Ed Driscoll


THE DEATH OF THE SAT: Found via NRO’s The Corner, Heather McDonald has an essay in City Journal on the coming replacement for the SAT. Why do colleges want to junk the SAT in the first place? McDonald writes:

Under pressure from the University of California, which was forbidden from using race to override low test scores in 1995 and so was desperate to jettison the SAT, the overseers of the SAT are creating a new test that tries less to measure aptitudes like reasoning skills and more to measure knowledge of subject matter learned in school.

Which means, as McDonald says, “we have come full circle”:

it was elite private schools that fought to preserve content-based exams for college admissions before World War II, against the growing movement for aptitude testing. Educational reformers like James Conant argued that aptitude tests would allow bright students in less demanding public high schools to compete with less bright but better-prepared prep school students. The prep schools, for their part, predicted that discarding content-based exams would drag down academic standards by devaluing actual learning. They may have been right, but they lost the day. The aptitude test proponents claimed victory for meritocratic democracy against inherited privilege.

Expect the race industry to resurrect the same arguments against content testing as were used in the 1940s, but without proposing aptitude tests in its place. There is no reason to think that the test score gap will go away with a different test, since the explanation for it lies largely in a culture that devalues academic achievement. So after spending millions on developing a new test, the education profession will be left with its old options: shooting the messenger by blaming the test for differential academic outcomes, or finally telling the truth about the cultural changes needed to overcome lagging academic achievement. The sky will fall before the latter option comes to pass, so get ready for another decade of covert racial preferences and explicit excuse-making around the new SAT.

The junking of the current SAT could have repercussions beyond college admissions–in Bobos In Paradise, David Brooks talks about (and yes, I’m really simplifying here) the introduction of the SAT in the first place, how it changed college admission policies, and how that lead to today’s “bobo” (“bourgeois bohemians”) culture, a very different American culture than that of the first two-thirds of the 20th century.