Death to the SAT?

22 08 2007

If the SAT has been statistically shown to be nothing but a shiny distraction, a mirror reflecting what we already know rather than a window to a brighter future of knowledge and wisdom and social progress, then are we smart enough to NOT show how smart we are with a shined-up test score?

The ever-controversial Charles Murray argues that society would be smarter, happier and most just if none of us had these shit-for-shinola scores in our heads in the first place.

The cognitive stratification of American society—for that’s what we’re talking about—was not a problem 100 years ago. . . (consider that in 1907 roughly half the adults with .high intelligence were housewives) . . .Because upper-middle-class families produce most of the smartest kids, there is no way to reform the system (short of disregarding intellectual ability altogether) to prevent their children from coming out on top. We can only make sure that high-ability students from disadvantaged backgrounds realize . . . that the system is not rigged.

The most immediate effect of getting rid of the SAT is to remove an extremely large and bright red herring. . .

Tobin Harshaw blogged it here yesterday for the NYT’s Opinionator, drawing this ad hominem flailing about from one commenter:

I’m assuming we’re talking about the very same creep of Herrnstein & Murray, The Bell Curve panderers of racism? (to read two excellent book-length exposures, try Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man and Alterman’s What Liberal Media).

So my question to the Times is, where do you come off giving extremist pseudo-scientists a center stage to spout on whatever they please? Who next–Savage? O’Reilly? Coulter?

Well, no, I hope even the SAT’s own academic experts would score that response as betraying inadequate reading comprehension. (And surely he meant
exposé, not exposure? Tsk.)

“Considering the source” is a legit part of critical thinking — a fun part, easy to write and get folks to read! –but praising an idea solely because of the source is intellectual pandering, and attacking a source in place of analyzing the source’s idea is intellectual pathos (from which, the SAT might expect college-quality readers and writers to know, comes the vocabulary word PATHETIC.)

Any idea can and should be examined quite apart from one’s lizard-brain feelings about how its political critics and champions line up. Intelligent feminists and journalists need to do this with “education” issues, for example, instead of blindly buying teacher union and other liberal rhetoric on public schooling, homeschooling and parent-family privacy issues.

Evolution can be studied and discussed beyond either praising or mocking Jesus, Darwin or the Pope. The meaning of life and death can be considered without ranting about Dr. Kevorkian; the meaning of war and peace can be considered as much larger than our personal feelings about Cindy Sheehan, George Washington, George Bush, Adolf Hitler or Jane Fonda.

Here’s my own effort at non-personal analysis of Murray’s ideas: if people intelligent and well-educated enough to be worthy of their own SAT scores cannot manage to separate the idea or policy issue from its celebrity face, then doesn’t that very failing tend to proves Murray’s point, that school and soci0economic success is more about class, than classical cognition about the classics?

So the comment I personally liked best –not that your feelings about me should influence your judgment! –was the first one after the post. It’s not only as progressively correct as ranting about O’Reilley and Coulter but also wiser, smarter and better “educated” by my lights, and with a decidedly unschooling sensibility to boot:

Getting rid of the SAT would force elite schools to look more carefully for youngsters capable of thinking beyond the received wisdom of the day.

Our elite schools are a real disappointment. They’re churning out generation after generation of leaders addicted to chronic unsuccessful warmaking, mad borrowing and spending, the promotion of family breakdown, and the institutionalization of politically speech and thought. Maybe all the SAT does is select out students with the best potential to learn, identify with and carry out the now failed wisdom of the past.

— Posted by Mark Klein, M.D.

p.s. – and if you can’t manage that level of non-personal erudition, at least use your higher order thinking skills in your PERSONAL erudition!! Example (I hope it’s not classist to suggest) here.



One response

10 11 2007
Quitting and Going Home: Failure, Success or Complicated? « Cocking A Snook!

[…] and Going Home: Failure, Success or Complicated? 10 11 2007 I was reading “Death to the SAT” today: “Considering the source” is a legit part of critical thinking — a fun part, easy to […]

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