White Privilege in Standardized Testing

The main type of testing education that is appreciated by larger entities and feared by students goes by a rather honest name: standardized testing. This testing requires three things: a sharpened number two pencil, a sheet of paper with bubbles representing the answers to the questions, and a native English speaker.

The most well known standardized test is the SAT taken during one’s Junior year of high school. This test is often the first test that reflects each student’s individual knowledge, and the scores actually matter. Compared to some of the other required standardized tests high schoolers take, such as the NWEAs or the NECAPs, which take the data from an entire school and judge the institution based off it, there is a pressure to perform well on the SATs if the student taking it wants to go to college. But several discussions with my psychology teacher, Troy Crabtree, led me to understand that there is an unfair advantage when it comes to standardized testing; if English is one’s strongest language, they will perform better.

As a teenager who is only fluent in English, I can say with surety that the reading and comprehension section on the SATs is difficult. Although I like to think I excel in English as a course, this test was arduous. It set up sentences in ways under experienced readers would struggle with, along with grammatical errors hard to discriminate. It is important to remember that the SAT is not offered in different languages. Unless the reader has a full understanding of English grammar, the language can be difficult to interpret.

The math section on this standardized test may also pose difficulties, seeing that the questions are in English as well, despite the idea that “math is the universal language”. If someone who was preeminent in mathematics immigrated from Africa recently, the odds of them doing well on the math section would be seriously hindered because of their language skills. Without an accurate understanding of what the question is asking you to perform, there is no way that one could adequately answer the question. As a native English speaker, I already found the math section on the SAT to be difficult and riddled with tricks. It is hard to imagine trying to solve the numerical pieces without the ability to comprehend the language attached.  

From a teenager’s perspective, it somewhat feels like the SATs, along with many other standardized tests, are curated to make students fail. Now, I doubt that is what the creator of the standardized test envisioned, but nonetheless, it is happening to students who are not fortunate, or privileged, enough to have English as their first language. If a student who only speaks English feels this way, it is hard to imagine how insurmountable the test must feel for a recent immigrant with English as a second or third language.

As a soon to be high school senior, I need to retake the SATs. Though I disagree with what the SATs, and standardized tests in general, I still will use the scores from it because I need them to go to college. In an ideal world, there would be no need for standardized tests, as students would be judged on their character and not their ability to sit in a room for two hours while forced to stare at a glaringly white piece of paper and bubble in their answers.

Debunking the Defunding of Planned Parenthood

What do you think of when you see the words “Planned Parenthood”? Perhaps it is a sense of pride, knowing that it is a place where anyone can go to access help. Likely you also think of abortions when you encounter the organization. “Planned Parenthood” can be interpreted in numerous ways, but more than anything, its core meaning is literally its name. This organization is a resource to help safely plan your future parenthood. Do not let the name fool you- not every service is related to being sexually active. Their variety of care includes (but is not limited to): men and women’s health services, STD testing, patient education, LGBTQ services, pregnancy testing, abortions, and referrals. Moreover, Planned Parenthood is a healthcare provider invested in fighting for women’s rights; the proof is in their unwavering message of equality during the Trump administration. Therefore the question should be asked: why is this organization solely thought of as an abortion clinic?

The services of Planned Parenthood are substantially important for teenagers. As a teenager who has endured almost twelve years of public education, I can say with confidence that I feel a sense of failure in terms of my sexual education. Although many public schools provide more than adequate sex education and reproductive health classes, I did not receive it.

My first encounter with a topic broadly labeled as “Family Living” occurred in fourth grade. My class was split into two sexes: the boys went to the library while the girls were forced to sit in a circle. A middle-aged woman talked to us about our “changing bodies”. We were subject to this talk, that at the time seemed like a punishment for something none of us had done, once a day for around two weeks. Us nine-year-olds listened to this woman talk about periods, sperm, pregnancy, and sexual predators. I always questioned why the boys got to escape this lesson. Sure, they would not personally experience female reproduction, but nonetheless, they should still be informed. Perhaps if they were from a young age they would not squirm when a woman mentions tampons and they might understand the fear set in girls at a young age of people around us, especially men. Maybe if certain men experienced that lesson as boys, they later would not become the sexual predators fourth-grade girls have to learn about.

My second encounter with a reproductive lesson happened in seventh grade. This time the sexes were mixed together, and the teacher was male. In this trimester-long class, we touched upon sexual education. We were taught what pregnancy was and how to avoid it: use a condom. We were shown male condoms and told to “play with them”, a weird concept to me still. Us middle schoolers all uncomfortably laughed and stretched the rubber, but none of us had learned anything new. The most important lesson my health teacher taught us was about STDs and STIs; a lesson I still appreciate. But he failed to talk about miscarriages or stillbirths, an occurrence from reportedly one in four pregnancies. He also neglected to talk about consent, rape, or anything of that nature. If he had handed out Planned Parenthood pamphlets that informed us of where to go to learn about these sensitive topics, many students would have explored the subject matter further.

My last encounter with sexual education was in tenth grade. Although our health class was a semester-long, our sex ed was whittled down to about a week or two. Again, I had a male teacher. He was a Physical Education teacher so his curriculum was not geared towards sex ed. The main thing I took away from this high school sex lesson was abstinence. I did not learn how to apply a condom. I did not learn about the side effects of birth control on a woman’s body. And, once again I learned nothing about consent, rape, sexual abuse, or anything that daunts high schoolers. I was also not pointed in the direction of Planned Parenthood resources so I could find more information to help.

The importance of being educated sexually is crucial when it comes time for college. Many studies state that one out of three women gets raped on a college campus. Essentially, if you are in a room with a handful of college graduates, odds are at least one of them has been raped. As a privileged teenager in the age of technology, I was able to learn about these overwhelming topics on my own as needed. As the president of my school’s Women’s Rights Club, I am aware of the relationships high schoolers endure and the abuse that could have been prevented if only we, as impressionable young adults, were taught about them.

Planned Parenthood services must be provided in schools, in workplaces, or anywhere an undereducated person may be. The resources this organization provides include much more than just abortions. Therefore, the defunding of an entire company that simply strives to inform the population of sexual health is as close-minded as it is dangerous for future generations of parents.

Shoes by Lilah Morrow-Spitzer

I watch everyone’s shoes

Making different zigzags across the floor.

I hear squeaks

New pairs dragged along the tiles.

 

I am pacing back and forth along the carpeted room.

My shoes are in the corner and I begin to panic.

I run down three flights of stairs and to the outdoors

Forgetting my shoes upstairs.

 

At my house I see a pile of shoes by the back door.

I enter the room to a group of friends.

A friend gets a phone call.

And I hear the

Click

When she ends it.

Slowly she slips her shoes back on

Drops of water hitting them from the river across her face.

 

Inside this strange house I see pairs of shoes neatly arrayed towards the door.

I slip off mine and add them to the collection.

Inside the house muffled tears come from every corner.

Her mother stands there in the center of the room

Heartbroken.

 

I go up to her room

A place foreign to me prior

As I slowly open the door I see her shoes lined against her closet.

Shoes that will never be worn again.

I smile at the photos of her lined against the walls that are speaking to me

Words that I don’t understand.

 

I get into bed with my shoes on.

Stained cheeks and red nose

I lay up towards the ceiling

Questioning everything.

Was she buried in shoes?

When will her feet hit the ground again?

Knowing that I’ll never be answered.

 

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