Strange post title, but it does connect my blog posts about fantasy writing with my blog posts decrying standardized testing in the classroom.
Don't be. There actually is a connection. I have in earlier posts, written about how fantasy writing is liberating as it allows the author to be godlike. Fantasy writing allows us to escape reality and create worlds of our own free from the rules, regulations, and frustrations of the real world.
If there is any representation of rules, regulations, and frustrations in the real world that stands out, it is the current situation with standardized tests in our classrooms. Filling in bubbles on a multiple choice test and writing essays that must somehow fit into a strict rubric or format to gain maximum points takes all the creative thinking out of education. Essays, the only place on the test where students might actually be creative are scored quickly and by certain standards. If the new tests are anything like the old tests, really creative, original, "out of the box" answers are never going to get full points.
(Aside here: Pearson, the company that created the PARCC test used in New Jersey, is still hiring people to score the tests. This article offers some very interesting insights into that potential debaucle: Hiring Scorers for PARCC ) Please note too, if you scroll down on my blog and look at earlier posts, you will be able to follow my series of posts on standardized testing in schools. (Series started on 3/9/15)
"Out of the Box" is the way fantasy writers need to think. Their minds must be open to unexpected flights of imagination, and a desire to make the unbelievable seem real. Fantasy writing demands creativity beyond the norm and a willingness to take chances challenging reality.
It is the absolute contradiction to standardized tests. Fantasy opens minds. Testing closes them. Fantasy allows freedom of thought. Testing denies it.
I keep remembering some of the very clever, original tales my one English class wrote in response to some of the essay topics we encountered in "test prep" books. How frustrating it was to "bring them back to earth" with the sad truth. The fact was, a story about unicorns would never score full points on the test unless somehow there was a unicorn mentioned or pictured in the assigned topic.
Unicorns don't usually exist in standardized tests. They live in fantasy worlds invented by creative minds who know the value of imagination.