Your South Carolina education department, fresh from showing off that kids in Maine and D.C. and Hawaii scored worse than we did on the SAT, is holding a contest. Not to change the name of state Superintendent Jim Rex to T. Rex or Tyrannosaurus Rex, but to change the name of the state's new testing system.
Certainly, when the old test was a failure, the best recourse is to change the test. The old name had to go, too. The Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test, the old bugaboo that told us every year our kids weren't doing as well as they should, was clearly at fault.
Not the schools. Not you. Not me.
PACT was sent packing along with all those bad scores. If you change the name and the test, nobody will ever remember all the times the scores tanked, right?
I applaud those people who have gotten so worked up about changing this test and name. If you fail a sobriety test, tell the cop: "Sir, I prefer a biology test. The mitochondria! Paramecium! A platypus is a mammal! I am sober, sir."
I write a bad column tomorrow, or misspell somebody's name, I will change my name to That Big Jerk so people can't find me by phone or e-mail. If my name changes tomorrow, I start new. It will save time, anyway. "Didja read what That Big Jerk wrote today?"
Say one of my three kids, who will all take this new test, or your kid, fails an English test. Tell them next time the test is hard, just write someone else's name in the name line.
Yet, maybe a name change can erase all memory of schools testing -- our public schools, meaning you and I own them and are responsible for their achievement or failure -- that, as a whole, rank near the bottom by any national scale.
It's happened before.
If a guy is named Marion Morrison and threatens to run the bad guys out of town and shoot the stragglers, even the town drunk laughs at the bowlegged fool. If he changes his name to John Wayne, every outlaw in the West is dead within five minutes.
However, the proposed name change here is not really a good contest because you can't choose your own names.
For example, BOOGER -- Bring On Optimum Grade End Results -- is off the table.
All you can do is pick one of five whoppers offered by what undoubtedly was a room filled with star-studded bureaucrats. Take a look at these poetic options:
• PAL -- Palmetto Assessment of Learning.
How about PAL -- Perhaps Alabama Lied! Alabama beat us on the SAT. Impossible! Alabama has more hookworms, less coastline. They must be stupider. Proper English: More stupid.
Or maybe PAL -- Paulette And Lu Anne. Paulette Hallman and Lu Anne Cox, incredible teachers at Rock Hill's Oakdale and Richmond Drive elementary schools. A pair among thousands of dedicated teachers around here who go to work every day to help our kids. In a combined six decades of teaching, these two wonderful women have built more promising futures than the entire state education department could ruin.
• PASS -- Palmetto Assessment of State Standards.
Instead, PASS -- People-who-want-school-vouchers-instead-of-better-public-schools-we-all-fight-for-are-big ... No that wouldn't work. Bible Belt.
• SCYE -- South Carolina Yearly Evaluation.
Instead, South Carolina, Your Ears are red. Scoring below Mississippi is embarrassing, you know.
• STEP -- State Test of Educational Progress.
No, STEP must be Sure, Today Everybody Passes! Forget the results. No grades anymore!
• STARS -- State Test of Achievement and Readiness for Success.
Nope, STARS must be Scoreboards Turf And Really cool Stadiums. Rock Hill spent $1 million on football turf and a scoreboard for District Three Stadium after spending millions for South Pointe's football stadium. Fort Mill is spending $6 million at least on a football stadium when another is right down the street, and York is building a new stadium when theirs seems to work just fine.
Anybody in York County who wants to change their name just pays $150 and asks a Family Court judge to sign off on it. Unfortunately, all your old debts come with the new name. All your failures come with the new name, too.
Kind of like this test and contest.