A much too common experience among teachers like me is that when students finish their assignment, they will come to their instructor and ask: “What do I do now?”  In fact, that is becoming a real problem in all of America – people of all ages asking some kind of other person, “What do I do now?’

This is because teachers as authority figures create work for the students to respond to, which always makes teachers the more advanced ones and students always the more backward ones.  For the same reasons, job creators are more advanced that the people who respond to the jobs that are created.  And I guess you have to say – although some will vehemently rebel against the thought – that God is more advanced than we are because He created us and our world while we are just responding to it all.

But someone becomes more advanced when they stop merely responding and start creating themselves.  For example, people start feeling more advanced when instead of waiting someone else to give them a job, they create their own job.

But I see a problem in school of too many young people not feeling very advanced or creative, and thus they often don’t act very mature.  So you will find 18-year-old high school seniors putting their greatest energies into making paper airplanes and throwing them around the room, just as if they were second graders doing the same thing in their elementary school classrooms.

This is because in our school system, many high school seniors can be about as far from becoming makers and creators as second graders.  Both high school seniors and second graders may be in a pure respondent mode with little difference between them, limiting their most inspired moments to creating paper airplanes.

So there is room for high school students to make up the questions on some of the tests.  Not all of the tests. 

An example of how a student may answer his own questions on the test would be in essay tests.  If the essay test were about the French Revolution, for example, the student would choose his own favorite question about how the French over a few years could change from a very typical feudal society to one that committed a resounding regicide to what had once been their once beloved royal family.

It is important to learn even if we don’t want to know this that history proceeds much as does a seduction.  That is, an historic process begins with an overture, daring not too bold, but the overture turns into a one-thing-leading-another thing until we reach the last thing which may be as horrific as the beheading of a once beloved king.

I think it is probably impossible for the present testing system to assist this discovery, and yet the one-thing-leading-to-another thing usually leads to the last thing we would ever have originally dreamed.

I would suggest that if we begin allow students to create their own questions to some of their own tests, that we remind them that to illustrate how something as historically radical as the French Revolution can be replayed with a slow-motion camera so it can make sense.

For example, it wasn’t as easy as the Insurrection of Women storming Versailles in 1789 and bringing the Royal Family under chains to Paris where they were beheaded.

In fact, the taking the Royal Family was originally framed more closely an act of love from a people who wanted their king and queen to live with them in Paris.  They were brought to Paris in their imperial splendor in a grand procession, with the peasants of Paris cheering them along the way as King Louis and Queen Marie Antoinette made their way to their new beautiful palatial home in the Tuileries.

The key to history is that the king and queen were taken against their will to their new Parisian palace, and over the next few years, they were lives were reduced little by little with increasing infringements made against their will until they were made common enough to be acceptably executed.

Maybe an even more important question that has not proven  worthy of our present testing system is how did the German people in the 1930’s while being proud of being perhaps the best educated people in the world succumb to an Austrian-raised dictator who couldn’t even handle the education of his own junior year in his Austrian high school.

Again a person being tested on this question can better answer it while devising his own test.  So that it would be more possible to introduce the Wagnerian influence on the German people of the 1930’s, especially the promise of the Wagnerian culture that the Germans would be someday saved by a weird foreigner named Siegfried who would come to them from nowhere.

The point of it is that history is too complex unless it can be matched with a complexity as rich as that of a real person.


Chris Sharp- Commentary

Chris Sharp is an Educator and a prize-winning professional writer. He has recently published a new book titled How to Like a Human Being . Sharp's latest book is an Amazon Kindle collection of his published short stories, Every Kind of Angel . His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon.