As expected, the informed and ill-informed are weighing in on the significance of the revisions of the SAT announced last week.
Columnist Kathleen Parker weighs in, explaining, without bothering with evidence that correlations between income and SAT are the fault of bad teachers:
But if we truly want to improve everyone’s chance at eventual employment and success, the playing field needs to be plowed and seeded well before the harvest of standardized testing.
It starts with schools and teachers, and everybody knows it.
Yet today grades are inflated to assuage low student self-esteem and justify flaws in curricula and instruction. In this setting, it seems that rigorous standardized testing is more crucial than ever. As for the income differential in comparing test scores, outcomes have more to do with access to good schools and teachers than whether certain words aren’t common among lower-income students.
While she may have gotten high SAT scores herself, she seems curiously indifferent to the place of evidence in persuasive writing, as she argues, without quoting a single college official that
These tweaks are a shame inasmuch as educators lose measures that provided critical information.
While declaring the tests “easier” because they may no longer include vocabulary words like “punctilious”, she seems not to have bothered reading her own newspaper’s analysis of the changes.
While I know that columnists don’t write their own headlines, the Southern [and Black?] vernacular of the headline as published originally in the Washington Post: The new SAT don’t care ’bout no fancy words is a nice nod to those who just know that the revisions are simply more of that Affirmative Action nonsense. In liberal Seattle, the title was changed to New SAT Test Will Be Too Easy.
One of the educators that she might have bothered to talk to is Leon Botstein, president of Bard College. Bard is one of many selective colleges that is “SAT optional” because admissions officers in these schools found no value to the information that the SAT provides, a position supported by research showing little predictive value in SAT scores (news that Parker’s Washington Post covered in a business column about declining market shares for the College Board. While she may have a “rich vocabulary” as measured by her SAT scores, she seems curiously lacking in research, or even Googling skills).
In a Time magazine column, Botstein writes:
The blunt fact is that the SAT has never been a good predictor of academic achievement in college. High school grades adjusted to account for the curriculum and academic programs in the high school from which a student graduates are. The essential mechanism of the SAT, the multiple choice test question, is a bizarre relic of long outdated twentieth century social scientific assumptions and strategies. As every adult recognizes, knowing something or how to do something in real life is never defined by being able to choose a “right” answer from a set of possible answers (some of them intentionally misleading) put forward by faceless test designers who are rarely eminent experts. No scientist, engineer, writer, psychologist, artist, or physician—and certainly no scholar, and therefore no serious university faculty member—pursues his or her vocation by getting right answers from a set of prescribed alternatives that trivialize complexity and ambiguity.
These revisions in the SAT were spurred by the College Board’s drop in market shares because excellent, rigorous schools dropped the SAT as a requirement because they could not demonstrate that the tests predicted success in college. Any journalist can readily find that information.
To pretend that the revisions are instead about dumbing down college admissions is disingenuous at best, classist and racist at worst.
Unlike the words in the vocabulary section of the SAT, “classist” and “racist” are each only two syllable words, because straightforward language is unlikely to obscure what is actually being said.
March 6, 2014
March 5, 2014
March 4, 2014
Reading this article last weekend about class envy and life happiness, I got really angry because of the quick rhetorical shift that author Arthur Brooks did to create the straw argument on which the whole argument is built.
In 2008, Gallup asked a large sample of Americans whether they were “angry that others have more than they deserve.” People who strongly disagreed with that statement — who were not envious, in other words — were almost five times more likely to say they were “very happy” about their lives than people who strongly agreed. Even after I controlled for income, education, age, family status, religion and politics, this pattern persisted.
It’s safe to conclude that a national shift toward envy would be toxic for American culture.
In other words, being angry about a fundamental lack of fairness is simply a personality problem, much like the popular girls in high school who used their social power to mistreat others would then claim insight into the motive for any complaints about this mistreatment: the less popular girls were just jealous of them.
I didn’t know where to begin.
So I’m grateful that Matt Bruening did the point -by-point take down that this envy thesis deserves.
And I confess to being a bit envious that he did it so well.
bright children are less likely to apply to top universities because they are worried about “not fitting in”. He said that they need to become more comfortable with middle-class social setting such as restaurants, theatres and offices if they are to succeed.
He argued further that politicians place “ too much focus on education, and often fail to realise the need to make poorer children feel “comfortable” in middle class settings”. He recommends that ”visiting different places, watching plays and having varied hobbies can help give working class children ‘shared cultural experiences’ with those from middle-class backgrounds”.
I remember a day early in my academic career when I was talking with come colleagues about a novel I’d just read and loved. I knew that this was a prestigious, not a “popular” author, so I believed that I was on solid ground in talking about my love of this book with two women that I considered friends.
I’d barely started when one interrupted to say “yes. And it’s so brilliant how she’s retelling [some Shakespeare play] in a modern setting”.
And then there was that long silence that was by now so familiar to me.
And the two of them looked at each other. And looked back at me. And it was left to me to recover and move on, but of course there was no way to do that gracefully so I’m sure that I changed the subject.
There was no discussion at the point of the disparities in education that leave many of us without access to knowledge about Shakespeare.
There was certainly no open discussion about why gaps in my understanding of Shakespeare mattered in any way.
There was no further talk about the things that I did find so compelling about the novel.
There was no quick synopsis of the Shakespeare play or invitation to think together about how the author had woven themes from the play into the novel.
There was a very awkward silence, from women that I considered friends. And while they were friends, they were also each above me in the academic hierarchy, so I sensed to the core that this moment mattered in ways that stretched far beyond the momentary awkwardness.
Because it was all about the fact that
I’d just revealed in yet another way they were very open about their judgment that I didn’t “fit in” with their conceptions of who an educated person should be.
I grow weary of articles like this in which there is never anyone making others understand that they don’t fit in.
I grow weary of the argument that middle class culture is a neutral land with open borders than anyone can simply enter, rather than a social barrier that is carefully protected.
I grow weary that there is never any discussion in articles like this about the vital necessity of educating all students to understand the structural stratification of social worlds, and never any mention of educating privileged college students to understand that they did nothing to earn the education that they’ve enjoyed and have no right to judge those were educated elsewhere.
If working-class students don’t feel that they fit in, it’s because others are making sure that they understand that they don’t fit in.
And that’s something that we can do something about in schools and colleges, once we get past the eye-rolling and awkward silences that happen with privileged students and faculty meet people like poor and working-class people for the first time.