SAT

Previous installments: Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19. Also check out the official Livin' Large FAQ, Cast List, Flow Chart 1.0, and Flow Chart 2.0.

Author's note: Just wanted to let everybody know, I'm going to try to alternate this week between Livin' Large and the 2008-09 Worsties. The key word in that last sentence is "try."

So this past weekend I went to Kokomo to help my aunt celebrate her birthday. We did this by singing karaoke at a little dive bar called the Hi-Mark Restaurant & Lounge. It's the kind of place where you have to pee into a trough and a Captain and Coke costs only $2.75. The featured songs included such country classics as "Everybody Dies Famous In A Small Town" and...you know what? I kind of spaced out after that one, but it seems like most of the other songs were chosen and performed in the same spirit. Small town blues, small town love, small town living...mostly country. (I sang a little Meat Loaf and covered "Kryptonite" by Three Doors Down, in case you were wondering.)

The point is, this little sojourn into my very rural past reawakened memories of my final years as a Kokomoan, an era that ended when I graduated from college. (And I mean ended immediately. I graduated on a Saturday afternoon and moved into my Oak Park apartment Saturday night.) These weren't memories only of what happened, but also how what happened made me feel. Maybe the fumes and toxic waste from the car plants in Kokomo have a hallucinogenic effect, but the trip made me realize how cynical and perhaps even bitter some of my descriptions in this story have seemed. I know it's been my tendency to ridicule the feelings I had for Aimee and the way I behaved while in the throes of first love, so I should also point out that that was the happiest I had ever been in my life to that point. In fact, I had prior to that never believed I could be so happy. So while my sappiness was embarrassingly sappy, it was the best and most honest emotion my 18-year-old self had ever felt. Life is tough. People should always be grateful for whatever euphoric happiness they can find. And I'm happy I got to experience the crazy.

Anyway, back to the story.

After coming to the conclusion that Mat and I would never, under any sane circumstances, develop even a basic friendship, I decided to start pretending he simply didn't exist. Mat seemed more than okay with this unspoken decision, and we both settled into pattern of completely ignoring each other. Well, almost completely. We still took phone messages -- which, obviously, was more of a task for me than it was for him -- but that was the extent of our relationship. Strangely, this made living with him a little easier. It was like mentally filtering all the crap out of your life.

I even made out new no-talky status into a little game. I was determined not to speak to him or even acknowledge his presence until he spoke to me first. I bet myself a new pair of basketball shoes that I could do it...and I really needed a new pair of kicks. This bet went my way for about three days. Then I came back to the room one day after classes to find Mat sitting behind his desk with his head in his hands.

It was odd to see Mat home in the late afternoon, because that was when he had basketball practice. Mat didn't care about much at school. He cut classes and ignored homework, but except for a couple slipups, he always fulfilled his obligations to the men's basketball team. Therefore, the fact that he was seemingly skipping out on practice got my attention.

But I couldn't speak to him! My pride -- and new basketball shoes -- were on the line.

I was (more or less) caught up on homework and I had some time before I had to work at the food service, so I flopped down on my bed with the intention of taking a short nap. Mat continued to sit unmoving on the stool behind his desk. I remember thinking he looked a little like The Thinker, you know, if The Thinker was dog ugly and suffering from a migraine headache instead of battling with a powerful internal struggle. (Those are Wikipedia's words, not mine.)

"Fuck me," he said softly to himself. Then he slammed one of his ham-sized fists down on his desk. "FUCK ME!" he repeated.

As much as I wanted to pretend Mat wasn't there, my curiosity was piqued. I began mentally running through the list of what might be troubling him. Girl problems? No, he couldn't have cared less for anybody other than Shelly, and as far as I knew everything was fine between them (mostly because Shelly was living about 2,000 miles away). Classes? Probably not, since he had been kinda-sorta going lately, and as I had discovered there was little chance he was going to get kicked out. It didn't seem to have anything to do with his recently deceased friends either, since he was angry and not sad.

Next he threw a pile of random items off his desk while yelling, "Fuck!"

I just kept repeating to myself: don't talk to him don't talk to him don't talk to him don't talk to him don't talk to him don't talk to him don't talk to him don't talk to him don't talk to him.

"I'm fucked," he said, again to himself. "It's over."

Over? What was over? Wait...he was angry, he wasn't at practice, and he was saying "it" was over. Had he been kicked off the team? Was he finished at our school?!

I had to know. Finding out that Mat was moving out of the room was more important than pride and basketball shoes.

I sat up. "Dude," I said, "what's up?"

He didn't answer immediately, and I half-thought he was going to maintain our unspoken vow of silence. Then he said, "I'm Prop 48."

I had no idea what he was talking about.

When I didn't respond, he said, "They said I cheated on my SAT. Now I gotta re-take it or I'm off the team."

The "they" was the NCAA. An investigation had turned up the shady little fact that Mat and a few other prep students had been allowed to take their SAT under questionable conditions. (In case you don't know, the SAT is a standardized test for college admissions in the United States.) Those questionable conditions included being left alone and unsupervised in a school library to complete the test without a time limit. I'm sure you can see the potential benefits of a situation like that.

Proposition 48 -- which officially is NCAA bylaw 14.3 -- defines academic requirements that must have been met during high school for a college athlete to be eligible for financial aid, practice and competition. Since the conditions in which Mat took the test invalidated the results, he was no longer eligible for...anything.

"Holy shit," I said, and I really had to fight to contain my sadistic glee. "So, you're, like, going to be kicked out."

"Not yet," he said, crushing my spirits. "I have to re-take the SAT and get an 820, or I'm out."

I almost laughed in his face. I had scored almost that much on the verbal component of my SAT. It was easy to choke back that laugh when I suddenly realized what a nerd I was.

"Think you can do it?" I asked.

"Fuck me, I don't know," he said. "I don't know."

Mat was schedule to re-take the SAT before Thanksgiving break. He had been provided (presumably by the athletic department) a stack of test preparation manuals. This meant Mat had to do something he hadn't done while he'd been at college, maybe something he hadn't had to do for years: study. And boy oh boy, his study process was a test case in unintentional comedy.

This is how it went. Mat would come home at night and state out loud (although to no one in particular) "I've got to fucking study." Then he'd clear off his desk and set out all his books. Sometimes he'd sharpen a pencil or two. Then he'd flip through the prep manuals for five to 10 minutes before letting out a deep, shuddering sigh and announcing, "Fuck me, I need a study break." Then he'd make a couple phone calls, go to the bathroom, wander up and down the hall to see if there was anybody to chat with, and maybe go downstairs to buy a hamburger at the grill. Eventually he'd return to the room, sit down and flip through the manuals for another five or 10 minutes before his next study break. He would keep this up for hours, during which he might accomplish as many as 30 minutes of actual studying. Then, around midnight he would collapse into bed as if he was suffering from complete mental exhaustion.

Welcome to my world, I would think with an internal snicker.

I really don't know how Mat spent his days. He still had classes to attend, but he was no longer allowed to practice. What he did with his newfound free time was a mystery. He wasn't studying, I can tell you that. Studying was too much of an effort...and it wasn't in his nature. He spent his evenings trying to do it, and watching him lip read his way through an SAT guide was like watching someone with a head would try to read random words out of a medical dictionary. I loved it.

For my part, I was hoping like hell that he would fail his SAT (well, score below 820, anyway) and get booted straight back to Holland. I probably would have sacrificed a small forest animal to make that happen. Although with the way his preparation was going, it didn't appear as though a sacrifice of any kind would be necessary. The joke went that signing your name to the test form was probably worth 400 points, so any idiot should have been able to get an 820. But Mat wasn't any idiot. He was a special kind of idiot who wasn't accustomed to using his brain for anything other than bridging the gap between his ears.

I figured he was doomed.

"So do you think they'll move somebody else into your room if he gets kicked out," Aimee asked.

I hadn't even thought about that yet. "I don't know. Maybe they'll let me just keep the room as a single."

"It would be great if you had a single," she said in a breathy, dream-like voice. I don't know if she meant anything by that, but it got me fired up nonetheless. So now my daydreams started to include having Aimee all to myself in my single room.

One night, Mat was in the middle of one of his study breaks when he actually started up a conversation with me without any prompting on my part. That was probably a sign of how desperate he was not to study. Anyway, after a few minutes of idle chatter, he said, "You know what being Prop 48 means don't you?"

"What?" I asked.

"I can play ball at the Co-Rec now."

"Oh really?"

"Yeah," he said. "I'm gonna go over dere with some of the guys in the hall in de next day or so. You wanna come?"

"Oh hell yeah," I said.

This was going to be very interesting. Very, very interesting...

Part 21

Labels: ,

58 Comments:
Blogger E said...
Did you ever play saturday mornings at the Co-Rec? I lived in a dorm that rhymes with Barkington from 95-97 and we used to play hoops every saturday morning.

Anonymous RunBoilerRun said...
Since Mat apparently went on to "pass" the SAT, do you know what he scored? Did he manage to scrape by with a solid 850?

Blogger Trev said...
"He spent his evenings trying to do it, and watching him lip read his way through an SAT guide was like watching someone with a head would try to read random words out of a medical dictionary. I loved it."

Did you just misspell wound when trying to make fun of someone else's intelligunce? Why two sef own your shelf their Mr. Bawful.

Also fuck you for that cliff hanger! Every other one was not that bad but now it involves Mat actually playing basketball and we have to wait 2 days for it! You sir are the devil!

Anonymous Vertvert said...
So how long before Big Mat finds your blog and muy thai's your door in, Little Matt?

Until then, lovin' it.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
All I hope is that someone gets smother chicken'd in the next part.

Blogger Marc said...
I know you get a lot of "I love living large" posts...I wanted to add one more. This series has been great. It obviously takes a lot of time/energy so thanks for keeping it going so long. It brings back memories (good/bad) of my freshman year at a university away from my friends/girl who was a friend and sort of became more (Although since I attended BYU the drinking and sex were not in the forefront, I think your freshman self would have enjoyed BYU...)

Well I do have a question...have you had contact with Aimee recently? (a "where are they now" post when things are done would be really cool if you had any idea where people ended up...)

Anonymous Rob said...
Still no news on how you left things with Cindy?!?! Is she still in suspense?

Blogger Wild Yams said...
I wonder if I'm alone, but I'm curious to hear more about your thoughts on Kokomo and growing up in small rural town. I grew up in Los Angeles so I'm always curious to hear about stuff like that. Two of my cousins were raised on a small farm in the middle of nowhere in west Texas, and even though they both now live in Austin and Houston and are successful lawyers and businessmen, I always quiz them about their upbringing when I'm around them. I'm weird, I know.

For the record, I am someone with a head, so I don't know if I should take offense to your comment: "watching him lip read his way through an SAT guide was like watching someone with a head would try to read random words out of a medical dictionary." I'm inclined to not be offended simply because I don't know what the hell you're talking about there, but that may be just because I'm afflicted with the aforementioned "having a head" problem. I don't know. *Fake Edit: Trev's explanation above looks plausible, but honestly if that's not it then I'm really at a loss as to what you meant to say*

Blogger Victor said...
I think you're giving me blue balls with all this waiting.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
As a european I have always been curious about what exactly the content of the SATs is, as far as the questions go. Word here in Europe is, that is much easier to be admitted to college in the States than over here and that what some colleges teach durin the first two semesters, basically is what we get thought during our 12th and 13th year in school. So I´d really appreciate if somebody postes a couple links with SAT questions. And please dont take this post as a basis for weird America-Europe discussions!
Greets, a friendly German

Blogger MisterCaustic said...
Schadenfreude is amazing.

Blogger MisterCaustic said...
The SAT and ACT were a joke. I couldn't believe people had to re-take them to get a higher score. Getting a perfect score requires no more than 6 hours of studying.

OpenID NarSARSsist said...
Anonymous: The SAT Math covers subjects from basic algebra and geometry through trigonometry (no calculus). The SAT Verbal is a collection of questions that require thinking critically about a passage and constructing analogies. The third portion of the SAT, the Writing, is after my time (the year after I took it in fact, so I've just dated myself), so I'm not sure about that, but it appears to be largely syntax and grammar based.

CollegeBoard, through which the SATs are taken, would be your best bet for sample questions.

The questions are not that difficult. As such, some colleges require or "recommend" SAT II Subject Exams, which focus on individual subjects to greater extents (though, honestly, still not all that much harder than the regular SAT). If I remember correctly, I took three of them.

Alternatively, students can also take an ACT exam, which is supposedly harder (can't say for sure since I never looked at it). SAT remains the standard though.

As for what gets taught during college, that is largely student and college dependent. If the student took the initiative to take advanced placement, dual credit, or international baccalaureate programs (different programs that all serve as proxies for entry level college courses), then they naturally start out ahead. Similarly, some colleges accept those programs and some reject them because they don't feel those were sufficiently challenging programs or you didn't score well enough for them to qualify.

Hope that helps.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Anon: CollegeBoard does the big tests used in the USA. Official SAT Practice Questions, click on Critical Reading or Mathematics

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Anon - How easy it is to get into college here in the US is a relative thing, depending on whether you're talking about Harvard or Yale or something as opposed to Party School University or whatever. It's easy to just get into a college if you don't care which one (although it might still be expensive, but there are a number of colleges that don't have high academic requirements for entry). Are there more colleges/universities in the States than in Europe? I don't know. If so, that might explain why it could be easier to get into them. However, people can get into college here in the US without being a great student if they have something else going for them (like being a great athlete who could get a scholarship, or if they have a lot of admirable extracurricular activities, or even depending on their race or ethnic background).

OpenID NarSARSsist said...
AnacondaHL - I'm beginning to see what you meant about the Kyon Facepalm.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
@all thanks for links, that´s what iv´e been looking for. I know that is almost imposible to go to the Ivy-league schools, I suppose it´s really difficult to compare Europe and the States, just by the fact that you can´t judge Europe as a whole, sice you have many countries with many different reqirements. So maybe we should just stop right here with the offtopic chitchat, since it probably won´t lead anywhere. Thanks again for the links

Blogger chris said...
Anonymous: Hey, I like where the discussion is going, because it then begs the tangent:

So what are the requirements for mostly untaleted but massive Europeans to attend college in the US on an athletics scholarship?

OpenID NarSARSsist said...
chris: The ability to cheat on the SAT while operating inside a library, naturally. They don't even get to use Google, so I don't wanna hear about how the US makes it too easy!

Blogger CassavaLeaf.com said...
By the time i made it to said university we had different mailboxes in Cary Quad. The only time you'd have to take messages for the other is if you were in the room and answered beyond that we had different voicemail boxes

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
NarSARSsist: :argh:

Blogger Dan B. said...
I went to college back in '02-'06 (but at a different school than Matt, of course). We didn't have any voicemail boxes or anything like that. In fact, you only had voicemail if the phone you bought and put in your room had an answering machine function on it. And there's nothing quite like sharing a phone line with a college roommate. Back in my sophomore year, my then-girlfriend called my room one evening when I wasn't there, and she ended up getting sucked into a conversation with my roommate for about half an hour. When I got back to my dorm and called her, the first words out of her mouth were "Dan, your roommate is a fucking weirdo."

Blogger TheOdenator said...
Finish the fucking story man! What happened? What about the glands?

Damn Matt, you've got me sucked in, and now you are just milking this story until October. I already freaking read your Blog please more writing and less cliff-hangers.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Odenator - Kudos for the Fear & Loathing reference :)

Anonymous Boudicca's daughter said...
HI Bawful, lovin livin' large, as always but can we have a BadDave vignette or 2 as well if poss. Ta. Int to read about the SAT stuff and college entrance.

Blogger BadDave said...
I think it's also important to distinguish that most of Europe has different levels of higher education. I'm not an expert (European readers please correct & expound!) but I think there are three level, going roughly along the lines of:
1) Trade school for positions that require skill but not significant academic achievement (mechanics, contractors and other union-type workers, etc).
2) A mid-level that prepares for general office, retail, education and management type jobs.
3) University - which is where you go to be top-level professionals (going to med school, law school, professors, etc).

That system is starting to develop a little with community colleges, but in the past (including recent past) you either went to a university/college or you went to a podunk tech institute for gun repair, lawn mower repair, and basket weaving! Those institutes are improving and a more specific, layered system is developing.

Also, the SAT is not difficult, but getting a perfect score is not really easy. Congrats to you MisterCaustic, but it's fair to state that getting a perfect isn't easy. If it is we'd have more Ivy League schools.

Blogger chris said...
BadDave: Time to cue up the "ITT Tech" ads that keep appearing on cable all the time!

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Well I can speak for Gemany: Here we have a school system divided into 3 classes. First the "Hauptschule"(main school), which end with the 9th grade, and graduates mostly start a 3 year training, in jobs bad dave has listed, e.g. electrician, mechanic, et cetera.
Our second branch is called "Realschule" which is intended to prepare students for more academic jobs, such as insurence salesmen, or public servants, police officers etc.
The highest ranking system is the "gymnasium"(Not pronounced like your Gym ;)), I believe about 30% of all students graduate from here, and the most important thing is, that this is the only branch, which will qualify you for attendig a university. I believe the main difference between American and German Universities is that over here nobody goes to college to become an electrician or mechanic.
@chris
What do you mean by "mostly untalented europeans"? In regard to their athletic abilities? Or there performance in the class room? Don´t forget that english isn´t our native language, which could proove difficult in regard to be successful in an american school

Anonymous Sun devil said...
Greatest cliffhanger.keep up the good work!

Anonymous Carter said...
Agh, that cliffhanger was not very kind.

