“Educational Testing: Just Another Job” by David Hoppe – selection #50 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♠7♠ Seven of Spades

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Spades is my suit for short, Indiana-related non-fiction works.

The Selection: “Educational Testing: Just Another Job” from collection of essays titled “Personal Indianapolis.” This is the fourth piece from this book that I’ve read for this year’s Deal Me “IN” challenge.

The Author: David Hoppe –An Indianapolis writer who has labored for Indy’s “Alternative Weekly” Nuvo Magazine since 1998.

 

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up postlegacy project seal of approval 2For a look at my deck of cards/storyroster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. The 2016 iteration of Deal Me “IN” is also a “Legacy Project” officially endorsed by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission!

Educational Testing: Just Another Job

“In test-scoring centers, dozens of scorers sit in rows, staring at computer screens where students’ papers appear… each scorer is expected to read hundreds of papers. So for all the months of preparation and the dozens of hours of class time spent writing practice essays, a student’s writing probably will be processed and scored in about a minute.”

I struggled with this piece, which was my least favorite of those that I’ve read thus far in Hoppe’s book, Personal Indianapolis. I have no children in school so perhaps lack a good vantage point of the issues the essay covered, but I have followed news stories about standardized tests for years, and have frequently been amazed at how big the time gap between testing and receiving results is. I also naively hadn’t realized that the standardized testing included a writing sample from the students (i.e. something that can’t be scored in an automated fashion). I had just been picturing a multiple choice, computer scored exam like many we used to have even way back when I was in school.

Hoppe had come across an article in the Monthly Review by Dan DiMaggio titled “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Test Scorer.” (linked here if you’d like to read it) and kinda jumps on the bandwagon of condemnation regarding the process. While I agree there seems to be much that should be condemned, I felt Hoppe’s piece was superfluous once I had read the “source” article. It’s frankly a little sloppy too, as an instance of ‘bad math’ had me in an uproar pretty early in the essay:

“DiMaggio, who lives in the Twin Cities, says he has personally read tens of thousands of papers, for which he has been paid at a rate of 30 to 70 cents per paper. That means he has to score forty papers every sixty minutes to make $12 an hour”

Wait. It only means that if the rate is at the bottom of that scale. What about the 70 cent rate?  At the top of the scale it would be $28 an hour, right? Shouldn’t it read something more like “scoring forty papers every sixty minutes might only earn him $12 an hour,” or even “That means he has to score forty papers every sixty minutes to make $12-$28 an hour”? My loyalty as a reader goes out the window pretty fast when I feel I’m being manipulated by partial truths, whether they are intentional or not.

Overall, though, this piece and the DiMaggio article that inspired it, left me disappointed in “the system” once more and even glad I don’t have kids that are being “taught to pass tests” that people who often are not even educators themselves are scoring in an assembly line fashion.

What about you?  Any teachers out there reading this?  What are your thoughts about standardized tests and their value?  I’d love to hear more from the front lines on this issue.

Next up in Deal Me “IN” 2016: “Murder on Indiana Avenue” by Andrea Smith

P.S. Yes, I’m even getting a little bit ahead of schedule now, as I’m hoping to be done by Indiana’s ACTUAL bicentennial date of 12/11/16 rather than the end of the year.  We’ll see if I can make it. 🙂

Advertisements

“Peyton Manning – Champion: This Doesn’t Happen Very Often” by David Hoppe – selection #29 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♠J♠ Jack of Spades (found one with a bit of a “Colts Blue” thing going on 🙂 )

The Suit: For 2016, Spades is my suit for “Indiana-related Short, Non-fiction Works”

The Selection: “Peyton Manning – Champion: This Doesn’t Happen Very Often” from the book of short essays, “Personal Indianapolis.”

The Author: David Hoppe. He has lived in Indiana since 1980 and is a contributing editor and regular columnist for the Indianapolis alternative weekly magazine, Nuvo. Find out more about him at his website: http://www.davidhoppewriter.com/index.html – you may also see and read some of Hoppe’s recent work at http://www.nuvo.net/blogs/Hoppe/

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

 

“Peyton Manning – Champion”

“He grew up in New Orleans and came of age in Tennessee. Who would’ve guessed that Peyton Manning had so much Hoosier in him.”

Okay. Full disclosure time. I’ve been a pretty rabid Indianapolis Colts fan ever since their relocation in 1984. I suffered through some horrible seasons with them early on, saw some brief glimpses of the glory possible (the Ted Marchibroda/Jim Harbaugh-led run to the almost Super Bowl in 1995, then finally in the 2006-07 season got the payoff with our only Super Bowl win. In the past ten or twelve years I’ve been a regular attendee of the games and have been a season ticket holder for most of that time. SO… I was really interested to read this piece by writer David Hoppe.

I enjoyed Hoppe’s describing how “a certain alchemy” can occur between a (great) athlete and the city he represents. And his claim that a “true champion” like Manning goes beyond even that. He lauds Manning’s charity work, his ability to “make teammates better” and his self deprecating humor, on continual display through tv commercials or even a Saturday Night Live appearance (a classic!)

This piece was written in early 2012, when the handwriting was beginning to appear on the wall that Manning’s time in Indy was likely coming to an end (“unceremoniously by injury”). The decision to let Manning go and draft Andrew Luck was divisive to Colts fans in Indiana. Many felt he “deserved better” or saw it as another opportunity to denigrate our somewhat troubled owner, Jim Irsay, for “letting him go.” Those of us fans who have an understanding of the NFL beyond the personal, emotional attachments that surround players who are your favorites knew that the “Manning, Out – Luck, In” transaction was likely more the result of circumstances beyond both sides’ control.

