Punished for not understanding something is moronic. I speak from personal experience here, not from having experienced anything close to physical torture, but rather torture of the social/emotional nature.
There are people who cannot understand that everyone does not think and understand things exactly as they do. Maybe you’re thinking I’m talking about autistic people; if you did, you would be wrong. I’m talking about NT people (supposedly neurotypical people); especially those in charge of teaching young minds.
Part of my having Asperger’s Syndrome means that I do not see the world the same way that the majority supposedly sees it. I do not approach problems the same way; I do not conceptualize issues the same way; nor do I immediately understand prompts and directions that are supposedly “easy” to understand. Most people who have ever taken a multiple choice test will agree to this statement: “You should go with your first answer.” Well my friends, that is completely inaccurate for me. My first answer is wrong almost 100% of the time. I look at a question the way that I would see it normally; then, going from the information gathered the first time around, I tweak it so that I can take in the information that I originally deemed “worthless” and add it to the equation. From there I can generally formulate a correct NT answer. Not always, mind you, but a great deal of the time, this has proven to work. Not only that, but about half of the time, I don’t even have to know the subject matter to get the question right. I just look at the question, combine it with my view and the view of the majority, and then answer it, according to what answers are there.
Proof: I had to take the PRAXIS I test for admission into my undergraduate education program (I got my undergrad in instrumental music ed). There are three sections to the PRAXIS I: Reading, Writing (multiple choice and an essay) and Math.
I have an undocumented learning disability in math. This is according to my psychiatrist, who noted that for someone as intelligent as me to have such a large discrepency between scores in English and Math, then there’s some kind of learning disability at work there.
The Praxis I Math section includes algebraic and geometry based problems. In high school, I suddenly discovered one day in Geometry, that I did in fact like algebra better, even though I had never understood one topic we had ever discussed. If Algebra was like learning about math in Spanish (a language that I have studied, but only remember about five words in an aural setting, and maybe ten visually), then learning Geometry was like trying to learn about math in Russian.
Stuff that made sense to other people, was a complete jump in logic to me; leaving me not only frustrated and embarrassed, but also angry: angry at myself and at other people for engaging themselves in this secret place that I wasn’t allowed to follow. It was worse trying to ask questions, because then you tell everyone that you really are stupid. These are your peers; people you have to see every day; and acting like an idiot in front of them, unless it was purposeful, was nothing more than painful; especially in a field that made sense to everyone else (or so it seemed).
That said, I somehow, by the grace of god, pulled out a C in Geometry. Me, a person who in college would graduate in the top 10% (for our class, that was like the top 12 people), with honors. I pulled out a C in that class. And I don’t know how I did it.
So, on the Praxis I, it had algebra and geometry questions on it. And I didn’t know how to do any of them. And I passed the section with 3 points to spare (which is a lot, since there’s only like a possible 20 points in the passing range or something ridiculous like that-it might actually be less than that; it’s been a long time).
How’d I do it?
That, and long time practice at working out just what NT people want me to answer with.
I probably couldn’t work five of those problems. And I passed it, with a margin of error even.
Does that mean that I know the subject? Hell no.
I think the NT creators of the test think that since I successfully passed it off, I should be a holder of that knowledge now.
Standardized testing is stupid.
This one example shows that even without the knowledge, I can still excel. If only I could tell the creators of this kind of test about the hundreds of times that I HAVE owned the knowledge and then have proceeded to FAIL the test because of not understanding something because it was worded to make sense to the privileged NTs (not just the NTs, but the privileged NTs – middle class and above usually).
I understand things through discussion; which in turn helps me identify just what people are looking for when they ask something, as well as helping me to limit the words/concepts that my brain delivers when a question is posed. My brain is kind of like Google; you put in a phrase, and if that phrase has anything to do with the link, then that link’ll come through.
If you were to ask me about elephants, for example, this is just a small list of the ideas that would come up:
Basic structure of
My cousin Robert
I mean, see? I have to have specific questions and occasionally specific answers, if you want me to answer a specific way. Let’s not discount the number of answers I thought of that weren’t words either. Actually most of the things listed here, I had to translate from my brain into words.
Like I said, I can extrapolate from the questions asked and the answers given what exactly the person is after, and this works about 85% of the time. However, I just developed this ability in the past 5 or 6 years, and there’s about a 15% chance that I’ll get it wrong anyways. I’m 23 years old and that’s where I am. Note that all of this doesn’t even take into account whether I even know anything about the topic or not. Let’s also not forget how LONG this entire process takes me. There’s a reason I’m almost always the last one done on a test, and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with the fact that I’m naturally hyperverbal.
Then you’ve got kids who are already forced to be every moment of every day in an NT world–a world that already doesn’t make sense; add onto that the fact that they’re being taught in a language that doesn’t make logical sense; and then (I mean, there’s a THEN?), they have to take these dumbass standardized tests which further compound the problem, because even if they get through the first two steps relatively unscathed, all that could be for NOTHING if they take a test question the wrong way.
You wanna know why we sometimes have discipline problems??? You wanna know why ESL kids have discipline problems? Why kids with learning disabilities have discipline problems??? Mental retardation? Physical disabilities?
I could go on, but I’m not going to.
You’re damned no matter what you do. You follow the rules, but you fail the tests. Guess what. You’re stupid–or so they say. Or, you follow the rules, you pass your classes, but THEN you fail the standardized tests. Guess what. You’re not good enough. All that you did trying to make it all make sense. It doesn’t matter. Whatever you do, it’ll never be good enough, because nothing you do ever helps anything.
I’m effing intelligent. And I felt that way.
Don’t discount ’em just ’cause they can’t do what you can do. This rule goes for everyone.
~ by lastcrazyhorn on January 9, 2008.
Posted in anxiety, aspies, autism, bullying, communication, education, pain, philosophy, stress, Writing
Tags: autism discipline problems, aversives, discipline problems, elephants, ESL discipline problems, logic, math, NT world, praxis I, reading, social dysfunction, social torture, standardized tests, standardized tests are stupid, standardized tests don't work, stupidity of standardized tests, test anxiety, test stupidity, thinking differently, Writing