Anonymous EvilAsh said...
I wonder if Big Mat reads this site...Little Mat is gonna be in a heap of trouble is he does :D

Blogger chris said...
Anonymous: I mean specifically, Big Mat clones, not the next Dirk Nowitski. but that could apply to anyone of any nationality who was recruited solely for size

Anonymous W. Breeze said...
I, for one, welcome the longer wait between posts, if it continues to lead to higher quality writing. Before the break some of the entries were lacking any description or character. The ones post break have been great.

Matt, I know how it feels to have a love/hate relationship with your home town. You gotta tell yourself you hate the place, or you'd move back there in an instant. I feel this every time I go home. For me, as I've aged I've come to realise where you live isn't that important -- it's where your friends and family are that matters. But that doesn't mean I' m moving back!

Ostertag made $50 million for his "career". It's amazing Mat gave that up.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
@chris
Sorry can´t help you out with that. I have no idea what the academic standards are in the netherlands. However for who´s quality of education does it speaks, that a completley ungifted guy like mat gets to "study" with ambitious people like Matt. Here in Germany it would be unthinkable to have somebody stay at college, because of his athletic abilitites.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Re 'Europe' and Further/Secondary education...

Looking at those SAT questions, they look more like the sort of thing you would get asked at Secondary School for streaming for exams [i.e. aged 12/13]... Not at 18 or whatever. Or are SATs at 16?

Usually [in the UK] you start school at 3 or 4. Depending if the school has a nursery. At ~11 you go to secondary school (or later if you're go to a 'middle' school where they keep you on at Primary school for another year)

Secondary is when things get a bit more serious, you learn French, German & English lit/language etc.

In the 3rd year or year 9 or whatever they call it now is when you start picking your subjects for your exams (GCSEs, was 'O' levels).

When you finish them 2 years later you either leave school or stay on and do 'A' levels.

A levels dictate what sort of University you will go to. I.e. 3 or more A*s means you get to pick a better University etc.

You then do a degree for 3 years. or longer if you're one of those saps who does a gap year and discovers themselves. Some lines of work means you can do a work year in-between.

I left after GCSEs as I didn't like school and couldn't face any more of it.

Ironically enough, after getting a job I had to go to 'College' anyway and spent the next 4-5 years doing part time studies as well as working.

You then get the option to do a degree part time. Another 5 years!

All comes down to whether you want to work and study or put off working for 5 years minimum.

Most people now seem to go to Uni, it's not quite the big deal it was and you can do all sorts of lame things for a degree.

Anonymous Cameron said...
Look, i know everyone seems to love this, so i'm sorry to go against the grain, but i honestly don't care one iota about what you did in college, or how many girls you didn't sleep with.

I understand your 'livin large' posts are popular, but please, can you make the witty and enjoyable posts that are ACTUALLY about all things bawful not so few and far between?

No site nails the pure ridiculous nature of the game like yours does, and i'm honestly heartbroken every time i log on and i get another installment of your trip down memory lane.

Please don't make me, and the others who feel the same, wait until november to return to normality.

Thanks

Cameron

Anonymous Joe said...
I just wanted to point out a nice little article from Sports Illustrated talking about Rasual Butler and his role on his new team. The article about Rasual Butler is complete with. . . a picture of Marquis Daniels shooting.

This is the excellence we've come to expect from the AP!

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/basketball/nba/08/17/Clippers.Butler.ap/index.html

OpenID NarSARSsist said...
Anonymous - The SATs are meant to be taken roughly the year before you start applying to college. For most people, that generally means around 17 years old. Yes, the questions do look pretty easy, but the US was never overly high on education standards. Graduation rates are generally considered more important, so to keep those numbers high, standards are lowered to whatever was necessary to get them to pass. What are the exams like for you guys?

Some true stories:

In high school, I used to do math tutoring. One time, as I guided a student through y=mx+b, we got to y=-1+1. The student started reaching for a calculator. I said, "No no no, come on, you can do this without a calculator." He replied, "Naw man, I can't do it...I ain't smart like you." I "challenged" him to do it anyway. After blankly thinking for about half a minute, he reached for his calculator anyway. I know that people who go to tutoring are having trouble in the subject, but come on, -1+1? The guy was a junior...

In another case also during high school, I remember a teacher complaining about her algebra students. They were doing mandatory practice tests in anticipation of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test (it's a mandatory test that students must pass in order to graduate high school in Texas, easier than the SAT). To keep most of the students from failing though, the teacher had to curve the test by roughly 30-40 points. In other words, most people couldn't even get more than 30 or 40% of the test right, and these are questions like "Here is an oddly shaped pool with straight edges. What is the perimeter of the pool?"

My dad was talking with a professor from a local university (not a great one, but still, better than a community college). He had a student that kept failing his class because the student took it as seriously as Big Mat. The dean of the college kept complaining to the professor about how the student was bringing down graduation rates until finally the professor said, "Fine! Tell you what, if I even see the kid during the final exam, I will pass him!" Long story short, the student failed again...

I don't hail from what would be considered a small town by anyone (population over 1 million), so I consider my experiences roughly reflective of the norm. As you can see though, the norm isn't that great.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
who goes to university for a degree nowadays?
you go there to meet different people
undergrads mean nothing it's pretty much like a high school diploma 30 years ago
if you want a really good job now you have to do something post-grad

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
NarSARSsist: You should have told him to listen to more rap.

"One minus one,
Negative one minus negative one is nothin
".
-Flip Flop Rock, Big Boi

Anonymous JR said...
Narsarssist - I know nothing about education in america really, but the sad thing about what you describe is that is all on the education system. Those kids clearly don't have the opportunity to learn any better.

I certainly don't think every child can be einstein, but 99% of kids could master what you describe with the right support. Certainly hope Obama can inject something into your education system...

OpenID NarSARSsist said...
AnacondaHL - Nicely done. I like the way you move.

Cynical Anonymous - I wouldn't be overly pessimistic. There are some professions where an undergrad education gets your foot solidly in the game. Engineering and CS come to mind. Of course, it depends on what you call "a really good job." The monotony can be a drag. Besides, there are plenty of people that shell out hefty amounts and take on student loans just to go to college. I hope they're not spending 80 - 160 grand to socialize. They could have just done that for free and without the interest!

OpenID NarSARSsist said...
Cameron - Do not despair, Bawful is already planning on winding down his Livin' Large posts, and is already working on the Worsties again.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
NarSARSsist:

Can't speak for now but I did the 1st year of GCSEs (aged 14/15) in the late 80's and had done an old school 'O' level aged 13 to get it out of the way.

The change was that a certain % of the final mark (30-40%?) was made up of course work that you would have to get a minimum mark on - something like +50% would be a 'pass'. Instead of straight exams.

Mainly they were essay type questions.

You would need to be able to get mainly (or all) Cs (and A/Bs) to stay on and do A levels, then to be able to get mainly As & Bs (marks ~80%?) at A level to be able to pick a decent Uni (not Oxbridge but a proper one) getting a C in one subject (i.e. a proper one, Maths, English or a science) would mean no chance of a decent one.

Seeing the other anon comment about people not going to Uni to study, I can only guess things aren't that difficult to pass?

The UK press constantly bangs on about exams being easier as the pass rates (and A*) keep increasing.

I'm not daft but with a minimum of work passed everything. If you were even moderately driven or academic, you would get As & Bs as a minimum - i.e. top 10-15 percentile?

One thing's for sure, I don't remember multiple choice questions?! beyond IQ tests for streaming.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
i guess the next installment will be only about bawful KILLING mat in one-on-one-play..

Blogger Wild Yams said...
NarSARSsist & AnacondaHL, he also might have been well served to watch the Mr. Show video by Three Times One Minus One.

OpenID NarSARSsist said...
(I had to split this post, I think I way exceeded the post length)

Boy, we sure are hijacking this thread. I blame bawful for the scantron picture.

JR - It is sadly a system that is getting killed by all the players involved, not just the schools themselves.

Anonymous - If you don't care where you go, there will always be a place for you. My local university boasts an impressively restrictive 99% admissions rate. I can't believe they refuse to admit cats and dogs, geez!

Here are three more anecdotes to illustrate this. For the first two, keep in mind I went to a magnet school (it's a public school, but it "attracts" the best students in the district), so it's not a case where I went to some school filled with below average underachievers. (Note: the anecdote earlier about the -1+1 thing was at our sister school that we were attached to. It was a regular public school.):

Back in high school, we had a history teacher that was, in my opinion, one of the best teachers I've ever had. He refused to accept any bullshit (it would be greeted with his red pen). Unlike other teachers who taught Advanced Placement courses (a course where at the end of the year, you take an exam, and universities would count it as college credit if you meet their standards), he truly expected college level work. To compensate for the greater difficulty, he offered extra credit for just about everything you do (taking good notes, turning in small projects, etc.), so a little extra effort and you still would make just as good a grade. Not surprisingly though, very few people gave a damn, and grades were a lot lower that semester for most people than they're used to, and bitching and moaning was a constant (I on the other hand had the highest grade in the class because it was truly an enjoyable course because of it).

