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- Toni Morrison: Spilling over the Corners of Text - August 6, 2019
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- MCAS Whitehead Test Prompt-What Were They Thinking? - May 28, 2019
- If They Are Choosing the Family Car, They Are Going to Want Choice in the Classroom - February 27, 2019
- Teachers Pay Teachers-The Fast Food of Education - February 22, 2019
- Yes, Breaking Up (with a text) is Hard to Do - October 8, 2017
- Copying the Nation’s Founding Documents by Hand - September 24, 2017
- A Comic Book Helped to Inspire the Civil Rights Movement - August 7, 2017
The "Nation's Report Card" is released by The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) every year where students are tested at ages 9, 13, and 17. In 2012, the testing results for readers at age 17 were abysmal, demonstrating only a 2% growth in reading scores over the past 41 years.
I was bemoaning this statistic to a friend who responded, "Well, they're just seventeen..."
Almost immediately, I heard the voice of Paul McCartney, the voice of my youth, respond in my brain, "...you know what I mean...."
Seventeen is that age of great contradictions...you know what I mean? For example:
- Seventeen is the year before legal adulthood in the USA;
- Seventeen is the age at which one may watch, rent, or purchase R-rated movies without parental consent;
- Seventeen is the age at which one can enlist in the armed forces with parental permission;
- More 17-year-olds commit crimes than any other age group, according to recent studies by psychiatrists.
Nature offers an example of another seventeen year cycle. Consider that cicadas remain buried for seventeen years before coming out a breaking into their mating song. Coincidently there are no end to the number of songs, mating or otherwise, that center on the dilemma of being seventeen.
There is the infamous Paradise By the Dashboard Light by Meat Loaf:
Though it's cold and lonely in the deep dark night
I can see paradise by the dashboard light
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Ain't no doubt about it we were doubly blessed
'Cause we were barely seventeen
And we were barely dressed
Similarly, The Cars celebrate seventeen's sexual desires in their song Let's Go:
she's winding them down
on her clock machine
and she won't give up
'cause she's seventeen
she's a frozen fire
she's my one desire
Glam rock band Winger also offers a robust cicada-like mating call for their song Seventeen:
I'm only seventeen
But I"ll show you love like you've never seen
She's only seventeen
Daddy says she's too young
There are songs that address the restlessness of seventeen such as Edge of Seventeen by Stevie Nicks:
He was no more than a baby then
Well, he seemed broken hearted, something within him
But the moment that I first laid eyes on him all alone
On the edge of seventeen
While Rod Stewart adds a cautionary tale of runaway seventeen-year-olds to his song Young Turks:
Billy left his home with a dollar in his pocket and a head full of dreams.
He said somehow, some way, it's gotta get better than this.
Patti packed her bags, left a note for her momma, she was just seventeen,
There were tears in her eyes when she kissed her little sister goodbye.
Emotional pain is explored in Janis Ian's heartbreaking At Seventeen
I leaned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear-skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired
In contrast, adults reflect in nostalgia about the age in Frank Sinatra's It Was a Very Good Year:
When I was seventeen
It was a very good year
It was a very good year for small town girls
And soft summer nights
We'd hide from the lights
On the village green
When I was seventeen
Each song, (and yes, I know there are many others) explores quandries of being seventeen. Don't even get me started on Rogers and Hammerstein's I am Sixteen Going on Seventeen from The Sound of Music. Poor Lisel has Nazi complications in her romance!
Collectively, these songs show how this last year of childhood is a seething ferment of sensuality, experimenting, wishing, waiting, and wanting; a potent potion for those who are leaping or falling into adulthood. This same population of 17-year-olds, then, is the population tested for a national report.
Therefore, when seventeen year olds are selected annually to take a test in order to diagnosis a reading level, I wonder, how invested are they in this task? These are the students who have been state standardized tested at (almost) every grade level, they have been PSAT, SAT or ACT tested, and maybe Advanced Placement tested. What does this extra test, a test with no impact on their GPA, mean to them? Are they simply fed up ? Do they test seriously?
I wonder if they simply fill out the letters A-B-B-A on the multiple choice just to have test done? Which reminds me, ABBA also has a seventeen themed song, Dancing Queen:
You are the Dancing Queen, young and sweet, only seventeen
Dancing Queen, feel the beat from the tambourine
You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life
See that girl, watch that scene, digging the Dancing Queen
What insight about this age did the Beatles provide when they sang, "Well, she was just seventeen, you know what I mean?"
On the compilation album Anthology, Paul admits that he and John were also stumped in trying to define the complexity of being seventeen in the lyrics to I Saw Her Standing There:
"We were learning our skill. John would like some of my lines and not others. He liked most of what I did, but there would sometimes be a cringe line, such as, 'She was just seventeen, she'd never been a beauty queen.' John thought, 'Beauty queen? Ugh.' We were thinking of Butlins so we asked ourselves, what should it be? We came up with, 'You know what I mean.' Which was good, because you don't know what I mean."
Maybe we should take this advice from Paul and John and all the other recording artists. Maybe seventeen year olds are dealing with more complex problems than passing a NAEP test, which they may believe does not count.
Maybe there should be some emotional handicap included in reviewing the results of tests when students are just seventeen ...you know what I mean?[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]