FLINT - My daughter's school had her take a career test the other day. It turns out that she's well-suited to be, among other things, a parking lot attendant and a vending machine stuffer.
My initial reaction is, "Thank you, public school system."
All these years, all those parent-teacher conferences, all those late nights building last minute Native American villages with her out of toothpicks and yard scraps, and that's the highest floor her elevator is going to reach? Why'd we bother? Not that there's anything wrong with those jobs, but I do wonder if I can get a rebate on all the millage I've been paying.
I'm a bit spooked by this. My daughter - who is a good student - laughs it off. She has enough experience with the public schools to know how ridiculous they can be.
"I wouldn't worry too much," she said. "A kid who is allergic to bees was told he should be a beekeeper."
Mostly, she's using the test results to torment me.
"Daddy," she says, "I know you wanted me to be veterinarian, but look on the bright side: I'll know what to tell you to do if your Snickers bar ever gets hung up on that curly-cue thingy."
I'll also be able to get the family discount when I park in the long-term lot at the airport, I guess.
I still want to know what happened. The test consisted of 116 questions, and she swears she didn't goof around on any of them. But what in God's name did it ask her that would make it think that she had a future in chip replenishment - "Do you enjoy feeding the hungry?"
If so, why can't she run a food program or something?
I suppose I shouldn't worry. Apparently she's not the only one. When I mentioned her aptitudes on Facebook, people wrote the following:
"My first result? Plumber. Next was mechanic. I am the least mechanical person on Earth!"
"My test said I like people and like to work with my hands so I should be an undertaker. Seriously."
"Mine said FBI agent or garbage collector."
"I took that test in 1992 and was supposed to be a tug boat operator."
A woman said: "My daughter got all A's and is a very talented writer, artist, and singer. They assigned beauty school. Maybe they know something we don't. Fortunately, my daughter saw it for was it was - institutionalized gesticulations toward preparing for a future about which they have not even an inkling. So they go with the stock filler."
I'm not exactly sure what institutionalized gesticulations are, although I think I may have ticked off a driver on the freeway when I offered one his way the other.
But I think I know what she's saying: The schools are just trying to help but are doing so in a ham-handed way.
The truth is a fill in the blank test is a poor way to choose a future, and while it may take into account the taker's preferences - my daughter, for instance, indicated she "liked" doing hands-on work and repairing things - it weights them in odd ways. (She said those things because, in an effort to help her be self-sufficient, I've taught her how to use tools.)
And, of course, there's no way for a test to know what's in the human heart. It can't measure motivation and determination. It can't measure and potential.
That's my chief worry, in fact - that some kids, given how fragile egos are at that age, will take a test like that at face value and figure it must know what it's talking about.
How many musical geniuses will we lose because a stupid test says they ought to be a mortician? And how many kids will be miserable trying to be an accountant when they'd really be happier being the world's best janitor?
Maybe I'm overthinking this, but just to be sure, I took the test myself. I signed in as my daughter and answered all 116 questions. The results? I'm best suited to be an acting instructor. Why, I don't know, although I was quite good in my one and only stage appearance in "The Ghost Who Wore White" back in junior high.
Also in my Top 10: special effects technician, director, critic (hey, got that one right), activist, translator, casting director, technical writer, communications specialist and lobbyist.
Farther down my list was vending machine technician.
Guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
It'll be good to know how to free up stuck candy bars, I guess.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist for The Flint Journal, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. For more of his work, visit his blog at blog.mlive.com/flintjournal/aheller. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.