Thursday, March 1, 2012

Counting Stones


Comparison is the thief of joy.

~ Theodore Roosevelt

The burdens grow heavier as you get older and school gets harder. Feels like a sack of stones weighing you down. You can’t get math right to save your life. You’re not as smart as the others. You’re one fry short of a Happy Meal.  In fact, you’re so dense you might as well die…

So you plan your escape on the bus one afternoon as you pass the same rural route you’ve traveled every day to the week for the past six years. But the countryside now seems as dark and scary as a scene in a gothic horror show. Though it’s sunny on the outside, it’s raining inside of you and blurring your vision.  

You’re coming home with an “E” in math on your report card and you know your parents will soon kill you, so you think of ways to save them the trouble…

 If you had the guts you’d sneak your daddy’s double barrel off the gun rack and try blowing your brains out, but you don’t quite have the nerve for such drastic measures.  So then you think of your mother’s heart pills in the bathroom medicine cabinet…

And we wonder why the youth suicide rate is so high. As Edward B. Fiske said, “When was the last time you saw a tombstone with SAT scores inscribed on it”

“Not everything that can be counted counts,
and not everything that counts can be counted.”
~ Albert Einstein

Most of the things that really matter in life can’t be measured on a test. Can you measure authenticity, imagination, creativity, curiosity, empathy, compassion - all elements of an education that translate into necessary life skills? 


As a child, did you compare yourself with your peers based on your academic performance?

Should students be judged as successes or failures based on test scores? 

Why or why not? 


Joined in "Comparison: Thief of Joy" hosted by Linda and Corinne  
  
Sharing with LL Barkat at Seedlings in Stone.





108 comments:

  1. I used to compare myself to others just because my parents were doing it. I know it is wrong and i am very careful now not to compare my kids grades to others and especially never to compare my son to what his sister was doing in the same class

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    1. Nikky, way to go! Children are individuals, not clones!

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  2. Hi, Debra! ~

    Your story tugs at my heartstrings.

    When I was a kid, I was so S-I-C-K with worry every time report card day rolled around! I was so afraid of failure. It seemed a fate worse than death. Then, I usually was amazed by my straight 'A's' again -- my father's response? Why aren't they straight 'A+'s'???

    I sent my kids to a school that didn't have report cards until they were in Jr. High School. I remember the first time my oldest son, J.M., got a report card, he called me at work all excited and said, "Mom, do you know what an honor roll is?" That made me laugh.

    Seems the same thing can look so different from a different perspective... Thank you for sharing yours! XO

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    1. Linda, amen! For students, report cards can mean either the best of times or the worst of times :-( Thank you for sharing your stories here; they ALWAYS thought-ful!

      And thank you for hosting this most interesting blog hop. You and Corinne sparked my interest from the get-go. Anything controversial!

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  3. We took aptitude tests, I was poised to be a mechanic or forest ranger, which emotionally may have been right, but I couldn't pass a math or science test for the life of me. What did that test tell me, once again I wasn't good enough. We are so much more than academia. Yes it is important,but the testing to get to higher edu., at least in the US has nothing to do with intelligence as far as I am concerned...

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    1. Jan, oh yes girl! We ARE so much more than academia. You know, that aptitude test might not be so far off, seeing how you enjoy getting out in remote parts of nature and capturing its rugged beauty. At the same time I can’t see you as forest ranger. But photographer, yes ;-)

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  4. I definitely think tests can be limiting in really grasping the full potential that a student has as well as his/her capacity to retain knowledge. Most times tests cater to one or two learning styles while there are at least seven that I know of. This means that those students whose learning styles fit the form of the test do better than the students who see and process things a bit differently who might be able to do just as good if taking a test in a different format.

    I, fortunately, had little trouble in school when it came to tests except for math. I was , and still am, horrible at math! It's very frustrating to struggle and oftentimes even when you do your best, if you're performance isn't desirable, teachers, parents, etc. blame you for not applying yourself. I think that's too bad. We all will have shortcomings and those things that we excel at. I think we should encourage our children to build up their skills at things that they struggle at but at the same time praise them for the areas they naturally excel at. I think sometimes we tend to focus too much on their shortcomings.

    Sorry..went on a bit there!

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    1. Jessica, we might as well face it: the system is broken. I agree with you 100% about encouraging our children in those skills in which they excel, but not beating them up emotionally at subjects in which they struggle. We are all wonderfully made, with gifts that are inherent from birth. A good parent, regardless of the system’s failure - and it’s NOT the children’s failure, it’s the system’s - recognizes the child’s strengths and weaknesses early on. Or they SHOULD anyway;-) My babygirl is gifted in the performing arts, music, dance, and acting. So these subjects have always been her “major.”

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  5. This is one of the areas that hit home with me..I seriously believe as we get older maybe high school or even younger..we look around and see what we are lacking by jealousy or enve of others..and from that bullying begins.....truly thief of joy...As always....XOXOXOXO

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    1. Bongo, great point! Kids feeling that they can't measure up may be the root of bullying. And too, the system's glorified bullying may be the culprit. Lot's beneath the surface that cause these issues.

