I meet a bunch of high schoolers on this blog, and my favorite, Thi, recently informed me that at her rich-kid, Palo Alto school all their AP tests were disqualified.

Guess why they were disqualified? Because the desks were four centimeters too close together.

Could it be possible that the College Board did not read how the kids at Stuyvesant developed a cheating network that could work even if all their desks were in different states?

It’s not enough that the idea of testing by subject is outdated. But so are the rules of what makes a test valid.

In this case I wonder why the kids taking the AP tests in the first place. Their parents live in one of the most expensive school districts in the country, so I doubt parents are telling their kids to double-down so they can save money on college. And it’s not like taking a lot of AP tests is going to get you into the college of your choice. The top schools have tons of geniuses applying. You are going to need something besides AP tests to get you into the school. AP tests just reaffirm that you’re smart and good at school. You need a better hook when you’re a rich kid (especially if you’re a white girl.)

So the only thing AP tests do is increase homework, which we know does not help them in life.

At first I felt sorry for the kids in Thi’s school. But then I thought: they are in high school. They are old enough to demand to be taken out of school. And, if they are not leaving school then at least they are old enough to see for themselves that AP tests are not going to save them, so they should do something more useful with their time.

These absurd rituals of College Board test taking that have disqualified too many exams should be a wake up call to those kids. They are too old to blame the adults for devising stupid rules and they are too old to blame other adults for not properly following the stupid rules. It’s up to high schoolers to take responsibility for how they spend their days. (These high schoolers, for instance, are suing the state of California for wasting their time.)

Teens are capable of seeing how vapid test-based high school is in a world that celebrates self-directed learners. Teens are able to get themselves out of school. So if they are still in school and they are still trying to follow rules they can tell are stupid, then they need to admit that at some point, it’s their own fault.

I know this sounds harsh, but it’s great news for the kids that they have control over their lives. There is not a lot we can do about how happy we are in this world. Seventy percent of your happiness is determined at birth—we are all born with a happiness setpoint.

The best way to control the remaining 30% is to enhance your belief that you are in control of your life. (In the psychology world the terms is locus of control.) Tell a high schooler that they control their outcome of their high school years. Not some College Board test giver. Not some teacher rearranging desks. Not parents who are scared to take risks with their kids. The person who controls what we learn and how that plays out in our lives is each of us.

At first I thought maybe it’s me overstepping bounds, but parents ask my kids all the time, How do you learn math? Do you have friends? Do you play video games all day? Parents consciously or subconsciously challenge my kids homeschooling all the time. So it seems socially acceptable for me to challenge older kids to think about what they are doing in school.

We have the locus of control. When you teach that concept to a high schooler, even if it’s not your own high schooler, then you bring more happiness to the life of that young person. Or at least you plant the seed.