A Snake in the Grass

A satirical look at state testing.

“Green.  The answer is green.”

This is your job. It’s how you make money, feed yourself and your family, and keep yourself from going under.

It’s what you spent four years of your life in college training to do; and what they keep making you pay more time and money to go back to school to keep doing. 

It’s a constant hassle. 

People in other professions persistently make you feel guilty, or pretend they know how to do your job. Your administrators, who should know better, try their best to make your job difficult by constantly instituting (and then eventually abandoning) some designer-theory they read about recently. 

A lot of voters seem to flat-out hate you. And more and more, it seems like you could lose this job at any minute. 

Yet, for some reason, you still love this job. 

What is it?

Your job is to get students to understand that grass is green.

That’s it. That’s all you have to do. 

You are given a tray, and the tray has a big pile of freshly cut grass on it.

You are sent into a room, every day, with over a hundred children. And your job is to explain to those children, in every way possible, that the plate contains grass, and that grass is green.  

Sure, you could be teaching them any number of other things involving your wisdom, or their creativity, or teaching them how to use other skills to become a responsbile adult — but it’s simply more important that they all agree that the grass is green. 

You tell them that, one day soon, someone from the state will come and ask every single one of them what color the grass is. You tell them that this person will bring a tray, looking almost identical to the one you’ve been showing them, with a simiar-looking pile of freshly-cut grass on it, and he will ask them, “What color is the grass?”

And they are to respond with the word: “Green.”  

That’s it. That is all.

Just a one word exam.

You tell the children that the person with the tray, he has power. You tell them that if they do not take this question very seriously, and answer correctly, that he will not let them graduate. You tell them that the school budget hinges on them saying the grass is green. You might even hint that your paycheck will be one day tied to their answer to this one, seemingly oversimplified question.

They must answer correctly, or they will be left behind. 

And no child will be left behind.

When the day comes, you know that many of your children are prepared. You have done your best. And though you are nervous, you feel confident that, one by one, they will all give the correct answer to the simple question they are given.  

After all that work you did, how could they not?

At 7:45 in the morning on the day of the test, the students all crowd into rooms. They are told to remain silent, as one by one, a man addresses them with that tray of grass and asks them the very question you have prepped them for, and done your damnedest to explain the seriousness of, multiple, multiple times. 

We must all agree that the color of the grass is green.

And they do.

One by one, they say the word, like robots: “Green. Green. Green. The grass is green.”  Up and down the rows the man goes, and one by one, the kids say, “green.”

This is success.

But these are teenagers; and eventually, the man with the tray reaches a kid with an attitude. This specific kid could give a damn about the grass being green, and what green means to you, or the school, or the country, or even to his own future. 

Because to him, the grass is greener somewhere else. And, in your heart of hearts, you know the kid is right: in the grand scheme of education, this test doesn’t really matter; nor is getting a room full of kids to regurgitate a standard piece of information. 

But that doesn’t stop the kid from saying:


And he laughs, because to him it’s funny. He doesn’t care; because sometimes, to a kid, doing the opposite of what you’re told to do is exactly what you WILL do. 

But he has failed this test, because the grass is, in fact, green; and by consequence, you have failed. You were responsible for getting him to give the right answer to the question; but he did not, and so it must be your fault. Say nothing of the fact that you did everything you could to instill in him the right answer, or the importance of taking the question seriously. He’s just a kid being a kid. 

And every single child needed to pass this state test. 

And, when it’s all said and done, maybe a couple other kids say the same thing.  Maybe a few others didn’t take it seriously and just said or did whatever came to mind when the man with the tray came by to be funny. Maybe one of them took a nap, and was asleep when the man came to ask him. Maybe one didn’t show up at school at all that day.  

Maybe one is colorblind.  


But it’s still your fault. You worked all year, and you couldn’t even get every single person to agree that grass is green.

Now children will be left behind, and you are to blame.

Shame on you. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

James Thomas March 16, 2012 at 02:36 AM
Patrick, into every life some rain must fall. A wise man once told me that "it's not what happens to you that's important, it's how you react to to it that makes the difference".
Le'ah Keturah-Sarah Krzywkowski March 16, 2012 at 03:34 AM
The quality of each child's life will also determine how they see the "test". A child can be like a barometer, a mirror if you will, reflecting what is taught back at the teacher, only in a deeper more ego-challenging way. Only the innovative and imaginative are able to see the ability children have to see into the BS, and will work with that, allow children to use the brain's full capacity through nourishment and positive and enriching exposure. And many times a child functions outside of all these preconceptions and brings us something fresh and new. How will this value information be received by the older generations, The educators, the 'molders' of the future? I'm thankful that out there exists many more options than what my parents were presented with. Schools of variety both in structure and curriculum, mission and culture. However there is still serious need for improvement. And I can see that happening not with trying to get children the sort of education that will fit them into an economic pigeon-hole or American/world-wide industry as future global competitors, but rather the sort that challenges character, strengthens imagination and resourcefulness and helps to support positive outlooks on the world. And of course, realize this that there are those strong and courageous children who may never do quite as they are told, and will invent something new, something that will redeem a major error and affliction that the society they came out of faces.
Sean Wheeler March 25, 2012 at 03:38 AM
I like the blog post, but there's something askew here in Patrick's comments that needs working out. I teach in Lakewood and created the lhs2.0 program. I did it without financial support from the district (I wrote a grant), and am under the same burden of testing as everyone else in Ohio. The difference is that I've taken a proactive stance, instead of a stance that waits for some kind of miracle. The tools aren't toys, but as long as teachers view them that way, they'll be about as valuable as a toy. To say its not practical to unhinge yourself from that powerless feeling of being stuck in a vast bureaucratic testing regime is to admit defeat. Our lhs2.0 students take the same OGT as everyone else, and they do VERY well on it. We didn't start with responsible kids handling the tech, but we sure did TEACH the, how to be responsible. And lawsuits? For what? We studied up a great deal on FERPA and CIPA, crafted a new acceptable use policy, and are working with parent support. Please don't let imagined lawsuits, a student body tht hasn't been taught to use tech yet, and a false sense that you have to teach to the test be a hindrance to good teaching. I find that teachers who complain along these lines don't actually do much to change things. I'm not trying to pick a fight, but AM encouraging you to be a bit less defeatist. Here's a post that talks about this. http://teachinghumans.blogspot.com/2012/03/networks-are-power-part-2-teachers.html
Sean Wheeler March 25, 2012 at 03:53 AM
Right. It's not the tools but what you build with them that is important. It isn't the hammer that causes someone to pick one up, but what you card DO with that hammer that matters. Patrick, you were right to point to higher order thinking skills and application over regurgitation. If you want students, and teachers, to get out of the horrible lurch that we're in now, we're going to have to focus less on the tools. To learn more about what we're doing in lhs2.0 please look at posts on teachinghumans.blogspot.com or follow @teachinghumans for more day-to-day thoughts on education. I'd also gladly meet you to talk a bit of shop over coffee. Thanks for the thought provoking posts and comments.
Callie E. March 25, 2012 at 07:08 PM
IMO, "teaching the test" is the main problem with our educational system. Why don't we teach kids to THINK, instead?


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »