You want fries with that?


One of my colleagues often asks, “You want fries with that?” when his employees ask a ridiculous question or request. Granted, the question is meant in jest but I understand why he answers a question with this question.

I was reading a post from Chris Lehmann’s blog, “Reasonable Actions for Unreasonable Times” that talked about the drudgery of state testing. I am not going to pontificate about the pros and cons of testing as we have all experienced state testing at its best and worst. What caught my attention was that this time the message was sent by students instead of teachers or administrators expressing disdain for testing. Of course their social studies teacher was to blame for concocting the hairbrained scheme that students think for themselves, adopt and develop their own political views, seek positive resolution to problems they face and demonstrate their independent thoughts in a social studies class. Now who in their right mind wants kids using common sense, thinking progressively and independently?

Chris uses this incident to make a fantastic point:

“The difference between the instance at IS 318 and the other two is that in this case, the kids had a choice and the students chose to send a message — not on the actual test, but on a practice test. Neither Daily News article mentions whether or not the kids were going to take the actual test. But, prima facie, it appears they chose to make their stand in an incredibly pragmatic and smart way — they wouldn’t waste their time on a practice test. In the words of Allen Iverson, we’re talking about practice.

As is often the case, the kids’ words speak powerfully:

“They’re saying Mr. Avella made us do this,” said Johnny Cruz, 15, another boycott leader. “They don’t think we have brains of our own, like we’re robots. We students wanted to make this statement. The school is oppressing us too much with all these tests.”

and

“Now they’ve taken away the teacher we love only a few weeks before our real state exam for social studies,” Tatiana Nelson said. “How does that help us?”
She asks the right question, and she does seem to suggest that the kids were planning on taking the real test. But even more simply, if we had to pick a class where we wanted kids to question the status quo, where we wanted kids to consider rational, reasonable political acts, wouldn’t it be in a social studies class?The difference between the instance at IS 318 and the other two is that in this case, the kids had a choice and the students chose to send a message — not on the actual test, but on a practice test. Neither Daily News article mentions whether or not the kids were going to take the actual test. But, prima facie, it appears they chose to make their stand in an incredibly pragmatic and smart way — they wouldn’t waste their time on a practice test. In the words of Allen Iverson, we’re talking about practice.”

I commend these students for their attempt to peacefully and thoughtfully send a message to their teachers, administrators and whomever else was involved in the development of the test preparation materials and procedures for this campus. When I see students putting into practice the things that I have taught them in class, I am richly rewarded and moved monumentally that the students heard what I was talking about and internalized the content presented. As a teacher, my sole goal is to make a positive difference in a student’s life and add value, information, knowledge and skills to their thought processes. If my students gathered together and collectively decided to stage a silent protest on a PRACTICE test, not the real test which shows they were using the higher levels of processing according to Bloom’s Taxonomy. To me, that is the epitome of teaching – seeing the learning in class put into practice.

So to the insanity that surrounds standardized state testing procedures, when you are asked to perform some absurd task related to testing, feel free to respond with, “You want fries with that?”.

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