Please, can I have another test?

Enough with the tests

Said no child ever. NEVER! EVER! Mind you, I can’t think of many adults who’d go for that one either. Go ahead and type in standardized testing for elementary schools. Yup, that’s correct. Our children go through more tests than the juiced-up Russian Olympic Team. I can’t help but wonder how much precious time is being wasted. Wasted by poor teachers who have no choice but to teach our kids how to beat tests instead of solving useful problems by combining critical thinking and creativity.

I always found tests could be beaten. Find some ‘sitzfleisch’ — good ol’ fashioned persistence — and learn the tricks to beat it. Of course, a big thank you goes out to Kaplan, Schweser and the other supplemental study guide manuals. Alright, I don’t live on Mars. At least not until Elon Musk takes us there. I understand that we want our children to do well in these tests, build the perfect resume and get into that second best school called Harvard. But, as parents we must heed the words of Mark Twain: “Do not let school interfere with your education.”

Why you ask? Our supperconnected hi-tech world is changing faster than our evolved brains can handle. As the technology revolution continues morphing into a robotics and AI paradigm shift, do you think the best test takers will rise to the top? Not a chance. It will be the children who are out and about playing, exploring, making up games, having immense amounts of fun while learning math, science, languages, music, tech, engineering and sports. Why? Because they will be discovering a passion for learning that fosters creativity. It will be the creatives who possess patience and perseverance coupled with the structured reasoning required to communicate clearly. It will be that child who isn’t afraid to constantly ask ‘why’. That child who digs wider and deeper searching for the unknown. It will be that child who looks at a problem and can break it down to its core by reasoning from first principles (click for more info on first principal reasoning) That child will be the pioneer of the future.

Ben Horowitz, of the VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, illustrates in “The Hard Thing about Hard Things” that really critical problems cannot be solved through a learned framework or some regurgitation from a class. Let’s apply this concept to climate change, resource depletion, energy dependence and global food shortages. Do you think we’ll really solve those problems by learning how to constantly beat tests? That’s what I thought. To be fair, testing does have its place. But, just as an athlete trains towards something more meaningful like the Olympics, so too should it be with young children taking tests. The goal and result should not be a child who is brilliant at taking tests. These tests should not drive our children crazy with pressure at such a young age, make the lives of teachers who are so passionate about teaching more difficult, and worry the pants off of parents at a time when cultivating a passion for learning should be the focal point.

It’s pretty clear that trying to fight the nebulous school system is a daunting and improbable task. So where do we begin? How do we put our kids on the right path? How about we start inside our own homes. Yes, that’s right. Doing the little things that add up immensely over time is where we start. Remember that hole in a stone caused by a small continuous drop of water? Impact is made when small steps are counted together.

The time it takes to read to your child a MakeThinkers. bedtime story with challenges is around 15 mins. However, those two challenges in each bedtime adventure add up to 16 challenges monthly, which in turn add up to almost 200 a year. That’s 1000 in five years! Look back at your childhood and think about the impact 200 yearly challenges designed to unlock creativity and critical thinking completed with your parents would have made to you. Think about it. You get to spend time with your child building a strong bond while they expand their creative minds and critical thinking skills all WHILE HAVING FUN! I struggle to find a better use of those 15 minutes. How about you?

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