Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Answer is A). Standardized Tests Suck


                                      Shakespeare cat hates Dixon Ticonderoga Pencils

                The name of the cat in Macbeth is Greymalkin.
                I do have a point with that first statement, and we’re going to get back to it in a little bit, but last week while I was talking Star Trek and phasers and pew-pew! Warp speed, Mr. Sulu! I know that some kids were sitting down to take the Standards of Learning Tests. (Known as SOL’s.)
                I want to make this perfectly clear: I hate standardized tests. I don’t feel they contribute much to society except the amazing ability to take one day of a kid’s life and say, “take this test” and hope for the best that the kid remembered enough facts to fill in an oval with a number 2 pencil correctly. I’ve never seen a number 1 or number 3 pencil, so I’m not sure why we stuck with number 2. God help you if you use a mechanical pencil, pen, or crayon. You will use a Dixon Ticonderoga Number 2 Pencil, and you will love it.
                Of course, in memorizing these facts long enough to make sure that kids can fill in an “A” properly, there’s very little focus on whether or not anyone is understanding the answer properly. That brings me back to my first statement up top. The name of the cat in Macbeth is Greymalkin.  So, um… where does he show up and why is he important?
                Greymalkin has one mention: when the witches are casting one of their spells, or doing whatever it is they witches in that play do. Did they set Macbeth on a path with newly stoked ambitions where he believed him invincible enough to plot the death of a king, and later his closest friend? (Oh, spoilers for Macbeth. ) Or did they accurately predict the future, one that would not be altered had they not encountered the future king wandering around the forest? Or was it all a dream, and the lost ending featured Macbeth waking up and finding Patrick Duffy in the shower. (Oh, spoilers for Dallas, too, I guess. Shakespeare and JR. You’re getting it all today folks!) And where does Greymalkin fit into all of this?
                The official answer, of course, is that he’s a familiar, which puts the witches in league with the devil. Also, if you read carefully and do that research thingy, you may find that possibly many of the witch scenes weren’t written by William Shakespeare. In fact, there’s an entire scene that clearly wasn’t written by him, and added later. (I’m going to let you find that one on your own. RESEARCH!) But again, where does all of this fall into the grand spectrum of my point, that has been lost amidst the jokes about Macbeth and the not easy target of mentioning that Patrick Duffy once placed Aquaman?
                Quick, which play featured a cat named Greymalkin?
A.      Macbeth
B.      A Doll’s House
C.      The Importance of Being Ernest
D.      The Book of Mormon
You hopefully picked A and filled it out on your answer sheet, filling in the oval completely. Yay! You have done the bare minimum to pass the test! You can’t tell me the significance of the floating dagger in Macbeth, the rise of feminism in A Doll’s House, the Importance of Being Ernest’s satire of the rich, or why the Book of Mormon is an important musical. (It’s like brand new, but the soundtrack is awesome. You should see it. And take me.) But you can name a cat that showed up in one line of a play. That’s cursed. And the cat doesn’t really do anything. He doesn’t slay the title character. (I really have to stop saying it’s name.) He doesn’t even really represent anything, other than the tidbit of knowledge of what real witches talked like back then. It’s like someone studied Nicolas Cage for a few years then wrote True Blood because they assumed that all vampires talk and acted like that. (I just imagine his house is very much like that show.) That’s my point. Knowing one random fact proves nothing. Being able to bubble in a letter proves nothing. There’s no mention of the understanding behind the fact. This is true of any subject. Boiling things down to one stressful day doesn’t help. It only seeks to apply a black and white answer to an increasingly gray world. (A Greymalkin world? No? Anyone? Is this thing on?)
Of course, if you’re unsure of what to pick, I’d go with “C”.

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