Time for a Test

I never excelled in many of my subjects while in school.  I like to joke that my report card looked like the alphabet: A, B, C, D.  There was always something more important to me that doing homework or studying for tests.   I played sports, worked a weekend job and like any teenage boy, was very interested in girls.  Class work and book knowledge was somewhere in the top ten, but at the time, very close to the bottom of the list.  I did make it into college and ended up graduating with two degrees in the IT industry.  The fact that I could choose classes and subjects that I enjoyed was a big help in college being interesting for me.

My vocabulary was atrocious in those days and my spelling even worse.  Spell checkers have saved my life more than once.  I am still embarrassed about these things when I write by hand so I usually keep notes to myself and type them out for others to read.  Word processing software allowed me to have access to a built-in Thesaurus, which I used to help me expand my vocabulary.  This may not seem like a big deal, but here is the punch line: one of my best subjects was English.

English language classes, and its corresponding English Literature subset, provided me a window into the arts: poetry, plays, and creative writing.  I often wonder why writing was such a favorite subject for me.  I have surmised that it has to be the “creative” part of that equation that excites me.  One thing that I learned from my time in classrooms is this simple fact: I hate the word “test”.  It conjures up feelings of dread and stress.  Writing never felt like a real test, so that may be why I liked it so much.

This leads me into my thought for this blog – How many people really like tests?  I would guess there are many that feel as I do, but here is a good question to ponder.  What if we used a different word that had a more appealing meaning?  After all, our society uses different types of tests as a means of measurement for everything from the quality of products to a person’s character.

So here are my ideas on this subject for your delightful consideration…

The word “test” brings to mind a measurement of “mental knowledge”, but athletic performances are measured by a test called “games” or “competition”.  These words make these types of tests seem more fun, but let’s be honest, someone long ago came up with some simple marketing trick to make it all sound more exciting.

We love our athletic competitions so much, many of us put aside our valuable time to watch these test.  Some people even pay great sums of money to be in the “perfect” seat in the arena.  We buy jerseys our favorite team, paint our faces, and get into heated discussions with friends and family over who is the best and why.

Just like in tests of knowledge, athletes that win their competition “pass the test” and those that lose “fail the test”.  Many games are held over a season, which could be also called a “semester” so that the participants can gain a win ratio, or “grade point average”.   Those that have the best ratios at the end of a season go on to compete to be the best for that season.  Athletes and teams gain many kudos, fame, money and other types of awards if they win the proverbial bowl, series or cup.

So why has the word “test” become so fearful to us?  What if we called it “mental competition” or “knowledge games”?  What would help our society establish mental aptitude testing as being something important to an individual?  Something that we cared about, prepared for and rewarded as much as our athletic competitions?

Could it be just a simple marketing trick?

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