Standard Operating Procedures.

My friend Andrew has a post up on his blog that is one of the most interesting things I’ve ever read. To quote:

The season of the bac has hit France again. The word bac is the shortened name of the end-of-high-school exams, the baccalauréat. This test, instituted by none other than Napoleon, is actually a series of comprehensive exams, one in every subject. Taking them is as much a rite of passage as anything. They signal the end of high school and the first real step towards adulthood.

The tests are not technically high-school exit exams; you can finish high school and not take the bac. In fact, the bac serves as a college entrance exam — pass it and you can enroll in any French university. But this is no SAT. This is a bitch-tastically difficult series of mental ass-whoopin’s.

There is no multiple choice. Most exams consist of an essay. For instance, the philosophy exam consists of one question, and you get four hours to write up an answer. Here is this year’s question:

Does art transform our conception of reality?


Can you imagine? Can you see American testing administrators forswearing the old paradigm of standardized multiple choice testing for something that demands more critical thinking and writing skills? I don’t think I would perform particularly well, but apparently no one is expected to, that’s not the point. How cool is that?