No President Left Behind

Dear President Obama,

If the midterms elections are any indicator you have your work cut out for you in terms of getting another term. If you are accepting advice from people not from Chicago I have an idea for how to get reelected: The Presidential Standardized Test. Here’s how it works.

Declare a presidential “crisis” that is putting our nation at risk of falling behind in the 21st Century Global Marketplace. Convene a group of experts to study the problem, making sure they link a country’s economic crises to a lack of knowledge and skills on the part of it’s leaders. Then have a crack team of psychometricians put together a PST, or Presidential Standardized Test, that measures the “presidentialability” of a person-or the skills and knowledge that it takes to be a successful leader of the United States. Then take it — and here’s the trick– intentionally fail it.

I know, you are one smart dude, but the brilliance of sandbagging on the test only comes afterwards. First, the test score explains your presidential struggles and allows you to dedicate your final two years in office to being a better president by raising your test score. This approach would make such unruly issues as the economy and Afghanistan moot. Your press conferences could be all about test preparation, and each six weeks you can take another test that shows you are making AYP, or adequate yearly progress towards being a proficient president. You make the PST the issue for the next election, and stay on message about how your rising test scores show you to be increasingly accountable to the American People. Make the tool the task throughout your final two years, as there is nothing un- American about accountability.

The downside to the PST Plan is that it will inevitably distract you from doing your job. The upside is that the decline in your performance as commander in chief can be argued away by your rapidly rising test scores. In a nutshell, don’t worry about bailouts, instead focus on filling in bubbles. Remember, no matter where we end up as a country you will have a test score that indicates it was not your fault. Stop traveling so much and trying to learn about issues or events going on in the “real world,” as this will surely distract you from test preparation. See your legacy as a number.

An ironic upside to this strategy would be your setting an example for the millions of students in our nation’s schools who must take standardized tests like vitamins. I have a daughter in third grade who struggles to understand the point of the endless procession of standardized tests that are supposed to measure and somehow magically multiply her learning. Her school has been transformed into a giant test prep machine bent on having her know lots of facts fast. No time for reflective thought, particularly about the madness of the current standardized testing regime, in the panicked world of high stakes testing. Instead she gets worksheets called “The Mad Minute” that make math a race. She struggles to understand the point of this, particularly as she has lots of things she is interested in learning about that never see the light of day in her school because they are not on the test. Like you, she has a life and things she wants to do, things she wants to learn and to achieve. She has problems she wants to solve and questions she wants to ask. She is interested in making the world a better place. Instead her interest in learning and school are being tested right out of her. And she goes to a “good school.”

Your taking the PST might not change this, but it would in the short term give me a better comeback to her “Why do I have to take these stupid tests?” After all, real accountability means that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Right? Don’t worry about answering this last question because it won’t be on the test.

Accountably yours,

C. Aiden Downey