Hoppe also talks about how his (now-adult) son he grew up during Peyton’s tenure in Indy. His concluding remarks pretty well sum up the way many in town came to terms with the changing of the guard:

“My son also knows that this is the way things go. Change happens, usually in ways we can’t control. You get used to it the best you can and try to look forward to what comes next. Losing a champion, though, is tough to take.”

Agreed, but I also feel the future is bright for the Colts, with the potential of having two superstar quarterbacks back-to-back. Still, though, for Peyton’s last visit here in November of 2015 (as quarterback of the Denver Broncos, where his NFL career enjoyed what must have been a truly gratifying Indian Summer) I, as always, donned a Colts jersey for that game, one that I rarely wore in the past because “everyone else was wearing it” -one featuring the number 18…

♫ Personal Note: (actually, most of this entry feels like personal notes!) Our new quarterback is also great – even literarily speaking. Did you know that he has a public, on-line book club?! I’m not kidding! Check out http://www.andrewluckbookclub.com for the details. As Terrell Owens would say, “That’s my quarterback!”

Image below from andrewluckbookclub.com (I read both these books and have read 5 of the 6 selections he’s come up with so far.

andrew_luck.0.0.PNG

“God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut: And Farewell” by David Hoppe – selection #17 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♠♠♠Three of Spades

The Suit: For 2016, Spades is my suit for “short, Indiana-related nonfiction works”

The Selection: “God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut: And Farewell” from the book “Personal Indianapolis,” a great collection of short essays. This particular piece deals with the author’s thoughts on the passing of Kurt in 2007. I have three other essays form this book yet to be drawn in my Deal Me IN challenge this year: “Education Testing: Just Doing my Job”, “Peyton Manning – Champion: This Doesn’t Happen Very Often”, and “Songs of Experience: Bob Dylan at the Egyptian Room”

The Author: David Hoppe. He has lived in Indiana since 1980 and is a contributing editor and regular columnist for the Indianapolis alternative weekly magazine, Nuvo. Find out more about him at his website: http://www.davidhoppewriter.com/index.html – you may also see and read some of Hoppe’s recent work at http://www.nuvo.net/blogs/Hoppe/

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this
year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

“God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut: And Farewell”

The Spring of 2007 was a rough time for Indianapolis’s literary community, as it marked the passing of one of the most famous authors our city and state has ever produced, Kurt Vonnegut. It was just a few years later, shortly after I started writing this blog back in January of 2010 that the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library opened in Indianapolis. This was undoubtedly a great thing, I thought, and then when I heard the library has its own book club, I was All IN (of course!) and have been a frequent attendee and supporter of the library ever since. Indeed, Vonnegut is probably THE one author for whom I’ve come close to reading “everything he wrote.” It probably will not surprise you if I say that all that reading has been time well spent.


Hoppe mentions in his essay that in 1991 he played host to Vonnegut who was attending a book festival (organized by Hoppe) called “Wordstruck” (nice name, eh?).  Anyway, he mentions that he had read Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle” in college but “hadn’t picked up a Vonnegut book since” – Something he quickly rectified after meeting the author in person:

“Needless to say, I began reading the books – all of them, as their author took justifiable pride in saying, still in print. Oh, what I’d been missing! There was the humor, that dark sense of human comedy and hapless mischief. But there was also Vonnegut’s slapstick way of collapsing fact and fiction, like that boy he wrote about, roughhousing with his favorite dog on the living room carpet, as a way of seeking something like the truth.”  

Hoppe also takes issue with the many people who consider Vonnegut a cynic, but I think the problem here may just be semantics. Vonnegut’s pessimism can be crushing at times, and by my definition, he would still be considered cynical, just with a healthy dash of hope to keep him – and us – going.


This essay was very short (as are almost all in the book) and left me wishing that the author would have shared more of his thoughts on Vonnegut. I’ve since read several of the other “bite-size” essays in Personal Indianapolis and have found them a great option when I find myself with one of those abbreviated windows of reading opportunity.

_________________________________________________________________

On a personal note:

Vonnegut will always hold a special place for me, as he passed away shortly after I had “discovered” and begun to appreciate him. Added to that, the month after he passed away, my dad – more or less his contemporary – followed him into “the great mystery.” I had recently read Cat’s Cradle myself at the time and even quoted a passage from it as part of my remarks, which I’ll share below, at my Dad’s memorial service:

“Another famous Hoosier (if I may be permitted to phrase it that way), Kurt Vonnegut, also recently passed away at the age of 84. In one of his books, Cat’s Cradle, a certain quotation is, I think, quite appropriate here. A character in the book (Dr. Felix Hoenikker, the fictional inventor of the atomic bomb) had won a Nobel Prize and gave an abbreviated 4-sentence acceptance speech:

’I stand before you now because I never stopped dawdling like an eight-year-old on a spring morning on his way to school. Anything can make me stop and look and wonder, and sometimes learn. I am a very happy man. Thank you.’

Now, although I would never describe Dad as having ‘dawdled,‘ I think he was indeed a very happy man for just these reasons, and perhaps those in attendance today can honor his memory by embracing the spirit behind this quotation.”

Card image above from https://playingcardcollector.net/2013/07/18/kashmir-playing-cards-by-printissa/