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Goeun Park: Get ready. Get set. Test time!

“Lambda equals H over P, D times sin theta equals M times lambda, V equals I times R,” was the soundtrack of my prom weekend. Admittedly, it wasn’t quite as romantic as Midnight in Paris, but it was pretty close.

Now, I’m getting ahead of myself here. Why in the world was I cramming physics formulas on such a fine Sunday? It’s because this is the least wonderful time of the year: AP season!

AP, short for Advanced Placement, are college-level classes offered at the high school. For two weeks in May, the College Board schedules nation-wide standardized tests that could save students thousands of dollars in college credit, which is nice. More than nice, really.

However, it’s also the reason why I’ll be banging my head against the desk in complete and utter despair for the next week.

While I’ve come to accept the inevitability of tests as well as my poor reactions to them, I can’t bring myself to support testing as a fundamental pillar of learning.

Recently, I’ve heard that schools are becoming more dependent on tests for grades and that colleges are placing more weight on class rank when it comes to admission. This worries me.

As a person who benefited from standardized tests and GPA hierarchies, this worries me a lot. I know testing is one of the few quantitative measures of a class and I know that students need to be evaluated somehow but I still find the whole predicament unpleasant.

I’m sure there are valid reasons and good intentions behind these changes. In fact, I’m usually the dweeb guilty of asking, “Will this be on the test?” and “Do you have extra credit so I can get my grade up, pleaseeee?”

That said, I don’t think my compliance with the system diminishes the fact that I’ve learned more from voluntary conversation and collaboration than I ever did by staying up until three to review for a big final.

I didn’t make it this far because I was tested to death in the last four years. Whatever “success” I can claim in high school is only possible because I had caring teachers who answered all my dumb questions long after the class bell rang.

I’m where I am today because I was surrounded by the kindest classmates who patiently walked me through calculus formulas and Spanish conjugations, even though explaining such concepts must have been an insult to their genius.

Perhaps I’m idealistic but that’s what I want school to be about: asking questions and finding answers rather than memorizing senselessly and regurgitating information on a piece of paper.

Growing up, the horror story that struck fear in my childish heart was the South Korean education system. In South Korea, students live through cutthroat academics, competitive exams and private late night cram schools. Considering that suicide is the biggest cause of death for those under 40, some students don’t live through it at all.

Conversely, Finnish students have minimal homework, a strong support system and almost no mandated exams. Both countries do exceptionally well in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a standardized test on reading, math, and science literacy offered in over 40 countries.

Personally, I’d prefer to live in a country where I can learn for the sake of learning, not for the sake of passing a test. As much as I love the motherland, I’d much rather attend school in Finland than in South Korea.

Achievement gaps and socialist education aside, isn’t this what we should be asking from students? Not their ability to learn but their eagerness to do so. Now, if only I could be tested on that.

Goeun Park is a senior at Detroit Lakes High School.