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  6. Debra... a very familiar story that many have gone through including myself. I remember going through many hours of studying so that I could be on the same level as my siblings... the rebel in me just dug her heels and went against it...
    I am glad I did as I have found my passion and the rest is history !

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    1. Savira, you go girl! You are one of those individuals who will NOT be locked in a box. Rebels and thinkers, that's us!

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  7. Great post....so true of today's generation. The day my son was born, my second child, the doctor said don't compare your kids....and that was the end of it.

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    1. Janaki, never in this world! NEVER compare our children. They are ALL wonderfully made, unique and perfect in their own way!

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  8. What a powerful piece, Debra. But then I don't expect anything less from you. Thankfully my parents weren't too big on test scores - my Mom always told us that when we grew up all we needed to be was good people - nothing else mattered to her. However, when I was teaching I saw at close hand how hard parents and teachers are on youngsters. The conversations in the staff room were either about the 'good' students or the 'very bad' students. I was the rebel teacher who had a lot of 'bad' students as friends. Perhaps because I was an adult who saw beyond their marks? Our testing methods are awful - and our education system leaves so much to be desired....

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    1. Corinne, the world could use more teachers like us: compassionate and understanding souls – and humble hearts ;-) I’ve taught for at least a hundred years it seems, in all kinds of settings, from college to public to private to boarding schools. And I’m here to say unequivocally that the system is a mess! That’s why I started an alternate school: for the students, not for a broken system. If you’ll forgive the cliché’, I feel like my tax dollars are being spent to bail water out of the Titanic. I'm sure you can feel my angst all the way from U.S. to India!

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  9. --Beautifully & Insighfully written.

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    1. Thank you! Wonderful meeting you at the hop, a new discovery!

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  10. Oh Debra, I hated numbers! Scores in particular. Back in med school, our grades were posted in the school hallways for everyone to see. And the names of people who failed at a subject were also posted. Which really sucked. I hated it because people will judge you based on those numbers. And I think written exams are limited in their ability to measure one's person's abilities. There are just people who happen to be good at answering tests.

    Comparison was like a monster that haunted me since I was a little girl. I admit, it was really tough. Because I was always striving to be better than somebody else. And when I don't succeed, I felt like I was a total failure.

    I learned about this the hard way, but I'm thankful that I realized it as early as now. I know a lot of adults around here who never outgrew that insecurity.

    Thank you so much for sharing another brilliant post, Debra! Take care and God bless! :-)

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    1. Irene, you know, there are geniuses off the charts who don’t test well. To use the hackneyed phrase one more time, these are the out-of-the-box thinkers. Like Einstein, who said “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Einstein, as you probably know, wasn’t exactly an “A” student. In fact, he was considered learning disabled.
      Grades posted in the hallways? Over the top! As if academic pressure isn’t enough. The system is all about training students to jump through their hoops :-(
      Have a wonderful weekend Irene. Blessings!

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  11. Debra, I was one of those kids that wasn't the brightest light bulb on the street. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't that I didn't have it in me, it was that I wasn't challenged because I didn't 'look' like one of the smart kids. Go figure. I didn't dress in all the latest fashions, I was happy with my jeans, tennies, and t-shirt. I didn't have my hair done-up all fancy with the latest fingernail paintings. I didn't fit the mold. Being voted 'least likely to succeed' certainly took a tole on me during my lifetime and is a constant reminder to this day how cruel comparing one child to the next can be.
    In answer to your question, no I don't think children should be judged by their test scores. Not every child can get what is in their mind onto paper. That doesn't make them stupid. Sometimes, it even makes them brilliant! I think people should be judge on who they are, and not what they are expected to be ☺

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    1. Mary, thank you for sharing your story. What a superficial way of seeing people, by outward appearances! I can hardly believe you were voted least likely to succeed :-( No way girl! One would never guess. Just goes to show how little relevance our school days have on who we are today. I think you should write about this. What a story of triumph over shallowness! On a happier note, how is the homeschooling going these days?
      Have a wonderful weekend Mary!

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  12. I was a perfectionist in high school and college. I HAD to get an A and when I didn't I would cry my eyes out. When a teacher witnessed how stressed out I was, they made me repeat the class the next year. They didn't think I was ready for the next step and the stress it would bring. I'm glad I worked hard during those years, but looking back on it makes me laugh. Of course children shouldn't be judged by their test scores, but it's the way of life. They'll go onto succeed if they are driven. Hard work pays off no matter what grade you get. Not Your Ordinary Recipes
    Not Your Ordinary Agent

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    1. In school I HAD to get A’s for fear of punishment if I didn’t. But in college I HAD to get A’s because I wanted to prove how smart I was. Not being particularly good in math or science because I’m mostly right-brained and tend toward the artistic-intuitive side, I memorized my “facts” for tests, then forgot everything by the next week! In college Biology I wanted that A to keep a consistent grade average, but the professor claimed I was one point shy of the mark. (one fry short of a Happy Meal ;-) I was so upset! So girl, I know how you must have felt!

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  13. When I was a kid, I was put in the dumb kid classes. Most of the way through high school. I don't know how I made it to and through college. I think I only got there because it was an expectation my parents had--the people who expected that I not fail.

