In the course of my travels, I had recently the opportunity to actually sit and complete the Year 9 NAPLAN Literacy test. I was surprised to the point where I assumed I had accidentally misread the title page; surely this was the Year 5 test? But, no, I had read correctly, and these questions that were apparently age appropriate for fifteen year olds were the types of things that I had learned at age ten and eleven.
I don’t subscribe to the popular theory that children, especially teenagers, are getting dumber. I know a lot of teenagers, and while many of them possess thought processes that are alien and incomprehensible to me, I don’t think that makes them any stupider than I was. I remember being a teenager; I vehemently arrived at many bizarre conclusions back then that I have since forgotten the logic behind.
I think the problem really lies with standardized testing. There is no way to create a test that can be administered fairly to all people, while still being read coldly by a machine – especially in language and literacy. The two risks that are run by standardized tests are the alienation of the high-achievers and that of the low-achievers in any given stream of academia. So, these tests generally aim for the low so that nobody gets their feelings hurt, and results in a side effect of tall poppy syndrome. Things get exacerbated when governments make the test results publically available, which means that teachers are encouraged to teach for the test; foregoing the previous approach of teaching knowledge that a test may or may not later ascertain or rank.
There is perhaps a place for standardized tests, but the focal point of education (and, frequently, teenagers’ lives) is not it, in my opinion. They can be a means to an end of getting broad statistical data, but not an accurate assessment of the thoughts, knowledge and intelligence of an individual human mind.
As an artist, I have a pretty boring opinion about Cloud: Meteoros. It’s meant to be a contemporary art version of the amazing old frescoes that adorn cathedral ceilings, and it’s pretty in an unassuming way, and that’s all it’s trying to be. I know I’m meant to either think it’s revolutionary or get angry about it, as is my usual wont with postmodern art, but I just don’t.
I thought it was cool when Damian Hirst suspended sharks in formaldehyde, but I dunno if it was good art or not.
I don’t think I can put the context any better than the opening line of this ABC News article about it: A man who worked as an Elvis impersonator has been charged with sending a ricin-laced letter to US president Barack Obama.
Ricin is, indeed, made from castor beans, which were not the same as the baked variety Elvis was partial to in his later years.