Change Or Perish

When it comes to writing, I’m obsessed with structure. I make sure verbs, nouns, and prepositions are all where they are supposed to be. In my business, there is a right answer and a wrong answer, college acceptance or rejection. There’s not much in between. Sometimes I find that I forget what it is like to read something that is about more than just getting to the answer…and then I stumble upon something that makes me remember.

Recently, I read an op-ed piece titled “Change or Perish,” by Roger Cohen in the New York Times. At first, my eyes skimmed over the article, trained as they are to look for a conclusion or a body paragraph. But this beautifully-written piece reads much more like a poem.

The article focuses on pop culture, and how technology has changed our lives. Now, my students out there don’t remember the time “before tweets” and when “bars were for boozing” as opposed to cell phone reception, but I know you parents remember it well. At the end of each paragraph there is a single line: “we managed just the same.” As in, we were fine before these “advances” came along, and that we never went without.

Towards the middle of the article you can tell Cohen begins to question his own statement, asking himself, “Did we really and honestly get by all the same?” He confronts his doubts by referencing a famous Marx quote, “The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production … and with them the whole relations of society.”

I do not consider myself particularly philosophical by nature, but change is something that any adult – and especially parents – can’t help but reflect upon. Cohen quotes Marx to underline the significance of the technological changes we are making and how these changes have become part of the fabric of our lives.

Perhaps these changes are necessary, not so much for our own convenience, but to push forward the productivity of mankind. Let’s bring it back to my favorite topic (the SAT and ACT, of course!). If students didn’t have to worry about these tests, would they become stagnant? Are these tests another obstacle to struggle over, another step in life that brings them to the next stage? After all, these tests are the first steps in a process that leads students away from the comforts of home and to a greater independence. These tests put children on the path to adulthood. And while change may be hard – especially for us parents – it’s necessary and ultimately good. As Cohen shows, just look at how far change has brought us.

So back to the SAT and ACT. (I told you, it’s my favorite subject!) These standardized tests haven’t changed in over 50 years. (A few years ago it seemed like we were experiencing change when the SAT moved from 1600 to 2400, but it really was just a basic reorganization of the test, joining the SAT II grammar to the existing 1600 test.)Perhaps we should take Cohen’s words to heart, and consider changing these exams to better fit today’s educational needs and concerns. Education is at the forefront of discussion within our country now, as parents and educators call for reform. Perhaps the SAT and ACT should become part of this discussion, and perhaps the SAT and ACT can be modernized. I, for one, would be very excited about the prospect. And I think Cohen would agree.

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