In fact, a number of parents got in on the incessant bitching. Their perfect little kids with the pea-sized brains found something challenging for them, so they did the next best thing to being a good parent and helping their kid: they complained to the principal. Ultimately, the teacher yielded and scaled back the difficulty (even though his exams were already multiple choice), though he also took away a lot of the extra credit options as well (because people weren't doing them). Still, people were doing poorly, because you see, most Americans are used to multiple choice tests where at least one answer is complete bullshit, and another answer is, to anyone who has more than 5 brain cells, also bullshit (for example: Who was the first president of the United States? A) Wilt Chamberlain; B) Thomas Jefferson; C) George Washington; D) Your next door neighbor's cat Feisty), and he did not do that. For the second straight semester, people were doing less than spectacular and happy face stickers. Again, parents decided they could spend less time just bitching about it. In fact, word is, one of my classmates has a mom that worked at the school district office, and she made life hell for the teacher. So halfway through the year, what did the teacher do? He packed up and left, and with him went my enthusiasm for the course.

OpenID NarSARSsist said...
The second story involves my high school US Government teacher. He was also someone who was very enthusiastic about teaching. (Many of my high school teachers were quite passionate about teaching, because my high school was a relatively newly formed one that collected forward thinkers. However, eventually school district rules killed all of that.) He truly believed that it was important everyone understood how the government functioned in order to make good decisions about their leaders, and hence the future of the country, and took every opportunity to find ways to illustrate that. However, his enthusiasm was never met with the same from the students. He always told me that it was just so disappointing that instead of getting kids to learn all about government, his job gradually ended up become "try to beg and plead students to do their work." It was already disappointing enough with my class, with many people routinely getting bad grades even on the easiest of exams and quizzes, but it got even worse the next year.

When I went back and visited him, he told me about how the class was actually barely averaging better than a failing grade. He offered everyone a chance to really boost their grades with an extra quiz, telling them to study hard over Thanksgiving Break. How do the students thank him? In his classroom alone over 60 students left their books behind (their graduating class had roughly 110-120 people, so over half the class didn't even bother to bring their books outside the classroom). After that, he announced that he would be retiring at the end of the year. The official reason was "I've been teaching a long time," but the real reason was "sitting around fishing is a lot more rewarding than teaching morons."

OpenID NarSARSsist said...
One might ask, "Why doesn't the government intervene and slap some sense into these schools they are funding?" Well, a few years ago, our former fearless leader President Bush passed an awesome, awesome piece of legislation called No Child Left Behind that put standardized testing at a premium and put school funding on the line. Rather than turning this into a political discussion, I'll just talk about two ways it affected my school.

The first way it changed classes is that it had a trickle down effect where the district gets their arm twisted by the threat of cutting funding, so they twist their principals' arms, and the principals in turn twist teachers' arms to teach more standardized test material. The result was doing standardized test packets every other day or third day instead of learning new things dictated by the curricula. You might say, "Well, doing the tests teaches the students too right?" However, remember how simple the SAT was, and drop the bar even further, and you get the TAKS test students in Texas must pass to graduate. (Sidenote: Hilariously, some of our great state's congressmen actually had trouble with the test, leading them to conclude that it must be a good exam.) Besides, these questions are just the same thing rewritten over and over, with names replaced, and numbers changed. I could see the same damn pool perimeter problem with the numbers slightly fudged with. It became a case where students thought, "If I see a pool, I need to add all the numbers up." If you ask them in a different form, such as, "I'm trying to lay fence around this farm I have, how much fencing do I need" they would probably not be able to answer.

Also, as per the great movement to get everyone involved (parents, students, teachers, schools, plants, fungi, carnivores, herbivores, aliens, etc.), the district was required to print out this exhaustive report after students took the practice TAKS test. The report was something like 30-50 pages per student, breaking down how they did in every section, every type of problem, what percentile they fell under for every conceivable sub-category, how other districts did, etc. etc. The problem was, this little endeavor was done without any extra funding (or very little). The district printed these reports by alphabetical order of the schools, and because our sister school began with the letter "W", we got ours last, except wait, we didn't get our reports at all. Why? By the time they got halfway through the alphabet, they ran out of funding to print these damn reports that maybe all of 5 people would have read. There's a little glitch to this problem: our scores are included with the report. So not only did we not get our awesome report beaming with radiant power, we didn't even know what we got on the practice TAKS test. Way to prove knowledge is power.

