Regardless of your grade point average and how many long nights you spend in the library, I dare to say that you are not a student. Why? Before you throw your hands in the air, before you start rattling off the names of honor societies you are in or stomp your feet over the amount of tuition you pay, take a minute to think back on all the classes you have taken so far. Use another minute to reflect on any unique insight that you have developed after coming away from a history course, philosophy lecture or biology lab. If this is difficult, it’s not your fault.
The truth of the matter is that we are no longer studying to learn. We are studying to pass a test. Since elementary and middle school, where what we scored on a test determined what class level we would be placed in, a cultural obsession with testing has become so heavily ingrained in our society that now we pay little mind to it.
The problem with this is that standardized testing actually says little about an individual. In fact, testing can only determine how well someone may regurgitate general knowledge rather than gauge his or her thinking capacity.
In light of the recent findings of cheating among nuclear missile officers (and as midterms begin to creep closer and closer for us non-nuclear missile officers), now is a good chance to re-evaluate how essential testing really is.
These airmen, just like college students, are subject to very similar, very repeated testing. However, if you think you are bombarded with tests and quizzes this semester, you may have it much better than them.
They’re expected to take three very specific, very detail-oriented tests monthly, for an average of 36 each year. Essentially, these tests gauge where airmen stand skill- and knowledge-wise, while also acting as a means of determining whether or not someone may receive a job promotion.
Within the Air Force, there is a saying that “perfection is standard,” but perfect scores on these tests can be hard to come by. The pressure is intense, to say the least, and integrity may fall to the back burner.
After all, these are jobs, and livelihoods that are on the line. As people who are inherently ambitious, we are all collectively working to reach a degree of self-actualization, but in spite of this, when the cards are stacked against us, there is also a saying that “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.”
What brought about the accused cheating of nearly 40 officers? Well what brings about cheating within the classroom? What brings about cheating on tests in any workplace environment? We want to get ahead, but sometimes we just do not know how to on our own.
Unfortunately, we rarely equate how hard you tried on a test with how successful you will be in the future. Your success is always in direct correlation with the numerical score you receive.
I am not implying that people who know their facts and who can test well are not intelligent, but I do know that testing is such a black-and-white thing that rarely takes other factors into consideration.
In the environment in which these and very many other airmen find themselves, cheating becomes a viable option when being honest only weeds out the most capable individuals for the job.
My mother and father, both of whom were once a part of the Army, reflected, “When in combat, you’re expected to lay down your life for your battle buddy,” but when it came to trying to advance yourself in the ranks, you were expected to “stab them in the back.”
The Warrior’s Ethos begins with: “I will always place the mission first,” and follows with, “I will never accept defeat. I will never quit.”
But while this, in a roundabout way, could justify the necessity of cheating, let us not forget that this same disclosure of values also leaves us with the notion that “I will never leave a fallen comrade.” Would someone also be subject to a social and professional responsibility for the success and failure of others?
Although I by no means have all the answers, I am disturbed by the idea that standardized testing is a necessity within any sector. There has to be a better method to gauge not what someone thinks, but how someone thinks, in a more comprehensive way.
Reach the columnist at Alexis.Gonzalez@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @0Moscwow