A Toe-Curling View of the Future of Education

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This past Saturday, I had the distinct pleasure of going to my local King's College in Wilkes-Barre (very pretty campus!) and taking the Library Media Specialist subject test. I haven't taken a standardized test in a while, but I've proctored enough SATs to have a vivid idea of the kind of profitable hell ETS trades in, so everything went pretty well as expected. But I got quite a window on who might be entering education soon, and I have to tell you, it's not pretty...

When I arrived at 7:20 am (snagging the last space in the adjoining parking lot, score), there was already a huge line out the door of the administration building, so I joined it, wishing I had brought my knitting or a book (hello, I am a librarian - what's wrong with me?). So I started reading t-shirts. Directly ahead of me were two young, fit men who looked to be of college age (Praxis testing would be required of anyone who wanted to get a PA teacher's license, so education majors traditionally take it during their last semester). One was wearing a district champions wrestling t-shirt (which conjures up its own stereotypes sadly). His companion was wearing a green t-shirt with "supersize me" written across it and what I thought was a cartoon of fast food. On closer inspection however this proved to be a beer cup on one size and a beer keg opposite it - as if he planned regularly to drink an entire keg. Their conversation was hard to follow as the f-bomb was sprinkled so liberally I think it was being used as noun and verb and adjective, which gets kind of complex grammar-wise. Ahead of them a pretty girl with an empty expression had turned around saying, "Oh my God! I hope I pass this expletive test! This is my third time taking them and I failed all the other times. As soon as I'm done, I'm going to get SOOOOO drunk." Did she know she was going to be done by noon? Her statement met with approval, or at least I think it did, judging from the new rush of positive sounding expletives from the keg wrestlers.

I finally got to my classroom where I was with a group of others taking subject tests - about 27 of us in all in a tight room. Luckily there was no danger of cheating as we were all taking different subject tests so the proctors were let off easy on that end. The official ETS representatives that day were two lovely older ladies who gave off a distinct nun vibe, and not just because one of them was wearing a "Sisters of Mercy Golf Classic" polo. Several young men and women were there, as well as a group of slightly older people about to take the administration test.

We were seated according to test to make it easier to distribute and collect the exams (only three library media specialists, including me) and this is when I noticed two things. First, I was sitting in the most uncomfortable desk I've sat in in a good long while. It was a single unit, desk and chair, in oak and I would gauge its birthday as being 1956. The second thing was, as my back started protesting, I looked ahead of me and realized that every desk - EVERY SINGLE ONE - was covered in pen graffiti, some of it carved viciously into the surface, some of it written on the desk in front of each seat. This did surprise me - most Catholic schools have a "cleanliness is next to godliness" feeling and with the crucifix over the classroom door, I would have expected bad college students to be given the task of sanding down the desks each summer. But instead I had to look at "Cookies + Penis" and "BORING". My favorite was right ahead of me "I heart penis" except penis had been originally misspelled P-E-N-A-S and then the writer had to cross out the "A" and put an "I" above it. I hope they weren't taking the Praxis!

The test went fine (it's only 2 hours, add a half-hour for the mind-numbing ETS instructions). There were a few questions that were public school related and a couple others that were elementary school literature which I haven't thought about in a while, but other than that, I felt really comfortable with the material, so much so that I was done with my 120 questions and had checked them in an hour and had to sit the last hour and stare and the graffiti and at the t-shirt of the young woman in front of me who was wearing a sorority t-shirt "10 Reasons to Rush Tau!" with such listings as "9. You think I'm cute, you should see my sisters!" and "2. You know who your bridesmaids will be.". Number 4 was "Highest GPA" but I kept thinking, compared to what?

One small step for PA licensure, one giant shudder for education-kind.