The point of these anecdotes is to illustrate that the schools themselves aren't solely to blame. When students can't be bothered to give an effort, parents refuse to accept that their children might be challenged, and the government issues counterproductive legislation, education takes quite a hit.

(P.S. 8000+ characters...I am way too longwinded...)

Anonymous Boudicca's daughter said...
NarSARsist: Really, really liked those tales. Fascinating insights into US Ed. system. Unfortunately Britain, and specifically England is going the same way with everyone's "little darlings", having to be spoonfed. The "all must have prizes", view prevails and so Uni courses are having to be dumbed down.

Even some "elite" institutions are having "difficulties", with their intake. My boyf is a researcher at Uni of Cattlecrossingtheriver; (name hidden to protect the innocent and in the honourable tradition of this blog), and some of his experiences .....

OpenID NarSARSsist said...
I had forgotten about this earlier, but the history course was also a dual credit course. The way dual credit courses work is a college will endorse a course taught at the high school by requiring that it follow their curriculum for an equivalent course. Any student that passes that course gets a grade and credit in the college's equivalent course (for example, I got an A and 3 credit hours in US History I for this course).

And blast, I can't believe I forgot the one quote I specifically wanted to include in that first story. One of the parents specifically complained, "How is my kid going to get into Harvard when you drag down his/her grade like this?!" Yes yes, because someone incapable of processing what happened during the American Revolution in multiple choice form clearly deserves to enroll in an upper eschelon university. In her defense, it would probably take the osmosis of the brainpower simultaneously emitted by all the tenured Harvard professors to save her kid's poor, tortured soul.

For the record, none of my classmates went to an Ivy League school. I'm sure we can blame this gross underrepresentation of my school's probable <1% Ivy League admission rate on that detestable history teacher that had the gall to expect a course that is worth college credit to be, of all things, college difficulty. What is this world coming to? Next thing you know they would probably have the audacity to expect students to actually learn something!

Anonymous Anonymous said...
NarSARsist: As someone who really enjoyed high school US Government, I'm sure you realize that all GW did was sign that terrible piece of legislation. It was first written and passed by our esteemed US Congress. Sadly, about 80% of those visionaries are still guiding us today.
If we really want to shock the non-US readers, we could describe the union controlled public school system that fights to block incentives for those rare teachers who really do care...

OpenID NarSARSsist said...
Anonymous - Yes, you are certainly right. I was being overly simplistic in not bringing Congress into the equation (and I have little love lost for them). Legislation does not get written up by Presidents. The bill also received such support that any veto would have likely been overridden. That does not mean, however, that he didn't champion the bill. It simply was outside the bounds of his branch to actually write it up.

In re-reading what I wrote, I suppose it came across that I was trying to place the blame squarely on him, and I do apologize for that. The intent was solely to mock NCLB itself. I don't fault him at all for the effort, as I feel education really needs a reform, and I do understand there are no magical "doy, it's so obvious" answers that please everyone. In fact, had I cared about politics when it was first announced, I imagine I would have been fairly excited instead of "what's politics?" I only meant to write an anecdote about how its execution left me underwhelmed.

My bad.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I finally saw a video of Big Mat fighting. What a beast!! He would have destroyed you bawful.

Anonymous AdamN said...
Can you send the link to the video of Big Mat fighting?

Anonymous rbubp said...
NarSARSsist,
I teach at one of those colleges whose admissions are based on presence of heartbeat. The same bullshit spoon-feeding ensues with freshman classes.

Fortunately it is a public school--which means we don't give a damn if they don't do their homework and fail out (many private schools other than Yale, Reed, and the like have to bend over backwards to keep the students they have, so they give in to grading pressure).

Our first-year attrition rate is near 50%. It's funny: I tell them the first day that by THanksgiving we'll know who's serious about this because one-third of the class will have dropped. And it still happens, no matter what I say or how many second-chances I offer.

Anonymous rbubp said...
Also, though I have no doubt that Mat was a an idiot who never studied, I challenge any of the American posters here to take a standardized test in a foreign language. Being fluent is not the same as understanding secondary definitions, analogies, and reading comprehension.

Anonymous Pat-T said...
AdamN,

I'd love to send you a link. I just don't want to reveal the identity to everyone (which I'm sure Bawful wouldn't want). Post somewhere I can send it to.

Links to this post:
Create a Link