EXAMS EXAMINED

UK readers may remember the recent (Sept 2002) fuss & furore over the fairness of this year's A-level Exam results. Among the acres of print & aeons of airtime devoted to comment, conspicuously lacking was any fundamental critique of Exams per se.

Exams constitute a rite of passage, or degradation ritual, that is a  cruel ordeal. The level of stress, to which children, adolescents & young people (mainly) are subjected, has been shown to be comparable to that experienced by soldiers in battle. Indeed, faced with the prospect (or disappointing results) of exams, some students have committed suicide.

The skills necessary for passing exams are of little practical application in subsequent personal or professional life.


 

IN NOT MORE THAN SO MANY WORDS

 

this must be some kind of joke

I only wish I knew the punchline

 

damn exams

the papers & the endless words

the worry

all for what

 

how can people with a gram of sense

believe it really matters

 

yet the slavish masks around me

bending low

write as if their lives depended on it

 

to be or not to be

a tricky question

what's the answer

 

O-Level Life's so difficult to pass

 

perhaps to laugh out loud

would be the wisest

 

no

 

"Throughout virtually the whole of the modern educational system there now exists one powerful and impressive form of super-tribal initiation ceremony, which goes under the revealing name of 'examinations'. These are conducted in the heavy atmosphere of high ritual, with the pupils cut off from all outside assistance. Just as in the tribal ritual, no one can help them. They must suffer on their own. At all other times in their lives they can make use of books of reference, or discussions over difficult points, when they are applying their intelligence to a problem, but not during the private rituals of the dreaded examinations.

The ordeal is further intensified by setting a strict time limit and by crowding all the different examinations together in the short space of a few days or weeks. The overall effect of these measures is to create a considerable amount of mental torment, again recalling the mood of the more primitive initiation ceremonies of simple tribes."

(The Human Zoo, Desmond Morris)

 

no-one would ever understand

they'd think

I'd just cracked up

& I'd be counted as a casualty in battle

 

easier to play the game

submit to degradation & be graded

supply whatever is expected

by the powers that be

 

lie & lie & lie again

but very plausibly

 

the promise of a good result

like some sweet & juicy carrot is

meant to make this donkey-work worthwhile

 

but I feel stubborn as a mule

refuse to jump another hurdle

I don't want to win the race

such a course insults a horse

 

my days as hack are almost over

put out to pastures new

I'll graze in clover

 

(A MINUTE LEFT)

 

still time to daydream

examine the world outside the window

 

surely there we can be free at last

not mere pupils under one more master

 

surely somewhere we shall see

writ large in neon lights

HAPPINESS * BEAUTY * TRUTH * & LIBERTY

 

(STOP WRITING NOW)

 


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WRITE AN ESSAY ON THE FOLLOWING

 

on sunny days I'm shut in dudgeon's dungeon

listening to illuminating lectures on

Blake's Libertarian Vision

 

don't think the irony escapes me

 

Blake never wasted time at university

Coleridge dropped out

Shelley was expelled

 

most are only here for the degree

 

what does it mean to do best

in the Shakespeare test

what grade would Will have made

 

does Sir Gawain pass or fail

can Beowulf's bravery be assessed

 

compare & contrast

present & past

 

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