    My son. He's in the smart kid classes at the smart kid school. But it means about as much to him. He thinks the whole experience is a joke--"gifted and talented," and he thinks it's all meaningless, is insulted by the level of work he is given and thinks he (and most kids') talents are being ignored--whether you are thinking about the things that can be counted (quantified) or the things that are more subjective (respect for learning).

    Too much of this is meaningless, but it's not about a system that is recently broken: it is about the many ways in which we have wanted to segregate our world and make a safe place for people who think they are superior, superior race, caste, whatever. And our insecurities about not being part of it. Still running...

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    1. Clarence, many poets have had the same struggle, including me. Poets write from heart, not just head - the common school cerebral practice. I appreciate so much your authentic voice here, your sharing of your own story, and your son’s. You know, you should do a blog post on this subject sometimes and publish these meaningful thoughts.

      The one year my son Jesse attended school he was placed in the Gifted and Talented program, which just meant he was deemed more capable of taking on extra work, as opposed to those who could only handle the basic essentials. His GT teacher called me aside one day to inform me that Jesse’s IQ test had revealed “genius” status. But I wasn’t to mention this to him, as his ego would inflate.

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    2. I actually think our sons should write that blog post.

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    3. Yes, they should! Your son inherited his brilliance from his father. But shh... the school system will never know ;-)

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  14. Well we kind of need them - but no one should ever base their self-worth on a test score. I used to teach – and they were both a blessing and a curse – that's the thing of this world isn't it – everything is both blessing and curse – only God is pure blessing - and the time for only pure blessing and never something good gone bad is later. Just my two cents – I heart that picture by the way – totally HEART it. God bless and keep you and each and every one of yours Debra.

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    1. Oh Craig, blessing and curse, everything CAN indeed be either. Mostly we choose which, don’t we? BTW, I’m working on a manuscript currently, and I borrowed (not stole, borrowed) your insightful words. I say I borrowed them because I give credit where credit is due: “Craig Scognamiglio, a writer friend and author at Deep Into Scripture, says, “A little bit of reason, intellect, modern thought, and every miracle can be explained. The people in Jesus’ day were all sick, not demon possessed. God was invented by primitive people who had no explanation for the wind, weather, lights in the sky, life or death. It absolved them of uncertainty and personal responsibility. But we’re past all that now; all of that was primitive….” So, do I have your permission to use these words when the book is finished and published? I still have a way to go. Check you later…

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  15. I really never thought of competition until I reached college. I know I should be better than men in everything so I really strove hard to be at the top. But the truth is, I was just competing with myself, even my best friend stepped down of the scene just to see me up there.

    From what I observed in my culture, titles and degrees are very important. In my family, everybody expects us to always be among the honor students. It's just so important to 'them.' When we have gatherings, I'd hear my relatives comparing our lots with each other. It could be nauseating most of the time.

    But after I graduated, I decided to be something else...I didn't succeed in that but I've broken the chain of comparison somehow.

    I'll come back for the second part of my reflection :)

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    1. Melissa, not only your culture, but every culture compares students based on test scores. Don’t you find it interesting that many kids do it for ‘them,’ but in reality don’t care themselves about learning what they’re feed from textbooks in order to regurgitate facts for the tests? Thank you for your reflection here, and I look forward to hearing more of your unique story. Hope your weekend is going great so far!

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  16. Ooo I thought it was only in our culture :P... I'm so glad I get to teach catechism and I don't have to put scores and give the children grades.

    My SD says we only feed our heads but our hearts remain empty, so real learning never takes place. We only feed our ego.

    So I left a promising career as a nurse in another country and started a new life, relearning new things.

    I practically have no idea how and what could be done in our educational system. But I guess a lot could be done in the family too where the children could feel safe and comfortable, and confident for who and what they are and what they are capable of doing.

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    1. Melissa, I can count on you for depth – your site lives up to its name! Your SD sounds like a wise soul. Institutions all over the globe feed the head while the heart remains empty. Doesn’t it make you wonder how far we’ve veered from reality? From simple truth? As far as changing the system, I don’t think that’s going to happen. This makes me think of William Blake’s words, “I must create a system, or be enslaved by another’s… I must not reason or compare, my business is to create.” Sometimes systems have to crumble and fall to the ground, and ships have to sink.

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  17. Debra, I had a dream childhood, with my parents accepting us all( we were four siblings)for what we were.Never compared or judged on the basis of marks we got in the exams and in life. I, in turn did the same with my kids.
    Loved your post, thanks for this great piece.

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    1. Sulekkha, you did have a dream childhood. And from your own accepting, loving parents, you passed the torch of love along to your own. Beautiful.

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  18. Debra, having been a poor test taker all of my life, I can say that no, tests cannot measure a person's success or failure rate. Tests have always overwhelmed me with anxiety and I think I passed my driving test back in the day through divine intervention. It wasn't till I entered college that I realized that studying and cramming made things worse.So instead I partied and had fun. On one particular occasion, my sister convinced me that if I didn't study for a exam, there was little chance I was passing it. I studied, using her methods, for a week. I knew the material left and right but on the day of the exam, the instructor handed it to me, I sat down, looked at it and all I saw was a blank page. I had forgotten everything! Or better yet, anxiety prevented me from accessing the parts of my brain where the answers lay. Needless to say, I handed in a blank test and got an F. That day was a changing point in my life. Never again did I study for a test. The funny thing is that in spite of that, I still graduated Magna Cum Laude. Go figure. Grades were a different story. A little piece of me died every time I didn't get an A and I was very competitive in grade school. Fortunately that all changed. Now, I'm still a bit competitive (the Signficant Other would disagree and say I'm still very competitive)but not to the point where it takes over my existence. Debra, I loved the picture you painted with your words in this post. I could literally feel the child's pain and angst. Or maybe you managed to touch my inner child who once upon a time experienced everything you describe. Wonderful post, friend! :)

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    1. Bella, it sounds like your right-brained, artistic, intuitive Self shut down during tests. :-( Truth be told, our academic structure isn’t geared for right-brain types. I couldn’t help from snickering over the driver’s license issued by divine intervention; that might be the only test under the sun that’s a matter of life and death;-) And graduating Magna Cum Laude was another example of divine intervention, from what you’ve said here! Sounds like you’re an overcomer for sure!

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  19. I like the Albert Einsteins saying “Not everything that can be counted counts,and not everything that counts can be counted.” I was not a good test taker in school. Always did better when the teacher asked me questions.My classes where usually with the poor students. I never really fit in from my classmates. I was the quite one wearing no make up. I was always looking to find things I was good at. My search brought out my love of writing and photography.

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    1. Artist, yep, that's why you're an artist today. You managed to overcome the odds and get in touch with your own dreams, which is not what school’s about; it’s about conformity to the system. Open-ended questions are for the thinkers. I’m reading Seth Godin’s manifesto called, Stop Stealing Dreams. You can read it FREE. Check it out. http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2012/02/stop-stealing-dreams-seth-godins-new.html

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  20. Hi Debra, I loved both the quotes that u used. It is so right - a person takes everything else other than scores, money, and materialistic things in his grave. Loved your take. It boils down to what matters the most in life. Thanks for such a nice write up.
    And students should NOT be judged on their scores. Just one reason - Einstein. He failed only to invent a light bulb???
    Scores are not everything. Scores are not life.

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    1. Punam, thank you for stopping by and leaving your positive feedback. Einstein, as you can guess, is one of my heros. I just now discovered YOUR take on comparison: thief of joy. And yeah! What matters most is how you see yourself in the mirror! I’ll check you later - Stay tuned…

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  21. Debra - Your post is a powerful message that I am extremely passionate about. I am in Michigan where we most recently fought back with government about a horribly written anti-bullying law and the pressure luckily caused government to rewrite the language. Now we are working on law against cyber bullying. The increased rate of teen depression and suicide is so sad and concerning and I believe that bullying and cyberbullying, sexting,etc is a large contributor behind it.

    Thanks for writing on such an important piece of awareness.

    http://irishpenn.blogspot.com/2012/03/life-lessons-cool-activity-with.html

    Irish

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    1. Irish, I hope you’ll not only continue to teach those valuable life lessons you have learned, but that you keep fighting the good fight. Who else will stand up against bullying (of all kinds) but those who are aware of the danger for vulnerable children? Those who have a passion for protecting children are on the frontlines, and I’m just glad you are among them. Kudos girl!

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  22. It doesn't seem to matter how many years I home school my children...and we started in 1987!!...I still seem to need this reminder now and then. That pressure to 'show' progress can still get to me. Thank you for posting this!

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    1. Deborah, got you beat! We started in '83 ;-) One reason we homeschool is to instill a love of learning. To gauge which lessons are essential in learning, and also to simplify life, ask these three questions: Does this subject matter have practical application? Does it have any transformative or character-building value? Does it spark curiosity and increase an appetite to learn more, or is it resulting in burnout? Then build the house of bricks, not straw or sticks, which the winds of time will destroy. ~ blessings!

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  23. This really speaks to me. It is something I have had to overcome myself. And I love that quote, Comparison is the theif of joy. I know this, too well. It is something God is making me aware of on a regular basis in regard to writing. Thank you so much for all of your encouraging comments on my blog, they mean so much.

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    1. Shelly, your words and images ALWAYS inspire because you are able so artfully to capture the glories of creation and the heart of the Creator, both!

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  24. Test scores maybe can help assess a student's understanding of a subject, but "success" and "failure" are harsh judgment words that should not be used. When I was in school, I was the "smart" kid others were compared to, which of course set me apart. Then there was the matter of appearance, race, clothes, shoes, you name it. I think we are in a society that does nothing but find points of comparison to keep us off balance. I'm enjoying the blog hop and always a pleasure to read you, Deb!

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    1. Adriene, Were you one of the brainy acts in school? Last year my daughter was in High School Musical, which depicts the various types of students: jocks, brainy acts, skater dudes, etc… I’d have never seen the show if Abi haven’t been a part of it. But the story does depict how schools compare and label. In fact, that’s how it is across the board in society. Did you join Linda and Corinne’s hop too? I’ll have to go check it out!

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  25. Actually i used to feel comparision is not good. But in fact I have realised now wth my kid that lack of comparision (in terms of competition for 1st rank etc. takes away the initiative to study.(She has more initiative now when she thinks of the ranks!!) Some work better in competition, some work better in absence of it. The schools and families have to somehow be able to adapt the system according to both types!! Maybe the ones who dont like competition should not be pushed into the competitions but competitions need not be done away with!!

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    1. Thank you Jerly for your take on competition. It has its pros and cons for sure. Best wishes to your daughter in all she strives to accomplish! Kudos on a job well done!

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    2. Thanks Debra and thanks for your visit to my post :). Maybe you will like my recent one on "silence speaks" here Je...

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    3. Jerly, I'll check it out. Thanks!

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  26. I believe most children compare themselves to their classmates as that's human nature...We all want to believe that we're as good as those around us. Expectations are heaped upon the shoulders of our youth from an early age thus how could they not draw comparisions. Parents discuss grades amongst themselves and feel a sense of shame when their offspring fail to measure up to other youngsters. The pressure is only increasing as job opportunites are fewer and only the elite can claim coveted positions but that said every child has the right to follow their own path. Goals are fine but parents should not overburden kids with their own visions of glory!! Great thought-provoking post!!

    http://erinsdomain.blogspot.com

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    1. David, thank you for your valuable insights here! You’re so right that children can’t help but compare themselves with their peers. I know I did, both physically and intellectually. I was too tall, too fair-skinned (yeah, my complexion was too light compared to some of my tanner friends).
      I like to imagine a world in which children were allowed to follow their bliss and pursue those calls for which they were wired. Everyone was born with certain aptitudes for certain things, and there’s no sense trying to fit everyone into the same mold. Good thoughts David!

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  27. When I was little, I wondered why everyone made E's and G's and I only made S's. When I got older, I realized bloomtime is different - and in the non-bloomtime of my littleness I found God and didn't let go. I've talked to my boys about bloomtime - because some bloomed late like me. Love your Einstein quote - wasn't he a late bloomer, too - not understood by the academic world and failed for a long time? Or do I have my guys mixed up?

    http://bluecottonmemory.wordpress.com

    I think people who struggled with tests understand tests do not measure the soul!

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    1. ML, “I realized bloomtime is different… love your way of wording readiness: “bloomtime!” Einstein was a late bloomer, and “academically challenged,” from all that I’ve read about him. Albert Einstein’s brother, Han’s, said this of his brother: “He told me that his teachers reported that he was mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in his foolish dreams.” Apparently the tests given him couldn’t measure his genius! He’s my archetype of why tests can’t measure much of anything that truly matters in life, including spiritual intelligence.

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  28. Debra my answers below:

    a. yes but it never had any effect in me. I was the strange kind : )
    b. Definitely not.

    And what an amazing post this is!

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    1. Kriti, you are wonderfully strange! Have a great week my friend!

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  29. As the mother of a now grown daughter, I have so often rued the emphasis on test scores and what it does to our children. As a young girl, the scenario was different but it had similar effect. Growing up at a time when brains were not as valued as beauty, I found myself struggling with a desire (to read, learn, etc.,) that had to be kept at bay. So to answer your question as directly as I can, my 'comparison' with peers was more on the order of appearing average and not (too) brainy. Trust me, not an easy role, and one I venture to guess many females of my generation were faced with. Clearly, lots of your followers have thoughts on your thought-provoking post.

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    1. Deborah, you are one of those with a rare combination of brains and beauty. Still, having to keep at bay your interests in reading and growing in knowledge just because it wasn’t the cool thing to do is a shame :-( If it had been legal then, you’d have been an ideal home schooled student, where you could go at your own fast pace and not have to hold back. I teach writing to a girl with such a passion for reading and writing that she’s far, far ahead of most adults I know. Her literary IQ is way off the charts at 15.

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  30. Great post Debra on how we can so easily become focused on the wrong (and meaningless) things in life. Why does this happen? I don't think there is an easy answer. Sometimes it is true that schools put too much emphasis on the wrong things but sometimes schools actually encourage a more well-rounded approach, a more realistic approach and instead parents push too hard or students get caught up in peer or social pressure to focus on things that don't really matter. The media too has a hand in all this and certainly promotes shallow goals and holds up ridiculous role models to young people. We are all vulnerable to the pressure but young people especially so as they are still forming an understanding of who they are.

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    1. Lynne, as a counselor and writer your insights are valuable. The promotion of shallow values comes from children at every angle: the media, peers, schools, even from some parents, unfortunately ;-( Of course most aren’t even conscious of this and continue to perpetuate the problem.
      What are your thoughts on “No Child Left Behind?” I’d love to pick your brain sometime. My philosophy is summed up in the words of Cicero.

      Natural ability without education
      has more often attained to glory and virtue
      than education without natural ability.

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  31. I always had pretty good grades in school, however, they came at a price. I had anxiety attacks before presentations and exams. I wish that grades had less to do with end of the semester testing and focused more on what was learned each day.

    great post, it really illustrates the pressure grades can have on a young person.

