[FOUNTAIIN]Tests are not life“Tom, finish your dinner ― people in China and India are starving.” Parents of Thomas Friedman, author of “The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century,” told him when he was young. The New York Times Op-Ed columnist now advises his two daughters, a college freshman and a high school junior, “Girls, finish your homework ― people in China and India are starving for your jobs.” Arguing that the world has entered an era of infinite competition, Mr. Friedman educates his daughters this way.
Competition is often seen as a test. While the test result can make you smile or cry, your future doesn’t depend on it. The birth of Taiping Tianguo, the Kingdom of Heavenly Peace, a kingdom that coexisted along with the Qing Dynasty from 1851 to 1864, is closely related to the test failure of one man.
Hong Xiuquan’s family put all hope in their bright son. However, when he failed his fourth attempt at the civil service examination in 1843, he had a fever for forty days. Then he received a divine message from an old man in a dream that he should fight off evil and save the world. Having read Christian texts, he was sure the man was Jehovah and devoted himself to establishing the Heavenly Kingdom of Taiping, where people could enjoy equality under the protection of God.
There are many notable figures that failed exams but left their names in history. Winston Churchill failed his military academy exam twice and Adolf Hitler failed the entrance exam to art school twice.
In 1921, American psychologist Lewis Terman began surveying the academic achievements of 1,500 children with an I.Q. of 135 or higher. The participants, called “The Termites,” displayed extraordinary learning ability and high academic achievements. Mr. Terman published that innate intelligence determined the success of children. However, he was too rash in reaching that conclusion. More interesting results were produced from the research that followed. When the termites who achieved best and worst were compared, there was not much difference in the I.Q. of the two groups. In fact, there was little correlation between I.Q. and success.
However, common traits could be found in the highly successful children. They had conviction, perseverance and passion. On November 23, about 600,000 students took the College Scholastic Aptitude Test. Some did well while others were not satisfied with their performance. What is important is that a failed test does not mean a failed life, just as life doesn’t end when the test ends. As long as you have conviction, perseverance and passion, your life is still full of hope.
by You Sang-chul
The writer is the Asia news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.