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Don’t blame SATs for American inequality Jack Buckley et al.'s 'Measuring Success'

Dreamers will be punished. (The Breakfast Club/Netflix)


December 29, 2022   6 mins

The SAT has been, for decades, a rite of passage for American high school students. The test, which pupils typically take a few times in their final two years of school, assesses their reasoning skills in maths and language, assigning a score between 200 and 800 in each area. Generations of students have doggedly pursued the perfect score, 1600, or at least one high enough to get them into an elite college. When I took the SAT as a 16-year-old, it felt like a last chance: a way to get to college for someone who failed a maths or science class almost every semester of high school. The SAT is an essential rung of America’s meritocratic ladder — and a reliable source of stress among young people.

It’s significant, then, that in the past decade or so dozens of colleges have withdrawn their SAT requirement. Institutions such as Harvard and the entire University of California system, and dozens of others, have either gone test-optional, meaning students can submit their scores but are not required to, or rejected the test entirely. Sometimes, the alternative is to further emphasise GPA, or grade point average — that is, the average grades students earn in high school, often weighted according to the perceived difficulty of the course. In other tellings, the alternative is to embrace so-called “holistic admissions”, which means more emphasis on the essay that pupils submit, extracurriculars, and the “feel” of an application. Either way, this rejection of the test is couched in the language of social justice and equality, with anti-SAT crusaders insisting that the test is inegalitarian, racist, and obsolete.

With race-based affirmative action likely to be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court early next year, the question of diversity on campus is as live and laden with tension as ever. Diversity, in this context, means racial diversity specifically. It might seem odd to recommend an obscure academic book from 2018 as an essential read to understand this tension, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Measuring Success: Testing, Grades, and the Future of College Admissions is a collection of studies from the fields of educational measurement and psychometrics. It powerfully confirms the value of the SAT and similar entrance exams.

It’s essential to understand what kind of student was particularly well-served by the SAT: the kind who is bright and talented but who had failed to live up to their potential in class. These students tended to be the brilliant dreamers; they were the ones in possession of uncommon cognitive skills, but who performed poorly in knowledge-based exams because of bad time management, resistance to the indignities of organised education, or an inability to prioritise school over their own interests. For decades, excellent SAT scores got students into colleges that they wouldn’t ordinarily get into, creating opportunities to find diamonds in the rough who had perhaps never found their footing in school.

The students who the SAT disadvantaged, in contrast, were the grinders — those who were not particularly talented or gifted but who were able to get good grades through ingratiating themselves to teachers, studying maniacally, and always getting whatever points were available for effort. There’s no doubt that society needs both types of student, but the elimination of the SAT benefits only one sort.

There are many fundamental misconceptions that plague discussion of the SATs, and unfortunately, my long experience discussing the test tells me that most people’s ignorance is of the motivated kind. I got my PhD in English, but my focus was on the assessment of student learning and my dissertation was on tests of college learning. And what I learned during that process, and have had reinforced since, is that many people want to maintain myths about such tests out of a sense of resentment and naïve political concerns. This book helpfully dispatches with many common, but bad, arguments.

Consider the claim that the SAT should be abolished because it is not in fact a strong predictor of college performance. Those who make it often throw around correlations between the SAT and freshman year grades that appear to be low. But this is a quirk of how that data is collected. Such analyses can necessarily only consider students who got a high enough SAT score to get into a given college; that is, students who don’t get into college can’t have college grades, and so that whole sector of data is missing from analysis. This is a classic case of range restriction. If we correct for this problem, the SAT’s correlation with freshman grades is robust and consistent. The authors of Measuring Success demonstrate this, before going on to show empirically that SATs predict not just first-year college but a number of other important indicators of life success.

They note, too, that we have known about this range restriction issue for decades, and yet critics of the SAT continue to make this elementary mistake. It speaks to the committed ignorance many people have on this topic. There’s such deep resentment towards high-stakes tests, which cause stress for test-takers before starkly ranking them, that people are willing to look beyond little things like intellectual consistency or responsible evaluation of research.

The GPA is already broadly considered the single-most important criterion for applicants. The crowd that would prefer to give it even more consideration in admissions are at least still sticking with a quantitative indicator; the question is why we would prefer less quantitative data (just GPA) rather than more (GPA plus SAT).

In a nice show of professional respect, Measuring Success reprints a 2009 study that is often invoked by SAT critics. That research found that GPA was a strong predictor of college success, which some take to mean that we can safely discard the SAT, because it adds nothing to our understanding of a student’s potential. But Measuring Success goes on to examine a replication of this study, with newer data, which finds that the predictive accuracy of GPA has fallen, probably due to grade inflation, a problem which does not afflict a test like the SAT, which is normed every year. The SAT’s predictive quality, in contrast, went up.

If nothing else, using the SAT ensures that more information, and more kinds of information, are used in selecting students. But this kind of diversity — diversity of thinking and learning and academic style — is not the kind of diversity that competitive colleges are pursuing. Elite American colleges are already more racially diverse than the country writ large, but the perpetual cry is for more people of colour on campus. This is the source of the most persistent criticisms of the SAT. The broad claim about the SAT is that, since there are race and class disparities in SAT scores — white and Asian pupils score better than Hispanic and black, and rich better than poor — then the test must be discriminatory and should be abolished.

This is a bit like blaming seismographs for earthquakes. The SAT does not create inequality; the SAT reveals inequality. Contemporary progressives believe that black people and poorer people face many hurdles in life, thanks to entrenched inequality. I agree entirely. But if we’ve acknowledged that, how can we blame the SAT when its results are skewed against the poor and racial minorities? All of that inequality has consequences, and one of those consequences is poorer test scores. All educational data is race-and-class stratified, including the gold-standard National Assessment of Educational Progress, various state-specific exams, ancillary data like attendance and discipline, and crucially, GPA. That’s right: the very metric that many critics of the SAT would have us replace the test with shows the same race and class dynamics!

Perhaps this is why test-optional efforts to diversify campuses have often fallen flat. Crucially, Measuring Success presents three studies that consider the question of whether going test-optional results in a more diverse campus — and all three find no evidence to support that claim. For example, the study “The Effect of Going Test-Optional on Diversity and Admissions” finds that going test optional “has no statistically significant effect
 on the proportion of underrepresented students of colour enrolling in the institution”. If removing the SAT does not in fact improve minority representation, then what are we doing here, exactly?

