complete stop! Right in the middle of the road! I didn’t notice in time to react quick enough. Crash! Right into the back bumper. I got out. She got out (on her phone). She was bewildered. I was irritated.

She was a cheerleader from my Street Law class. I had the hots for her. She didn’t even know my name or know I existed. Literally. On the following Monday she told the story in class how she got hit. She couldn’t remember my name. And she didn’t know I was two seats behind her. At that very moment!

So why even take the ACT?

One reason was it was free for me (unlike the SAT). Another reason was that there was no penalty for guessing wrong. Also it included Science so the more subjects covered the higher my chance of getting lucky. I ended up doing well on the ACT all with no prep. No pressure.

Then in college I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Some how I had decided I wanted to be a teacher. To help young people. I hated school and thought I could make it different.

I didn’t.

To become a certified teacher I enrolled in the College of Education teaching certification program on top of my undergrad degree program. Besides a few helpful classes and many unhelpful classes, it delayed my graduation a year. The last year I spent one semester doing classroom observation for 50+ hours. As if my last 16 years wasn’t good enough.

Then the coup de grâce. I was free labor for a semester. They call it “student teaching”. They recommended that I had no other jobs during the time. As if that was going to work. I had to support myself outside of working for free.

Student teaching is supposed to be like the teachers version of an internship. And like real internships it didn’t lead to a job. I actually had a sweet gig being a student teacher for a 7th grade Texas History class. More on that a different day. The process as a whole was a trick. After graduation, I then spent 4 years on the substitute circuit trying to get into the system.

Now I am glad it didn’t work out.

Part of the certification process required more standardized test with the Texas State Board for Educator Certification. (SBEC). Another testing racket with test fees. I had to take the PPR which was for test for Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities. They should just call it what everyone know it means, “don’t have sex with students”.

I also had to get certified in my content area. I had chosen Social Studies grades 8 through 12. Once I passed this I thought I would be super marketable. It allowed me to be eligible to teach World History, U.S. History, Texas History, Government, Economics, World Geography, Sociology, and Psychology. Like I really could master all that content…

I wasn’t a coach so I didn’t get a teaching position anywhere in the state of Texas. For real. Everyone who I knew who was equally certified but wanted to coach all got jobs. Instead later through my sub years I went on to get more certifications to become more marketable. I then took a test for Generalist grades 4-8. Which is all subjects. Then I got specific and got certified in Math and Science grades 4-8.

All to no avail.

One day I just cut the sunk costs. And never looked back. I found a full time position with the county juvenile detention center. I am appreciative and thankful for teachers, but thankful I am not one.


Day 36 of Claudia’s book Become An Idea Machine.

Today’s list was to make up funny answers to test questions. Like this:


Theses questions are real. They are STAAR Released Test Questions for GRADE 3 and 4 Mathematics that were Administered April 2014. However, the answers are as useful as standardized testing itself. Not much.

1. Ramón has a total of 815 sheep in two fields. He has 348 sheep in one of the fields. How many sheep does Ramón have in the other field?

None. A wolf ate them while he was away.

2. At a hardware store, Quincy sees ladders with 12 steps, like the one shown below. If Quincy counts steps in groups of 12, which list shows only numbers he will say?

What does a ladder and hardware store have to do with the number 12? Wouldn’t a dozen eggs be more relevant to children?

3. There are 27 large T-shirts and 15 small T-shirts in a box. Each T-shirt costs $9. What is the cost of all the T-shirts in the box?

What do you got against people who wear Medium?

4. The low temperature on Monday was 41°F. The low temperature on Tuesday was 43°F. Which thermometer shows the low temperature on Tuesday?

Who cares, it’s Wednesday!

5. Wakiko ran laps around her school on five days last week. The graph below shows the number of laps Wakiko ran on some of those days. The bar for the number of laps she ran on Wednesday is missing. Wakiko ran a total of 50 laps on these five days. Which bar completes the graph?

Who forgot the bar? Somebody is getting fired…

6. Each of 16 students in a class made a poetry book. Each book contained 24 poems. How many poems are in 16 books?

The better question is: “How many of the poems were any good?”

7. The graph below shows the number of students in four classes who wore tennis shoes on Friday. The data for Mrs. Shuffield’s class is missing.

Who took it?

8. Sofia will arrange 42 feathers into 7 glass cases for her collection. There will be an equal number of feathers in each glass case. Which number sentence can be used to find the number of feathers in each glass case?

What a weirdo…

9. Which of these figures is NOT an octagon?

I am NOT an octagon.

10. The table below shows the number of songs of different types that Maricela has on her music player. If Maricela chooses one of these songs at random, which statement is true?

Maricela has bad tastes in music.

Sorry folks. These are terrible. I’m not much of a comedy writer. Instead I usually tell poorly timed jokes.


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