Numbers Can't Contain You

[Spoken word competition] a small rant about the current school system and SATs. (Don't listen to this, my voice is embarrassing 99.5% of the time)


1. .

"Don’t let numbers tell you what to do. You are blood and earth, not theory and chalk."



It’s easy to forget, and yet, so important to remember that whether you’re smart or not, tutored or taught, numbers don’t define you. “Just do your best,” they say, but when your best is reduced to a grade on a test, a number that doesn’t meet the standards and bars, live up to the stars, then suddenly your best is nothing but a disappointment in your teachers eyes, a crack in your “perfect student” guise, proof that you really aren’t as wise as you let on. 


Everything is geared towards, steered towards that paper you’ll someday hold, showing how you fit into the academic mold; as if a high score means you’re worth more or are destined for success in a way that sets you apart from the rest and holds you [above] as someone to be fought for, coerced, everyone’s first choice. 


But if your score is low, what does that show? That you’re not as smart, you can’t play the part of the model student who slaves over grades and stresses over tests, but still is well rounded, well-valued and grounded, plays sports, plays music, is a leader, a volunteer, and still manages a 4.0 and something to show for the work you’ve done? Never mind that there’s only twenty four hours in one day, and it’s still expected to find a way to cram all these activities, these vast trivialities into our lives, no matter how our mental health dives, for it will all be worth it when our paper reflects it - those stressful days, those sleepless nights, those morning struggles and evening fights with our mind, memorizing information we don’t understand, rushing through as part of the plan, guessing on tests, too tired to think, treading water, terrified to sink - it will all be worth it when that paper will reflect that one number that defines our intellect - that against our future is weighed, ranked against peers in a cruel parade of numbers and grades, tests and scores, as if they can show who we are and what we’re doing this for.



But even if we were strong enough to dare to push for a system reformed to be fair, the pressure is there not to rebel, lest we end up in unemployed hell, our family and friends disappointed and sad, that we have screwed up our lives so bad. And so we go along with the way it is done, taking the tests, knowing they’ve won. We’ll be reduced to a number again, a few digit code to show who we’ve been - a good student, hardworking and focused on school, or a lackluster failure, a joke, a fool. All we can do is play by their rules, submit our results, choose from the schools, but maybe someday, a generation will break free - to show what they want and who they can be, but until then it’s an important thing to remember that you are not merely a number. You’re more than your grades, than your scores and your sums, you have friends and family and hobbies and loves. Academic intelligence is but one of many, and isn’t worth any more than artistic or creative or spatial or linguistic; there are many ways to be smart, successful, and true, and no matter what you do, numbers can’t contain you.

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