Of course, admissions officers have plenty of freedom to decide who they’ll accept, particularly at private institutions. As long as schools aren’t engaged in federally-prohibited race or gender discrimination, the average college can select pretty much whoever they want. The schools dropping the SAT make a big show about diversity and equality, never bothering to note that they and not the test determine who gets the brass ring. Advocates for dropping the SAT ask us to put even more faith in those units of our highly-bureaucratic and self-dealing institutions of higher education. And this, finally, is the most irrational belief of all: the notion that, if we only give the admissions departments of exclusive colleges more power, they will do what’s right and usher in a new age of equity and diversity in higher education.

This amounts to a childish faith in institutions that we have no reason to trust. Colleges and universities design their admissions departments, like any other department, with self-interest in mind. To demonstrate this, simply look at affirmative action at elite universities. These institutions keep their data very close to the vest, but it’s widely believed that schools such as Harvard use their affirmative action seats primarily as money-makers. They are alleged to do so by seeking out rich children of recent immigrants, whose parents (they expect) will be able and willing to donate — which would mean the average Ivy League affirmative action slot isn’t filled with a poor American-born descendant of African slaves, but rather with the upwardly-mobile progeny of a Nigerian surgeon.

This is the reality of diversity at elite colleges. Yet critics of the SAT have dogged faith that the SAT is all that stands in the way of more equitable and diverse admissions. The notion is a mirage. If we’re going to fight discrimination and inequality, we’ll need tools to understand the size of the problem — tools like the SAT. Using them, we can embrace not just racial diversity, but diversity in terms of the strengths we recognise in applicants.


Freddie deBoer is a writer and academic. His newsletter can be found at freddiedeboer.substack.com.


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Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago

“since there are race and class disparities in SAT scores — white and Asian pupils score better than Hispanic and black, and rich better than poor — then the test must be discriminatory”
An argument that strangely doesn’t seem to be applied to sports or music.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago

“since there are race and class disparities in SAT scores — white and Asian pupils score better than Hispanic and black, and rich better than poor — then the test must be discriminatory”
An argument that strangely doesn’t seem to be applied to sports or music.

Suzanne C.
Suzanne C.
1 year ago

I was one of those oddball students you mention in your article. Coming from a working class background, my mother was a waitress on disability and food stamps, my father was a deaf cabinetmaker, I wrangled a scholarship to a private prestigious high school, and won a National Merit Scholarship. The first was based on IQ scores, the second on SATs. As a girl in the late 70’s I was avidly courted by every Ivy as well as West Point. Then getting girls into colleges which had been all male in the not too distant past was the priority.
Having a set of social and emotional issues which would later neatly fit under the “autism spectrum” label I went to a prominent local university a step below the greats, where I met a boy in honors class, got engaged at 19, and dropped out to have babies. Best decision I ever made, real life being much too difficult for me, especially as I’ve never suffered fools gladly, at least not without them noticing.
My children in turn aced their SATs and numerous AP tests, despite or because of being homeschooled, but those honors were no longer netting the same attention from colleges in the early 2000’s. They got some scholarship money but the route to the Ivy League that SAT scores had been for working and lower middle class Americans had been closed off in favor of foreign students who pay the full freight without a blink and game the tests by paying people like my children to tutor them for the SAT.
It worked for a little while, from the GI Bill after WW2 to the 80’s, the university system really was part of the American Dream. Dust and ashes now.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Suzanne C.

“…I’ve never suffered fools gladly, at least not without them noticing.”
I love that line! Hopefully, you’ve lived (and continue to live) your life free from resentment of the system; your children too, who seem to have inherited your abilities.
Making it to the upper reaches of the educational ladder can be a fool’s game, especially now that success in many high-flying careers – and specifically in academia – requires adherence to a particular ideology. Living a full life is so much more important than that.

Suzanne C.
Suzanne C.
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Absolutely! No I’ve never personally resented it, I’ve had a wonderful life. My daughter really wanted an academic career, but is now so thankful that things didn’t work out. How long would a conservative teacher of renaissance history last in today’s academic climate? History itself is rapidly being erased. Raising a large family of boys in today’s world is both challenging and an act of defiance against the system being imposed on us, and uses all her many gifts. Who could ask more of life?

Alan B
Alan B
1 year ago
Reply to  Suzanne C.

Another perspective is that a war is on in academe and we (intellectual) conservatives could use all the help we can get. But “Many are called and few are chosen,” as ever!

Suzanne C.
Suzanne C.
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan B

I would agree with you, but how do you hold your ground in the current climate? Even with tenure the students seem to have the power not to have to confront facts, whether in the liberal arts or even the sciences, which do not fit with their preconceived notions. They come not to learn but to dictate, and nonsense is the result. It amazes me that men and women who were well educated in the liberal arts have been so willing to jettison the glories of the past. Fear accounts for much of it, but is it also possible that they never really understood what they taught?

Jp Merzetti
Jp Merzetti
1 year ago
Reply to  Suzanne C.

Great stories here. I tend to agree about the idea of a two-step stumble on the dance floor of reality, academic pursuits or not. There used to be a time when many of those stepping around the edges of factual reality (life as it is, and universally bound by physical laws) paid a premium one way or another. I grew up rubbing shoulders with some of these, and the most valuable thing they ever taught me is that intellectual rigor, coping skills and a stubborn adherence to truth were invaluable skills and tools useful in avoiding the pitfalls and pratfalls of sloppy thinking, which too often led to real lousy life choices.
All that being said, although I’m still a firm believer in lives of robust engagement with the arts of self and autonomous learning (been doing this more than twice the length of time of my actual formal education) I still contend that our grand and gross departure from knowledge (even basic and rudimentary!) of history is a thing to our eternal regret. History is many things, no less than a social exercise, stories of people, structured ways of looking at the entire past tense that are at least as useful as numbers are to math. And so very much more. That the vast majority of young people now grow up in the west believing that history is as necessary or as useful to society at large, as Nascar is to your average radical enviro-terrorist, we suffer as a result all over the place. I’m not quite sure even now, how measurable this failing is against our current mania directed toward the place that western culture claims in the world. It was never that history did not bristle with divers examples of human failings, cruelties, bad actors and bad actions, and so very much more. If engaged with honestly, and mixed with perhaps liberal splashes of basic human psychology there is a wonderful payoff, understanding how and why it is that humans do the things they do, and then subsequently understanding our true selves better, and be better for that understanding. I’m sure when I was a shocked and shattered 13 year-old, wandering through my first couple of James Baldwins, I might have had the notion that I was more moral and righteous than most average souls. Then (with the help of structured provisional information) I grew up. So many, sadly, nowadays, do not do this. My point being that all the accumulated academe we now possess appears helpless to address the problem.

Jp Merzetti
Jp Merzetti
1 year ago
Reply to  Suzanne C.

Great stories here. I tend to agree about the idea of a two-step stumble on the dance floor of reality, academic pursuits or not. There used to be a time when many of those stepping around the edges of factual reality (life as it is, and universally bound by physical laws) paid a premium one way or another. I grew up rubbing shoulders with some of these, and the most valuable thing they ever taught me is that intellectual rigor, coping skills and a stubborn adherence to truth were invaluable skills and tools useful in avoiding the pitfalls and pratfalls of sloppy thinking, which too often led to real lousy life choices.
All that being said, although I’m still a firm believer in lives of robust engagement with the arts of self and autonomous learning (been doing this more than twice the length of time of my actual formal education) I still contend that our grand and gross departure from knowledge (even basic and rudimentary!) of history is a thing to our eternal regret. History is many things, no less than a social exercise, stories of people, structured ways of looking at the entire past tense that are at least as useful as numbers are to math. And so very much more. That the vast majority of young people now grow up in the west believing that history is as necessary or as useful to society at large, as Nascar is to your average radical enviro-terrorist, we suffer as a result all over the place. I’m not quite sure even now, how measurable this failing is against our current mania directed toward the place that western culture claims in the world. It was never that history did not bristle with divers examples of human failings, cruelties, bad actors and bad actions, and so very much more. If engaged with honestly, and mixed with perhaps liberal splashes of basic human psychology there is a wonderful payoff, understanding how and why it is that humans do the things they do, and then subsequently understanding our true selves better, and be better for that understanding. I’m sure when I was a shocked and shattered 13 year-old, wandering through my first couple of James Baldwins, I might have had the notion that I was more moral and righteous than most average souls. Then (with the help of structured provisional information) I grew up. So many, sadly, nowadays, do not do this. My point being that all the accumulated academe we now possess appears helpless to address the problem.

Suzanne C.
Suzanne C.
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan B

I would agree with you, but how do you hold your ground in the current climate? Even with tenure the students seem to have the power not to have to confront facts, whether in the liberal arts or even the sciences, which do not fit with their preconceived notions. They come not to learn but to dictate, and nonsense is the result. It amazes me that men and women who were well educated in the liberal arts have been so willing to jettison the glories of the past. Fear accounts for much of it, but is it also possible that they never really understood what they taught?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Suzanne C.

Thanks for your valuable perspective and I agree that such a professor would struggle, especially without tenure. But that might vary with the type of conservativism: To the point of resisting anti-religionism or politicized grievance studies? Or the point of saying that the Renaissance was a net negative because the printing press gave commoners too many ideas and the vernacular Bible wrested too much respect and control from the Church?

Alan B
Alan B
1 year ago
Reply to  Suzanne C.

Another perspective is that a war is on in academe and we (intellectual) conservatives could use all the help we can get. But “Many are called and few are chosen,” as ever!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Suzanne C.

Thanks for your valuable perspective and I agree that such a professor would struggle, especially without tenure. But that might vary with the type of conservativism: To the point of resisting anti-religionism or politicized grievance studies? Or the point of saying that the Renaissance was a net negative because the printing press gave commoners too many ideas and the vernacular Bible wrested too much respect and control from the Church?

Suzanne C.
Suzanne C.
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Absolutely! No I’ve never personally resented it, I’ve had a wonderful life. My daughter really wanted an academic career, but is now so thankful that things didn’t work out. How long would a conservative teacher of renaissance history last in today’s academic climate? History itself is rapidly being erased. Raising a large family of boys in today’s world is both challenging and an act of defiance against the system being imposed on us, and uses all her many gifts. Who could ask more of life?

Ben Wenton
Ben Wenton
1 year ago
Reply to  Suzanne C.

One error: the difficulty of getting into the top competitive schools is because 30+% of the slots are set aside for blacks and hispanics. So whites, Jews, Asians…are competing for 70% of available spaces and the rest are left to those with the preferred skin color.

Suzanne C.
Suzanne C.
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben Wenton

You are leaving out that many seats are already taken by legacy students, whose parents went to those schools, succeeded in life, and donated heavily to secure preferential treatment for their children. By the time you add up the”minority” students who are not necessarily disadvantaged, and the legacies, there are far fewer than 70% left. Students are crafting bizarre identities for themselves to get noticed in this stew which they will then feel obligated to inhabit.

Fern B
Fern B
1 year ago
Reply to  Suzanne C.

Yes, many slots are reserved for legacy students and many others are reserved for recruited athletes. Legacy students offer the school a reliable source of donations, and successful sports teams are another revenue source, and an important link to alumni and to public relations.
The absurdity of using race alone in admissions is best illustrated by the example given of admitting the wealthy child of Nigerian doctors, rather than the poor minority child from a disadvantaged home.
If reducing inequality in admissions is the goal, doesn’t it make more sense to focus on economic disadvantage rather than race?
Unfortunately disadvantaged families can’t donate, and it will take at least a decade for the formerly disadvantaged student to afford donations. So it is in the school’s best financial interest not to offer admission to too many poor kids at the expense of the wealthier.
There is an elite public university in California, I believe, that guarantees admission to the top 10% of all high schools in the state, thereby achieving diversity in a fair and uncomplicated fashion.

Suzanne C.
Suzanne C.
1 year ago
Reply to  Fern B

I know it’s late to this discussion but you raise a valuable and overlooked point. The socioeconomic similarities are what truly disadvantage people and by this metric poor whites and poor blacks have far more common ground than differences. But the elites cannot ever let this become a rallying point, lest the united poor come for their heads.

Jp Merzetti
Jp Merzetti
1 year ago
Reply to  Suzanne C.

Now there’s a fascinating thought. A united poor, regardless of race, gender, polarities, or a few round dozens of other sorts of measurable identity. Roll over Upton Sinclair and give Woody Guthrie the news. (And that in itself is such a long cultural throwback, I’m not sure I could count on any reliable accuracy, but what the heck.)

Jp Merzetti
Jp Merzetti
1 year ago
Reply to  Suzanne C.

Now there’s a fascinating thought. A united poor, regardless of race, gender, polarities, or a few round dozens of other sorts of measurable identity. Roll over Upton Sinclair and give Woody Guthrie the news. (And that in itself is such a long cultural throwback, I’m not sure I could count on any reliable accuracy, but what the heck.)

Suzanne C.
Suzanne C.
1 year ago
Reply to  Fern B

I know it’s late to this discussion but you raise a valuable and overlooked point. The socioeconomic similarities are what truly disadvantage people and by this metric poor whites and poor blacks have far more common ground than differences. But the elites cannot ever let this become a rallying point, lest the united poor come for their heads.

Fern B
Fern B
1 year ago
Reply to  Suzanne C.

Yes, many slots are reserved for legacy students and many others are reserved for recruited athletes. Legacy students offer the school a reliable source of donations, and successful sports teams are another revenue source, and an important link to alumni and to public relations.
The absurdity of using race alone in admissions is best illustrated by the example given of admitting the wealthy child of Nigerian doctors, rather than the poor minority child from a disadvantaged home.
If reducing inequality in admissions is the goal, doesn’t it make more sense to focus on economic disadvantage rather than race?
Unfortunately disadvantaged families can’t donate, and it will take at least a decade for the formerly disadvantaged student to afford donations. So it is in the school’s best financial interest not to offer admission to too many poor kids at the expense of the wealthier.
There is an elite public university in California, I believe, that guarantees admission to the top 10% of all high schools in the state, thereby achieving diversity in a fair and uncomplicated fashion.

Suzanne C.
Suzanne C.
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben Wenton

You are leaving out that many seats are already taken by legacy students, whose parents went to those schools, succeeded in life, and donated heavily to secure preferential treatment for their children. By the time you add up the”minority” students who are not necessarily disadvantaged, and the legacies, there are far fewer than 70% left. Students are crafting bizarre identities for themselves to get noticed in this stew which they will then feel obligated to inhabit.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Suzanne C.

“…I’ve never suffered fools gladly, at least not without them noticing.”
I love that line! Hopefully, you’ve lived (and continue to live) your life free from resentment of the system; your children too, who seem to have inherited your abilities.
Making it to the upper reaches of the educational ladder can be a fool’s game, especially now that success in many high-flying careers – and specifically in academia – requires adherence to a particular ideology. Living a full life is so much more important than that.

Ben Wenton
Ben Wenton
1 year ago
Reply to  Suzanne C.

One error: the difficulty of getting into the top competitive schools is because 30+% of the slots are set aside for blacks and hispanics. So whites, Jews, Asians…are competing for 70% of available spaces and the rest are left to those with the preferred skin color.

Suzanne C.
Suzanne C.
1 year ago

I was one of those oddball students you mention in your article. Coming from a working class background, my mother was a waitress on disability and food stamps, my father was a deaf cabinetmaker, I wrangled a scholarship to a private prestigious high school, and won a National Merit Scholarship. The first was based on IQ scores, the second on SATs. As a girl in the late 70’s I was avidly courted by every Ivy as well as West Point. Then getting girls into colleges which had been all male in the not too distant past was the priority.
Having a set of social and emotional issues which would later neatly fit under the “autism spectrum” label I went to a prominent local university a step below the greats, where I met a boy in honors class, got engaged at 19, and dropped out to have babies. Best decision I ever made, real life being much too difficult for me, especially as I’ve never suffered fools gladly, at least not without them noticing.
My children in turn aced their SATs and numerous AP tests, despite or because of being homeschooled, but those honors were no longer netting the same attention from colleges in the early 2000’s. They got some scholarship money but the route to the Ivy League that SAT scores had been for working and lower middle class Americans had been closed off in favor of foreign students who pay the full freight without a blink and game the tests by paying people like my children to tutor them for the SAT.
It worked for a little while, from the GI Bill after WW2 to the 80’s, the university system really was part of the American Dream. Dust and ashes now.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

The problem does not lie with the SATs tests but with the whole diversity ideology where the metric of diversity is based on 18th century classifications of race that are fundamentally based on skin colour differences. There can be no rational basis for requiring the university student body to have any particular skin colour mix. The obsession only arises because of guilt regarding slavery and the subsequent “race” backed discrimination that was institutionally enforced in the US within the living memory of many alive today. No test is going to be an 100% accurate predictor of University success given that the full neurological development of students has not occurred at the time of the SAT test but it is clearly better than tests that can be more affected by the prejudices of the assors.

Jp Merzetti
Jp Merzetti
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I heartily agree with the points you make here. Love the bit about how there is much development to be yet taken place all the way to the age of 25, or thereabouts.
I would humbly add what I think is one more significant factor to this, and one largely glossed over but curiously, never examined deeply because in most all of our current race issues, it’s a thing designed to cause some real havoc, in trying to figure out what’s what.
And that is, of course, the ever-rising demographic figures of mixed race progeny. Where to put them on that sliding scale, and just how far can it slide? What points does a 10% Black blood earn? And what if those ten percentage points represent acutely dominant features, while a mixture including 50% White are absolutely regressive?
This is a minority (no idea of what size) that I wonder, will we hear more from in the coming future? And if so, what will they bring to the table?
And finally, in answer to your opening commentary, I do wonder also, going forward, just how much a thing like a test, a SAT, a straight-up engagement with a demand, a challenge, and a potential accomplishment (a very good, if not almost perfect score) is, or should be, that elusive grand equalizer and settler of past oppressions, that most of us would agree could, or should be its purpose? (If we are of fair hearts and minds.)

Jp Merzetti
Jp Merzetti
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I heartily agree with the points you make here. Love the bit about how there is much development to be yet taken place all the way to the age of 25, or thereabouts.
I would humbly add what I think is one more significant factor to this, and one largely glossed over but curiously, never examined deeply because in most all of our current race issues, it’s a thing designed to cause some real havoc, in trying to figure out what’s what.
And that is, of course, the ever-rising demographic figures of mixed race progeny. Where to put them on that sliding scale, and just how far can it slide? What points does a 10% Black blood earn? And what if those ten percentage points represent acutely dominant features, while a mixture including 50% White are absolutely regressive?
This is a minority (no idea of what size) that I wonder, will we hear more from in the coming future? And if so, what will they bring to the table?
And finally, in answer to your opening commentary, I do wonder also, going forward, just how much a thing like a test, a SAT, a straight-up engagement with a demand, a challenge, and a potential accomplishment (a very good, if not almost perfect score) is, or should be, that elusive grand equalizer and settler of past oppressions, that most of us would agree could, or should be its purpose? (If we are of fair hearts and minds.)

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

The problem does not lie with the SATs tests but with the whole diversity ideology where the metric of diversity is based on 18th century classifications of race that are fundamentally based on skin colour differences. There can be no rational basis for requiring the university student body to have any particular skin colour mix. The obsession only arises because of guilt regarding slavery and the subsequent “race” backed discrimination that was institutionally enforced in the US within the living memory of many alive today. No test is going to be an 100% accurate predictor of University success given that the full neurological development of students has not occurred at the time of the SAT test but it is clearly better than tests that can be more affected by the prejudices of the assors.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago

The main ‘problem’ with SATS is that Asian students do so well. Embarrassingly well. Making it increasingly difficult for universities such as Harvard to discriminate against them.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
1 year ago

Yes, and their answer is to eliminate the evidence.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Johnson

It’s been rather funny watching them twist and turn to justify their discrimination against Asians, only to be nailed by the supposedly right wing Supreme Court.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Johnson

It’s been rather funny watching them twist and turn to justify their discrimination against Asians, only to be nailed by the supposedly right wing Supreme Court.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
1 year ago

Yes, and their answer is to eliminate the evidence.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago

The main ‘problem’ with SATS is that Asian students do so well. Embarrassingly well. Making it increasingly difficult for universities such as Harvard to discriminate against them.

aaron david
aaron david
1 year ago

The biggest issue is that US education is run by the grinders, as you put it.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  aaron david

Totally. I taught for six years in the US. I found the education system there wholly feminized and conformist. I was one of the last male teachers to quit the college where I worked. It was was ruled by a weak president who surrounded himself with compliant ‘grinders’. I believe this situation is prevalent in many of America’s schools and college campuses.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  aaron david

The “bright and talented but who had failed to live up to their potential in class” may come up with some bright ideas (if they can be bothered), but it is the “grinders” who most often get the work done and put these ideas into action..

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Grinders who are not also bright may lack the vision to implement what they only dimly understand. And you’re right that great wits or “idea people” often can’t be bothered with mundane realities. Good universities need innovative thinkers/researchers and methodical “grind-stoners” too. Both sorts of person may or may not make a good professor. The point is that both types are needed.
Of course not everyone spends all their time in one camp or the other.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
1 year ago

We need both the “idea people” and the “implenters,” and that is why it is bad if one type is systematically reducing the other.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
1 year ago

Yes – you need both. Most science is literally ground out by grad students and very poorly paid lab workers.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Grinders who are not also bright may lack the vision to implement what they only dimly understand. And you’re right that great wits or “idea people” often can’t be bothered with mundane realities. Good universities need innovative thinkers/researchers and methodical “grind-stoners” too. Both sorts of person may or may not make a good professor. The point is that both types are needed.
Of course not everyone spends all their time in one camp or the other.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
1 year ago

We need both the “idea people” and the “implenters,” and that is why it is bad if one type is systematically reducing the other.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
1 year ago

Yes – you need both. Most science is literally ground out by grad students and very poorly paid lab workers.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  aaron david

Totally. I taught for six years in the US. I found the education system there wholly feminized and conformist. I was one of the last male teachers to quit the college where I worked. It was was ruled by a weak president who surrounded himself with compliant ‘grinders’. I believe this situation is prevalent in many of America’s schools and college campuses.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  aaron david

The “bright and talented but who had failed to live up to their potential in class” may come up with some bright ideas (if they can be bothered), but it is the “grinders” who most often get the work done and put these ideas into action..

aaron david
aaron david
1 year ago

The biggest issue is that US education is run by the grinders, as you put it.

Anton van der Merwe
Anton van der Merwe
1 year ago

I would not have made it into University without aptitude tests – in my case IQ tests. I only performed well in mathematics at school. I found the other subjects tedious, did minimal coursework and did not revise. Once I hit University and beyond I had no problem studying and excelling as I found research interesting.

Last edited 1 year ago by Anton van der Merwe
Anton van der Merwe
Anton van der Merwe
1 year ago

I would not have made it into University without aptitude tests – in my case IQ tests. I only performed well in mathematics at school. I found the other subjects tedious, did minimal coursework and did not revise. Once I hit University and beyond I had no problem studying and excelling as I found research interesting.

Last edited 1 year ago by Anton van der Merwe
Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
1 year ago

The primary goal of many in the anti-SAT crowd is to remove objective criteria of student academic competency so that anti-white and anti-asian racism in admissions is difficult to prove – unlike the 2 cases before SCOTUS right now where even a blind man can see it when comparing asian and black Harvard SAT scores.
The whole notion of diversity being a worthy goal of admissions is belied by the behavior of administrators, faculty and student bodies as they attempt to exterminate any trace of diversity of thought which any reasonable person should think the most important diversity at university – see
https://www.thecollegefix.com/

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
1 year ago

The primary goal of many in the anti-SAT crowd is to remove objective criteria of student academic competency so that anti-white and anti-asian racism in admissions is difficult to prove – unlike the 2 cases before SCOTUS right now where even a blind man can see it when comparing asian and black Harvard SAT scores.
The whole notion of diversity being a worthy goal of admissions is belied by the behavior of administrators, faculty and student bodies as they attempt to exterminate any trace of diversity of thought which any reasonable person should think the most important diversity at university – see
https://www.thecollegefix.com/

Ben Wenton
Ben Wenton
1 year ago

Yet another false claim suggesting that social “discrimination” causes poor test performance. Then how do you account for the performance of Jews on SATs when discrimination against them was at least as systematic as alleged for blacks today? And umm…what about families? You leave out the proverbial elephant in the room — and of course you avoid the 3rd rail of genetic differences on various levels of the spectrum.
There is no such thing as “equality” of performance in anything, anywhere. Blacks do poorly in academics — everywhere on the planet. I leave the why to others, but they can’t have 60% of the NFL and NBA and then claim they have proportionate rights on SAT scores.
The SAT is truth. Painful for some, but truth nevertheless.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben Wenton

I agree with a portion of this, if it were dialed back a bit.
1) Nigerians do well in academics, even of the most rigorous sort, so that’s at least one place on the planet–or “subset” of black students–for whom your absolute statement isn’t true.
2) While the claim of present-day social barriers to SAT success is weak, Jews were never prevented from reading for generations, whereas nearly all American blacks were. Those effects do not bear down the way they did in 1870, of course, but they are not erased in America yet. By contrast, the Jewish people have a centuries-old culture of scholarship, and one major reason for the hatred they excite is their excellence in Law, Medicine, Science, etc., mostly among Ashkenazi Jews.
3) The imputation of group-wide, genetic cognitive traits is weakened by the family and community factors you referred to: not all family and community “inheritance” is genetic, much is environmental. And even the most rigorous IQ test cannot fully erase the effects of study and home environment.
The SAT has validity, yes, but c’mon it isn’t “truth” itself.

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

No dialing back necessary:
1 – Nigerians do “well”? How is that measured? Do you mean the self-selected, frequently successful Nigerians recently immigrated to the UK & US? They are not representative. On globally comparable tests, Nigeria does NOT do well.
https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/average-iq-by-country
2 – The claim that ancestors not reading causes today’s discrepancies is absurd on many levels: in the US it has been 157 years or about 6 generations since anyone was “prevented from reading” – how long must time pass to be considered long ago? And then of course you have the inconvenient issue of billions of formerly illiterate Asians in S Korea, Singapore, China, etc ACTUALLY doing well in 2 generations no less!!
3 – group wide STATISTICAL cognitive and athletic abilities don’t need to be imputed as they are FACT; anyone who chooses to see the data can see this. You are correct that environment affects cognitive and athletic ability – the 1st post didn’t claim otherwise

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

It appears that you aren’t really interested in listening to or considering ANY opposing views, but are convinced that you have some comprehensive hold on the truth, which you seem to regard as some near-synonym for data, in my reading of your comments.
Of course elite Nigerians are not reflective of the whole population; they are an elite. But it is a noteworthy counterexample to your gross, color-coded generalization. If income and illiteracy levels were the same in America as in Nigeria, do you think we’d score so well as a nation?
Yes, group-wide AVERAGE differences exist, but these statistical trends do not constitute Truth itself, nor some fact that MIGHT not indicate social and situational inequalities, at least in part.
Schooling for black Americans was generally poor until the mid-20th century, much worse than it was for whites, on average. Schooling in black communities is often terrible to this day. That is a fact. I think the biggest differential factor is income, but many more blacks are poor, per one hundred, to this day. I’m not saying this is a complete explanation for inequities or a good excuse to blame “the system”–just that is a factor in how hard life is for some people. What your parents and grandparents experienced does have some influence on where you begin and how you meet the world, for most people.
Don’t you think that if white folks started putting more of their eggs into the basket of athletic success–for example–that they would partially close the gap with blacks? I wonder if you think there is any pathway toward greater cross-group understanding and balance in the United States, or just a doomed future of hard genetic differences and competing self-certainties.
How many exceptions would you need to see–if you could let yourself see them–before you’d admit that your FACTS and DATA aren’t very complete explanations for the way things are, good or bad? As Disraeli quipped, there are three kinds of falsehoods: “lies, damned lies, and statistics”.
Fair enough that your 1st post didn’t explicitly deny environmental factors. I overdid it there. Too bad that we can’t really agree at all, let alone have a friendly exchange on this topic. Happy New Year even so.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Jp Merzetti
Jp Merzetti
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Interesting bit of a debate there. I would respectfully add one detail to the mix that many are not aware of at all, when it comes to the history of Black education in America. And that is the history of Dunbar high school in Washington DC.
From somewhere in, I believe, the 1880s up to just about the solidification of the Civil Rights era (about 1965) this school thrived. A few points. It was almost completely segregated. I don’t think the Black majority of students ever dipped below 95%.
It was not an “elite” school. It served an extended neighborhood (it was a very large school) which included a majority working class socio-economic structure. One of the more interesting facts about this institution was that as time went by, and more of its graduates went on to academic success (there are many “firsts” listed from the alumni of Dunbar) this high school wound up in a very unique position – unique to this very day.
A sizeable number of its teachers had university credentials that would have qualified them to teach university. Indeed, some of them did this, but in Black colleges. They were denied this opportunity elsewhere. Dunbar sported Doctoral scholars teaching its senior classes. Needless to say, this raised academic standards a bit, and served to consistently maintain them over many decades.
All of this goes to prove that there are right conditions, however contrived, that would serve any community so inspired, to raise the standards of education for its children to a level competent to the cause – if the public will were there. It’s a proven thing. It has been done, with measurable results. Why this is the thing of the past it is (and Dunbar’s demise remains cloaked in a curious mystery I still can’t quite uncover) in a nation that is choked in educational incompetence when it comes to the basic root skills needed within certain communities, is an interesting story from our past, for sure, but perhaps containing a germ of truth and fact that would make an awful lot of educational “lions” of justice squirm in their corpulent seats.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Jp Merzetti

Thank you for your informative comment. I will look into the history you’ve outlined.
While I admire DuBois, I think his notion on a “talented tenth” could, under favorable and patient circumstances, be increased to an eighth, a fifth, a fourth, etc.–without a fixed limit.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Jp Merzetti

Thank you for your informative comment. I will look into the history you’ve outlined.
While I admire DuBois, I think his notion on a “talented tenth” could, under favorable and patient circumstances, be increased to an eighth, a fifth, a fourth, etc.–without a fixed limit.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Jp Merzetti
Jp Merzetti
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Interesting bit of a debate there. I would respectfully add one detail to the mix that many are not aware of at all, when it comes to the history of Black education in America. And that is the history of Dunbar high school in Washington DC.
From somewhere in, I believe, the 1880s up to just about the solidification of the Civil Rights era (about 1965) this school thrived. A few points. It was almost completely segregated. I don’t think the Black majority of students ever dipped below 95%.
It was not an “elite” school. It served an extended neighborhood (it was a very large school) which included a majority working class socio-economic structure. One of the more interesting facts about this institution was that as time went by, and more of its graduates went on to academic success (there are many “firsts” listed from the alumni of Dunbar) this high school wound up in a very unique position – unique to this very day.
A sizeable number of its teachers had university credentials that would have qualified them to teach university. Indeed, some of them did this, but in Black colleges. They were denied this opportunity elsewhere. Dunbar sported Doctoral scholars teaching its senior classes. Needless to say, this raised academic standards a bit, and served to consistently maintain them over many decades.
All of this goes to prove that there are right conditions, however contrived, that would serve any community so inspired, to raise the standards of education for its children to a level competent to the cause – if the public will were there. It’s a proven thing. It has been done, with measurable results. Why this is the thing of the past it is (and Dunbar’s demise remains cloaked in a curious mystery I still can’t quite uncover) in a nation that is choked in educational incompetence when it comes to the basic root skills needed within certain communities, is an interesting story from our past, for sure, but perhaps containing a germ of truth and fact that would make an awful lot of educational “lions” of justice squirm in their corpulent seats.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