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    1. Good point Patty. How different children would view school if they could only enjoy learning without the intense pressure of end of grade testing. Think how threatened they feel, wondering if they’ll make it to the next grade or not, based on those tests. I know a girl who scored high on weekly tests, but failed the end-of-grade test. How fair is that?

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  32. Hello.
    I hated school & if I were to be judged on my performance then I would have been classed as a failure, because I left school at 14! The good thing is I didn't let my lack of education stop me from following my dreams.
    Thought-provoking post indeed.
    Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Andy, good for you! Like Mark Twain said, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” I bet when you left the system you learned all you needed to learn on your own. And just look at you now. A modern-day Rumi! Hats off!

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    2. Smiling...WoW! To be mentioned in the same sentence as Rumi...sure does wonders for my self-esteem (lol). Thanks a lot for your kindness Debra.
      I'm following you too.
      Have a great weekend!

      Delete
  33. Just the other a young boy killed himself after his paper because he felt he didn't perform well enough and that his parents will be disappointed. Ron had just started his finals and I keep telling him that is is never the grades but what you make of yourself in life, that nobody remembers your marks but what life that you will lead that counts. There is so much pressure these days and it is frightening.

    .

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    1. Rimly, how sad to hear about the young boy. That's what I'm talking about. You are a wonderful mother to reassure Ron that it's not grades that make you who you are, it's YOU, and only you. I'm teaching the same to my daughter. Bless you my friend from far away!

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  34. This post brings me to tears. As a "retired" teacher and mommy of five growing students, I "get it". All the "measurements" we impose upon our youth truly do resemble a stack of stones. Too heavy. Too heavy. Maybe that's why Christ invites us to take his yoke upon ourselves.. for it is light! I pray that the only stone my children will use carry in their packs is the Rock of jesus! Your writing is inspiring. Thanks for stopping by the Overflow today. So fun to meet you!

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    1. Oh Alicia, your comment speaks volumes, and brought me to tears. Why is this? It’s because you are the first to voice what I have felt for a long, long time: his burden is light. I feel for students weighed down by academic stones. We were created to learn naturally, and with great joy, the way your children are learning. I was stirred by your daughter’s depth, and at such a young age. Your “school” is a picture of what every learning environment should look like. It should be a model for others.

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  35. I am reading "Your Child's Strengths," by Jenifer Fox. It echoes my long-held beliefs that our public education is broken is many places. Not only do test scores NOT represent the true strengths of the students taking them, but also they create so much anxiety that teachers cannot shine either. We should have been in an immediate uproar when Kindergartners started coming home with homework. But the competitive climate often keeps us from seeing how wrong it is to set up unfair comparisons between children in an environment that cannot possibly notice when a child is truly being "left behind" because of bullying, having a different set of (perhaps unidentified) skills, or "red shirt" kids simply so that they will dominate later-either academically or athletically.

    If schools continue to use test scores to measure achievement, our kids will continue to be in deep trouble. Even kids who test well are not free from harm. The valedictorian of my high school, who seemed like Mary Poppins (practically perfect in every way) committed suicide shortly into college. I have to wonder about the role OPE (other people's expectations) played on this desperate decision.

    A decision like "No Child Left Behind" should never have been allowed the full speed ahead carte blanche power to upend a nation's schools without careful consideration of its potential effects, and without consulting a WIDE range of educators, students, and visionaries. Instead of creating systems which reward excellence in teachng by measuring the enthusiasm and joy in a classroom (where learning can be meaningful and diverse) in conjunction with creative tools for measuring the transfer of materials learned, scads of classrooms are turning out bored, disillusioned, angry, hurting, despondent children who just want to escape into the other far more interesting aspects of their lives (be it healthy for them or not). Oh how I dream of kids coming home from a day at school energized and excited about what transpired in the classroom-- excited to go back and participate again.

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    1. Chai, wow! What a meaningful comment here. Thank you for sharing a bit about “Your Child’s Strengths.” It sounds like a book every parent should read. We are on the same page girl.
      Oh, that’s a sin and a shame about the valedictorian of your high school committing suicide. Someone that conscientious about being the “best” would, under pressure, be a likely candidate for suicide.
      Here’s an article I wrote called “National Standards: Do we need them?”
      http://bornstoryteller.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/national-standards-are-they-necessary-guest-blog/ Check it out and look at the alternatives to testing. There are better ways. Thank you again for your input here.

      Delete
  36. Thank you, Debra, for such a great reminder of what things are most important.

    As a parent of an ADHD child, this is a constant struggle to find the right balance.

    Knowing, on the one hand, how important an education is and how necessary for our young man to find the right tools to focus and learn...

    Yet, knowing, on the other hand, that the wonderful person God has created him to be is so much more than can ever be reflected in a test score or a report card...

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    1. Hi Joe!
      “Parents have become so convinced that educators know what is best for children that they forget that they themselves are really the experts.” - Marion Wright Edelman
      I have a friend whose son struggled. It might have been ADHD. Here’s their story, if you care to read it. God provided an answer for them. And He'll do the same for your son.
      http://debrasblogpureandsimple.blogspot.com/2010/11/get-them-in-ark_09.html

      Delete
  37. As noted on your wall, not something I did nor did I put my children through. I think there is enough pressure as it is in life why add more. Each of us has to find our own way while defining along the way. I am not you, and your are not me, I like what you do, and so on. If we were all the same there would be not variety in life. No one's life is a perfect as IT MIGHT LOOK FROM THE OUTSIDE. It's my three scents on the topic, but as I can see there are many. It's a spirited discussion to say the least.

