Sunday, September 6, 2015

Exploration Three: Literacy Events and Opposing Issues from Ruksana Kabealo

One of the most important literacy events of my life happened when I was eight years old. It was late at night after a party at our house. The guests were long gone but the music was still playing through the stereo. “Time” by Pink Floyd came on.

My parents, who had been cleaning up the leftover mess, paused and started to sing along. I’d heard the song several times, but I’d never actually paid attention to the lyrics before. 

“Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain / You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today / And then one day you find ten years have got behind you / No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun” [1]

I remember laying on the couch in my living room while they slurred in the kitchen, and feeling the full weight of the words hit me for the first time. 

“And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking / Racing around to come up behind you again /  The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older / Shorter of breath and one day closer to death” [1]

At eight years old you don’t really do much thinking about death. Nobody close to me had died yet. I'd never thought about time as a finite quantity before. And my parents were proof of it. They too had been children at one point, and now they were older. Half of their time was already gone. Someday, all of their time would be gone. Someday, all of my time would be gone too. 

At that age, like so many kids of the 2000s, I was obsessed with Neopets, an online virtual pet game. My parents lectured me about it endlessly, often scolding me for “wasting my time”. At that moment, I finally understood what they’d meant. I only had so much time on this earth, and I’d spent a good portion of it in front of a computer doing...nothing. I could have done something tangible with that time, like picked up a skill or spent more time with my family or read more. But I hadn’t. That time was gone now. I would never get it back. 

 “Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time / Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines / Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way / The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say” [1]

That song has stuck with me ever since. I can hear it in the back of my mind whenever I find myself doing something pointless, like scrolling through social media or flipping through the channels out of boredom. It forces me to get up and actually do something with my life, before it’s too late.

In class, we learned how to analyze various types of issues. Issues can be categorized based on what kind of question they pose. One of the three main types of issues are issues of evaluation. Issues of evaluation question whether something is good or bad, effective or ineffective, or right or wrong. Of course there is no right answer, but multiple positions can be argued effectively.

One issue that is important to me is the usage of standardized test scores, such as those from the ACT and SAT, as a required part of the college admissions process. This is an issue of evaluation as it questions whether the use of standardized test scores by colleges is effective or ineffective.

As a senior in high school who is planning to apply to college, I’ve taken both the ACT and the SAT in the past year. I've become extremely familiar with both, and I find both equally ineffective ways of judging applicants.

Now, this isn’t just the petulant whining of someone who took the tests and wasn’t happy with their scores. I got above average scores on both tests. The system worked for me, and even I can see how broken it is.

The SAT and the ACT are the two main tests used by colleges in the United States. Both tests claim to gauge students’ knowledge (such as students’ understanding of data interpretations and their ability to identify grammatical errors) and act as predictors of students’ success in their first years of college. 
A visual breakdown of the SAT and ACT

Those in favor of standardized test scores argue that test scores are the great equalizer among students, providing a way for colleges to gauge students across the nation using the same criteria. 

But, when you get right down to it, neither test provides an accurate reflection of students’ knowledge. Both the ACT and SAT consist primarily of material students learn by their junior year of high school anyway. Why, then, are the tests so difficult to ace (with 0.076% of students who took the ACT in 2014 earning a perfect score of 36 [2], and 0.02% of students who took the SAT in 2014 earning a perfect score of 2400 [3])? Why doesn’t every student who paid attention in high school do well on the tests? The answer lies in the time limitations.

Both tests have time limitations that make them nearly impossible to perform well on without rigorous practice with the format of the tests themselves. The math section of the ACT, for example, asks students to solve 60 math questions, from basic algebra to trigonometry, in 60 minutes. This means students have to read, solve, and check each question in under a minute. In order to get a perfect score on the essay section, students taking the SAT have to read a prompt and compose a five-paragraph persuasive essay with at least two relevant examples in response. The amount of time given to accomplish this? Twenty-five minutes. If the questions were really designed to test your knowledge, you would be given unlimited time to complete them. They would measure what you could do, not how fast you could do it. This isn't even taking into account the fact that human knowledge itself is vast and multifaceted, and that the tests only attempt to gauge a select few skills taught in school. 

Even if you accept that the SAT and ACT are in any way reflective of a student’s knowledge, they are in no way predictive of a student’s success in college. Knowledge does not necessarily equal success. How well you do in college (or anything, really) depends more on your work ethic than how smart you are. In addition, some students may become so stressed by studying for standardized tests in high school that they may be “burned out” by the time they reach college.

I believe that standardized tests have remained part of the college admissions process more out of tradition than anything else. I also believe that as long as they continue to remain integral to the process, colleges will continue to reject applicants with enormous potential for success in their academic careers over their answers to tests based on inherently flawed standards. 


[1] Waters, Rodger. "Time" The Dark Side of the Moon. CD. Harvest. 1973. azlyrics. September 6th, 2015. (

[2] Ray, Brittini. “Practice makes perfect: Kell student earns top score on college entrance exam.” The Marietta Daily Journal. 31 August 2015. Web. 6 September 2015. <>

[3] Edwards, Halle. “How Many People Get a 34, 35, 36 On The ACT? Score Breakdown.” PrepScholar. 20 March 2015. 6 September 2015. <> 


  1. I agree with you wholeheartedly on the ACT or SAT dilemma. It is amazing how one standardized test holds so much weight for a future college student to determine by a numerical score on their potential success. This test literally can take you from Harvard to Toledo, respectively, even though you have the body of work and the cumulative GPA it takes to get into a pretigious university like Harvard.

  2. The point of the ACT is to split up individuals that are seemingly the same into categories that will seemingly change the rest of their life. I agree that they might seem like the world, but it's also unfair to put individuals in certain categories that colleges actively seek. These test just seem unfair.


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