It’s that time of the year when the school system, from elementary to university level, start the prayers, organize the planning, order the books and stand back for the onrush of hopefully eager and determined students who will learn everything possible in preparation for the day of days! That day of days is when students get a full-time job, move out of the house and begin sending a portion of their vast earnings to good old mom and dad who will spend the rest of their days in frivolity and relaxation.
Of course, all teachers have come to the conclusion that good grades are to be earned and so some kind of testing just has to be given. I personally detest true/false and multiple choice. There have been enough statistics to strongly suggest that those types of objective tests are not much more than 50-50 or flip-a-coin strategy and the odds can favor many students. Of course, really skilled test givers can use exams that are designed to eliminate most strategies, but I would probably reserve those tests for the graduate students.
As I type this, I am beginning to reminisce and feel the anxiety I had when I walked into a history exam back in seminary. Typical questions were: In 1517, which pope had a sale of indulgences? Was it a garage or private sale? One of his best salesman’s pitch was, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory rings.”
What was his name and what was he selling? Condense Luther’s Institutes of the Christian Religion in two paragraphs. Why are Presbyterians called “The Frozen Chosen” when they are funnier than the Puritans?
We had to write in the old Blue Book — pen only — with one bottle of Wite-Out — printed and not in cursive, and allotted three hours to finish. I usually started out like this: The first pope, a silent auction, Herbie was selling the small stuff, Luther wrote against card playing, dancing, memorizing old jokes and the Italians and Presbyterians get out of church before noon so they can beat the Baptists to the best restaurants. After that, I would write for two hours and 45 minutes to fill up the Blue Book with interesting comments so my professor would know I tried real hard.
He would always write in the upper left corner of my test, “Ps 50:9 See me in my office!” I’d go to his office right after school and he’d point to a chair. Poor old Dr. McCray was a sick man. He had bottles of aspirin on his desk, boxes of Kleenex and wept a lot. I knew he liked me because he always called me by my nickname. “Bressler, sit down and don’t talk!”
He asked, “What is all this that you wrote in your test book? Don’t talk! Do you know what this book is that I am holding in my hand? Just nod up and down or left to right. This is the history book that I have spent my life writing. Take it home with you and copy the entire text five times from front to back. Do you know what Ps 50:9 means? When you have finished this assignment, turn it in to me and if you can tell me the answer to Ps 50:9, I will pass you!”
For your information, his book has 669 pages and the answer is Psalm 50:9, “I will accept no bull from your house.”
He passed me and I wrote him a note, “Ps 52:9, I will thank thee forever, because thou hast done it.” He retired that year.
Whether students like it or not, an education is more than completing a required list of subject matter over an expected amount of time in order to receive some kind of certification. An education is the result of a discipline that takes years of preparation: the student must know how to acquire knowledge, to never stop learning and to leave the world a better place for the generations yet to come.
There are a lot of opportunities out there and successful students will do just fine. Along with core classes and the major requirements, my hope is that we will be able to give to every young man and young woman the necessities of life: integrity, responsibility, accountability, honesty, critical thinking and courage.
Did I leave out the family, church, friends and hope? Not on your life!