It appears that you aren’t really interested in listening to or considering ANY opposing views, but are convinced that you have some comprehensive hold on the truth, which you seem to regard as some near-synonym for data, in my reading of your comments.
Of course elite Nigerians are not reflective of the whole population; they are an elite. But it is a noteworthy counterexample to your gross, color-coded generalization. If income and illiteracy levels were the same in America as in Nigeria, do you think we’d score so well as a nation?
Yes, group-wide AVERAGE differences exist, but these statistical trends do not constitute Truth itself, nor some fact that MIGHT not indicate social and situational inequalities, at least in part.
Schooling for black Americans was generally poor until the mid-20th century, much worse than it was for whites, on average. Schooling in black communities is often terrible to this day. That is a fact. I think the biggest differential factor is income, but many more blacks are poor, per one hundred, to this day. I’m not saying this is a complete explanation for inequities or a good excuse to blame “the system”–just that is a factor in how hard life is for some people. What your parents and grandparents experienced does have some influence on where you begin and how you meet the world, for most people.
Don’t you think that if white folks started putting more of their eggs into the basket of athletic success–for example–that they would partially close the gap with blacks? I wonder if you think there is any pathway toward greater cross-group understanding and balance in the United States, or just a doomed future of hard genetic differences and competing self-certainties.
How many exceptions would you need to see–if you could let yourself see them–before you’d admit that your FACTS and DATA aren’t very complete explanations for the way things are, good or bad? As Disraeli quipped, there are three kinds of falsehoods: “lies, damned lies, and statistics”.
Fair enough that your 1st post didn’t explicitly deny environmental factors. I overdid it there. Too bad that we can’t really agree at all, let alone have a friendly exchange on this topic. Happy New Year even so.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

No dialing back necessary:
1 – Nigerians do “well”? How is that measured? Do you mean the self-selected, frequently successful Nigerians recently immigrated to the UK & US? They are not representative. On globally comparable tests, Nigeria does NOT do well.
https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/average-iq-by-country
2 – The claim that ancestors not reading causes today’s discrepancies is absurd on many levels: in the US it has been 157 years or about 6 generations since anyone was “prevented from reading” – how long must time pass to be considered long ago? And then of course you have the inconvenient issue of billions of formerly illiterate Asians in S Korea, Singapore, China, etc ACTUALLY doing well in 2 generations no less!!
3 – group wide STATISTICAL cognitive and athletic abilities don’t need to be imputed as they are FACT; anyone who chooses to see the data can see this. You are correct that environment affects cognitive and athletic ability – the 1st post didn’t claim otherwise

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben Wenton

I agree with a portion of this, if it were dialed back a bit.
1) Nigerians do well in academics, even of the most rigorous sort, so that’s at least one place on the planet–or “subset” of black students–for whom your absolute statement isn’t true.
2) While the claim of present-day social barriers to SAT success is weak, Jews were never prevented from reading for generations, whereas nearly all American blacks were. Those effects do not bear down the way they did in 1870, of course, but they are not erased in America yet. By contrast, the Jewish people have a centuries-old culture of scholarship, and one major reason for the hatred they excite is their excellence in Law, Medicine, Science, etc., mostly among Ashkenazi Jews.
3) The imputation of group-wide, genetic cognitive traits is weakened by the family and community factors you referred to: not all family and community “inheritance” is genetic, much is environmental. And even the most rigorous IQ test cannot fully erase the effects of study and home environment.
The SAT has validity, yes, but c’mon it isn’t “truth” itself.

Ben Wenton
Ben Wenton
1 year ago

Yet another false claim suggesting that social “discrimination” causes poor test performance. Then how do you account for the performance of Jews on SATs when discrimination against them was at least as systematic as alleged for blacks today? And umm…what about families? You leave out the proverbial elephant in the room — and of course you avoid the 3rd rail of genetic differences on various levels of the spectrum.
There is no such thing as “equality” of performance in anything, anywhere. Blacks do poorly in academics — everywhere on the planet. I leave the why to others, but they can’t have 60% of the NFL and NBA and then claim they have proportionate rights on SAT scores.
The SAT is truth. Painful for some, but truth nevertheless.

Terry M
Terry M
1 year ago

In view of the recent scandals where rich families bribed the admissions offices to get their kids into college, we should be going to MORE objective standards like the SAT, not to the completely subjective ‘standards’ of race, money, gender identity, etc.
College has become less valuable and more expensive largely because the colleges have catered to non-academic creature comforts like lazy rivers, climbing walls, coffee houses, racially segregated dorms, etc. Women, who constitute more than 55% of college students today, are particularly victimized economically by borrowing to pay high tuition for little value. Men seem to have opted out.

Ben Wenton
Ben Wenton
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry M

You can count on hands the number of kids getting into Ivies, Stanford, Chicago etc. because of money (and those that do result in the funds for scholarships for the others). Legacies generally outscore the regular pool in those schools anyway. The Varsity Blues scandal generally applied to third tier schools like USC, with only 2 exceptions.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben Wenton

On how many hands?

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben Wenton

Legacies are more than merely money, they are also about class soldarity and keeping “the right kind of people” in charge. The really elite universities function more as finishing schools than centers of learning, with the research and learning bits tolerated mostly as helpful to maintain the branding and as sources of revenue. There is research that graduates from Ivy’s know little more than they did as freshmen—but they have been incorporated into the elite folkways and norms and networks, and are ready to play their intended roles.
And if you don’t see that in the establishment reactions to Trump, Brexit, Le Pen, and Meloni, not to mention the horrible governance of most large corporations, NGOs and governments in “the West,” please contact me– I can give you a great deal on a bridge I want to sell.

Last edited 1 year ago by Martin Johnson
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben Wenton

On how many hands?

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben Wenton

Legacies are more than merely money, they are also about class soldarity and keeping “the right kind of people” in charge. The really elite universities function more as finishing schools than centers of learning, with the research and learning bits tolerated mostly as helpful to maintain the branding and as sources of revenue. There is research that graduates from Ivy’s know little more than they did as freshmen—but they have been incorporated into the elite folkways and norms and networks, and are ready to play their intended roles.
And if you don’t see that in the establishment reactions to Trump, Brexit, Le Pen, and Meloni, not to mention the horrible governance of most large corporations, NGOs and governments in “the West,” please contact me– I can give you a great deal on a bridge I want to sell.

Last edited 1 year ago by Martin Johnson
Ben Wenton
Ben Wenton
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry M

You can count on hands the number of kids getting into Ivies, Stanford, Chicago etc. because of money (and those that do result in the funds for scholarships for the others). Legacies generally outscore the regular pool in those schools anyway. The Varsity Blues scandal generally applied to third tier schools like USC, with only 2 exceptions.