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    1. Hello dear Brenda! Yes, quite a spirited discussion! Great point: there’s enough pressure in the world without adding more. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. Your comment reminded me of a tee shirt my daughter Hannah wore. In the midst of a gang of cats, there sat a lone Dalmatian. The caption said, “In a world of copycats, be an original.” And that’s what I’m trying my best to convey to my youngest daughter, Abi. Be yourself.

      Delete
  38. thought provoking post, Debra. it is so sad for the kid on the bus, real or imagined. a very good reminder for me as i raise my own babies and teach them. thank God for my parents, who were hard on me, but i knew that i could always come home and tell them the truth, and i would be met with acceptance, love, and discipline for my lack of responsibility {and when i made bad grades, it usually was}--and the discipline was usually a talk, which i think works well.

    yes, i compared myself based on acedemic performance, along with every other kind of way that one could compare themselves with their peers. it was overwhelming. i don't think kids should be compared based on test scores. i love your take on Einstein's life and genius and i very much agree. again, we need to remember that God created us all unique and we need to foster and nurture His light and love in each person individually--something for me to ponder as i look into curriculum and learning for my little ones--thank you for this.

    love the picture and quote. beautiful. i do this to myself in my writing as well--a good reminder for me. thank you for visiting my place, for your sweet words there--they warmed my heart--i left you a reply. blessings!

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    1. Nacole, after seeing you dance with your lovely daughters, I’ll always think of you whenever I hear Lord of the Dance.

      Dance, then, wherever you may be,
      I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
      And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
      And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he

      If you teach your daughters to LOVE learning as you’ve taught them to love dancing alongside you, then you’ve accomplished one of the most important goals in life! ~ richest blessings

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  39. Praise God that He loves each of His children infinitely, no matter what our test scores or how much money we make. As I wrote in a recent blog post, the first shall be last, and the last first: http://savedbygracebiblestudy.blogspot.com/2012/02/first-or-last.html
    Thanks so much for the wonderful blog post, and for following Saved by Grace!
    Love in Him,
    Laurie

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    Replies
    1. Oh yes girl! The greatest consolation ever! The world system only imparts more pride – false self-esteem – by virtue of what WE have accomplished by our own merits. And this ideal is the opposite of HIS value system. Your article is wonderful. Amen, “God, and God alone, places us first when we deserve to be last.” Thanks for sharing with me, and I’ll forward it along to others. Have a great day!

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  40. The shot gun stuck out having been there and the same thoughts many years ago when thoughts of escape and giving up seemed like a good solution to a problem.

    And then at the last second a still voice said "no!"

    Nice post. We wind up on a slippery slope when we compare, and make good choices when we use discernment to help us decide what to do.

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    1. Hi Jim! This was your dilemma too? The struggle so many youth face… How sad for us all in that boat ( Titanic) when so much could be done to alter the status quo? It does take discernment to know how to gracefully escape the system. And from what I’ve read of your writing, you’ve managed, like Houdini, to break out of the strait jackets that confine.
      Discernment doesn’t come easy, does it?

      Delete
  41. Hi Debra, it's a good post, and so sad. The young have a tough time today and the awareness and reminders of competition doesn't help it much.

    I hear it from my kids and besides keeping them a float, prayer goes a long way.

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    Replies
    1. Hi BM, yes, prayer goes a long way. And sometimes, all the kids have is a wing and a prayer :-(
      Hope you have a great weekned!

      Delete
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    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Chris, thanks for the invite! I'll check it out.
      Have a wonderful weekend!

      Delete
  43. Wow... wow!!! Reading it once left me speechless; I went back and read a second time... incredibly powerful and the quotes you matched with your article is brilliant!

    I love this... "Most of the things that really matter in life can’t be measured on a test. Can you measure authenticity, imagination, creativity, curiosity, empathy, compassion - all elements of an education that translate into necessary life skills?" I home-school my oldest daughter and thinking about it with my youngest and this line of questioning will be at the top of our curriculum!

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    1. It’s Amy, right? I homeschooled all my children, and still have a 16-year-old in the nest. You could probably deduce from this post I’m not too keen on any system that legally shoves children around and gets by with a glorified form of bullying. Even homeschoolers often fall into the pressure cooker. Some of this post is excerpted from an article I wrote for a homeschool publication called “What matters?” I hope we can be friends ;-) Following you on NB.
      Your story of overcoming in amazing!
      My FB link:
      http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000925791150

      Delete
  44. Ohhh, this is a powerful topic! I think we all have some level of childhood scarring from primary education years. I was in elementary school during the 1970s, and in TN, that was a time when tracking IQ numbers was suddenly very important. I tested at a genius level of IQ and was placed in a special class for this. It literally painted a target on my back for the other kids to attack and harass. It also made the regular teachers resentful about the time we missed in their classes to go to these special classes. We were also taken to Nashville without parental permission or knowledge for further testing; think laboratory rat conditions. It definitely affected my whole perception of who and what I was, my place in the world and more. I became labeled as "that genius girl who has life easy". That label couldn't have been farther from the truth, as with that genius level IQ came a very challenging type of dyslexia that made certain types of logic comprehension difficult. I worked three times as hard on math classes and homework just to keep my head above water. Unrealistic expectations were placed on my by the educators in control for many, many years, and I internalized a great deal of emotion that took me more years to process and come to peace with.

