Many, many, did I say many? moons ago I remember hearing people talk about standardized testing and how they are biased. The specific example I remember hearing was regarding a question along the lines of, what do you place a cup on? The correct answer was a saucer.
A couple of months ago during a volunteer opportunity/work event I was talking to a teacher who works with students of financially challenged parents. She was teaching her class to set a table for a meal. As she provided instruction for sitting down at the table, she said, “like you do at home” to which a student replied, we don’t have a table at home. That was a reality check for the teacher. Never assume the students have tables, chairs, or anything else.
When I was growing up, my brothers and I ate in our individual rooms and usually in front of the television. I remember a table at some point but I also remember them having a fight, breaking the table then using the top to break dance on. They were resourceful fellows and the first in the neighborhood to repurpose furniture for entertainment. The guys in the neighborhood learned how to break dance on that table, I became their agent and manager by finding places for them to dance for money.
I don’t remember sitting at the table as a family. I don’t recall ever using a cup and saucer. I would sometimes make my mom a cup of instant coffee but I didn’t give it to her with a saucer. I didn’t drink hot tea back then. I would not have been able to pick out a proper tea cup in a line up.
I honestly didn’t learn how to set a table until I was in my early 20’s. I learned after a very embarrassing incident during a visit at the home of the parents of my boyfriend at the time. It was Christmas. His mother asked me to set the table. Uh, what? At the time I swear she was trying to expose my ignorance in many areas in order to discourage him from dating me. I pulled him aside and confided in him my delimna. I had never set a table in my life. After telling me lay down, he told his mother I had a headache and needed to rest. He set the table for me.
Cup and saucer… we make a lot of assumptions about the lives people live and the experiences they have. The affects of those assumptions are evident when only a certain group of people are invited to the table to make decisions about an entire population of people. The decision makers pull from their limited experience without regard for others. I will not say it’s intentional, although I’m not ruling that out. I will attribute some of the decisions to ignorance, being out of touch with various people groups and perhaps not caring to understand.
Some might think or even say a person who grew up in a household without a table is doomed or will not have the ability to over come. These are the people who are easy to discard and write off. I say to you, you are wrong. I believe if given opportunity, education and wisdom most of us will thrive.
Are the tests bias? Of course they are. The question I have is, how do we bridge the gap between the decision makers and the experiences of the test takers?