    Childhood is just tough, and we all had our struggles. From mine grew a determination to own my own mind, my body and my right to speak up and not be used as a pawn. Big lessons there.

    Much love to you, Debra!

    - Dawn

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    1. Well, it appears that both comments DID post! Sorry about that, Debra. Feel free to delete which one seems less relevant. :)

      - Dawnie

      Delete
    2. This has happened to me too Dawn. Your thoughts are so meaningful, and I’ll respond to the following one. Since some of my comments on blogs have seemingly disappeared in cyberspace, I’ve learned, when commenting at length, to write it in Word Doc. first, then copy and paste in comment section, so as not to lose it forever :-( Thankfully, you didn’t give up dear Dawn!

      Delete
    3. Debra, I'd be happy to let you use my story. I can give you a bit more information on it for your manuscript, if you like, as I just skimmed the surface here. Give me a yell in email when you're ready and we'll do it!

      Delete
  45. Well, shoot! I typed a long comment and it poofed on me. Let's see if I can remember what I said.

    I think we all had challenges during primary education years. I was schooled in the 1970s, and in TN, there was a huge interest focused on each child's IQ level. I tested at genius IQ level and was placed in a program for gifted children. Rather than this being a positive experience, it backlashed, with other children attacking and harassing those of us placed in that program. Even more unfortunate, the regular teachers resented that special program and victimized those of us who were in the program. We were also taken to Nashville without parental permission and tested once a month, much like lab rats.

    I became labeled as "that genius girl who doesn't have to work hard for good grades" and had very unrealistic expectations placed on me by teachers throughout primary education years. That label followed me everywhere. But along with that genius level IQ came a rare form of dyslexia that manifested (and still does) with math logic. I had to work three times as hard to barely keep my head above water with advanced math logic classes.

    I internalized a lot from what I now look back and identify as severe emotional/mental abuse over this whole thing. It has taken me much of my adult life to come to peace about what was done during those elementary years. I learned to speak up, refuse to bow down to people in positions of power and I learned to own who I am and refuse to be used as a pawn. Sounds awful, doesn't it?! Much of it was, but in the midst of the abusive and controlling conditions of those early years, I grew in many spiritual ways that still serve me well today.

    Wonderful topic, as always, Debra!

    Much love to you,
    Dawnie

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  46. Dawn, your story is the perfect illustration of why children should never be labeled. In my years of writing and research on the subject, I’ve collected a few real life stories from people I know to prove my case against labeling. Yours is one I’d like to use, with your permission. I’ve never used last names.

    What you learned from this experience is probably more valuable than what you learned from academia, for learning to stand up for yourself and refusing to bow down to authority figures is paramount in the individuation process. You have confirmed to me this day that the manuscript on hold will indeed be forthcoming in the not-too-distant future. It’s one of those books that demands to be written, for the children’s sake. Thank you so much for sharing your story, because anyone who knows who you are today will have hope;-) Much love and many blessings!

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  47. such a brilliant write, debra. truly.

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    1. Thank you dear Emily.
      ~ richest riches

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  48. This writing on a child's inner thoughts towards rejection goes very deep. We have no way of knowing what other persons have gone through or are thinking about. Oh, may we have the discernment and God-guidance to know when we could make a difference in another life.

    Thank you for posting on my site a few days ago. The message you left there was poignant.

    You have hit on my daily mantra, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all." Hungry for wholeness right alongside you! ~

    Yes, how we all long for wholeness. I guess that's not going to be completed until Jesus comes again. But what a wonderful God he is to keep us protected in ways that we'll never know about,this side of heaven. And again, the way he sends comfort -- whether in the purring kitten wanting to be petted, a beautiful sunset, or a compassionate persons -- just when we need it most!

    God bless and keep you today.

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    1. Kingfisher, yes, may we have discernment and God-guidance to know when we can make a difference in another life. Thank you for these encouraging words. Tonight you have blessed me with another message over at your place. Wholeness and healing… that’s where the journey leads. And the destination, that’s when we will be perfect and complete!

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  49. “Not everything that can be counted counts,
    and not everything that counts can be counted.”
    ~ Albert Einstein

    I needed to read this today. Perhaps it is the tangible that gives people more satisfaction. But the intangible is where the magic is!

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    Replies
    1. Yes Megan, the magic is in the intangible!
      Sights unseen by the naked eye.

      Delete
  50. you know i was suffering from the disease FAILURE but yeah
    you are right things that matter can't be measured by test.thanks

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    Replies
    1. Zarnab, you're not the failure. The system is. Your genius can't be measured by a test, girl, you know that;-)

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  51. :) your every word means alot:)

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