Terry M
Terry M
1 year ago

In view of the recent scandals where rich families bribed the admissions offices to get their kids into college, we should be going to MORE objective standards like the SAT, not to the completely subjective ‘standards’ of race, money, gender identity, etc.
College has become less valuable and more expensive largely because the colleges have catered to non-academic creature comforts like lazy rivers, climbing walls, coffee houses, racially segregated dorms, etc. Women, who constitute more than 55% of college students today, are particularly victimized economically by borrowing to pay high tuition for little value. Men seem to have opted out.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Excellent points throughout this article. I relate to the author’s experience as an uneven or lazy student for whom low IQ wasn’t the problem, who became a better student after high school.
The idea that any demographically unequal outcome reveals intrinsic bias in a test has got to go, and I do feel that the pendulum is swinging back toward sanity on this one; at least it’s more often challenged (inside the fringes) of late. Should scores also be adjusted according to the number of books in a student’s childhood home, the cognitive profile of the parents? (In my opinion, no).
I think some consideration for the circumstances and background of college applicants is warranted. But a bright Appalachian kid or bright Harlem kid from a rough home are both likely to benefit from a test that measures more than aptitude for grinding alone. Many grinders of middling intelligence will still get into good schools, and even do well there. So will many among the sometimes-mediocre progeny of the well-to-do.
As a group, we Americans tend to re-hearse the not-altogether-unfounded notion that we are a Land of Opportunity, or a nation full of mavericks. Let’s protect pathways to probable success for bright non-conformists and less-fortunate people of every complexion. Some of them have faced real hardships, or have real talents, that are not visible at first glance.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Excellent points throughout this article. I relate to the author’s experience as an uneven or lazy student for whom low IQ wasn’t the problem, who became a better student after high school.
The idea that any demographically unequal outcome reveals intrinsic bias in a test has got to go, and I do feel that the pendulum is swinging back toward sanity on this one; at least it’s more often challenged (inside the fringes) of late. Should scores also be adjusted according to the number of books in a student’s childhood home, the cognitive profile of the parents? (In my opinion, no).
I think some consideration for the circumstances and background of college applicants is warranted. But a bright Appalachian kid or bright Harlem kid from a rough home are both likely to benefit from a test that measures more than aptitude for grinding alone. Many grinders of middling intelligence will still get into good schools, and even do well there. So will many among the sometimes-mediocre progeny of the well-to-do.
As a group, we Americans tend to re-hearse the not-altogether-unfounded notion that we are a Land of Opportunity, or a nation full of mavericks. Let’s protect pathways to probable success for bright non-conformists and less-fortunate people of every complexion. Some of them have faced real hardships, or have real talents, that are not visible at first glance.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
h w
h w
1 year ago

I’ve tutored Asian students for 30 years. Their marks and GPA are higher because of my input. Essay exams are now almost always taken home beforehand and worked over with tutors, they are not required to face new material independently.
Grade inflation is the norm as our government wants to increase graduation rates which is done by making it easier to graduate.
Providing highly qualified tutors (not high school kids) for all disadvantaged students would create more equality. This could be done by allowing parents the option of receiving themselves all the education funds ($10K minimum) that their children are entitled to. Not vouchers, cash. Parents could then pay for or provide “content”.
My Canadian province scrapped all standardized high school exams some years ago, and changed curriculum to make it more vague – emphasizing “skills” not “content”, adding something called “personal and social” as a “core competentcy”, and allowing teachers more “professional autonomy” to teach what and how they like. The teachers’ union abhors what they see as “teaching to the test”.

h w
h w
1 year ago

I’ve tutored Asian students for 30 years. Their marks and GPA are higher because of my input. Essay exams are now almost always taken home beforehand and worked over with tutors, they are not required to face new material independently.
Grade inflation is the norm as our government wants to increase graduation rates which is done by making it easier to graduate.
Providing highly qualified tutors (not high school kids) for all disadvantaged students would create more equality. This could be done by allowing parents the option of receiving themselves all the education funds ($10K minimum) that their children are entitled to. Not vouchers, cash. Parents could then pay for or provide “content”.
My Canadian province scrapped all standardized high school exams some years ago, and changed curriculum to make it more vague – emphasizing “skills” not “content”, adding something called “personal and social” as a “core competentcy”, and allowing teachers more “professional autonomy” to teach what and how they like. The teachers’ union abhors what they see as “teaching to the test”.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 year ago

If Charles Murray is on track, the kid with a 1400 or so on the SAT, will do just as well in his or her carrier whether admitted to one of the super elite colleges or not. What I have seen, inside the firm at which I’ve worked for some 35 years, suggests he is quite right.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Have you noted any exceptions during that span?

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Surely, but they were only that. As a general rule, the students who tested very well and who did very well in school we’re at no disadvantage if they went to a lower tier school. I am, however, not sure about the author’s suggestion that the SAT filters for kids who are smart but did poorly in high school. My sense is that there is a close correlation between high GPAs and high SAT scores.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

I see. Yet I wonder how many exceptions are needed to make a rule untrue, except as a heuristic device or blunt instrument.
GPAs and SATs might both have been abandoned as admissions metrics if there wasn’t a strong, interrelated correlation with college success. But as you know, even a correlation coefficient of 0.9 leaves out one in ten students, a huge number in a large population. If, as the author argues, many of those exceptions are among the brightest students, that’s a lot to lose. (Though brilliant people aren’t simply “lost” because of non-admission, the schools lose them). That mightn’t be the case for your particular firm or field, but could be in other walks of life.
Of course your years of experience could be more representative than my own, shorter experience inclines me to believe. Thanks for the follow-up.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

I see. Yet I wonder how many exceptions are needed to make a rule untrue, except as a heuristic device or blunt instrument.
GPAs and SATs might both have been abandoned as admissions metrics if there wasn’t a strong, interrelated correlation with college success. But as you know, even a correlation coefficient of 0.9 leaves out one in ten students, a huge number in a large population. If, as the author argues, many of those exceptions are among the brightest students, that’s a lot to lose. (Though brilliant people aren’t simply “lost” because of non-admission, the schools lose them). That mightn’t be the case for your particular firm or field, but could be in other walks of life.
Of course your years of experience could be more representative than my own, shorter experience inclines me to believe. Thanks for the follow-up.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Surely, but they were only that. As a general rule, the students who tested very well and who did very well in school we’re at no disadvantage if they went to a lower tier school. I am, however, not sure about the author’s suggestion that the SAT filters for kids who are smart but did poorly in high school. My sense is that there is a close correlation between high GPAs and high SAT scores.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Have you noted any exceptions during that span?

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 year ago

If Charles Murray is on track, the kid with a 1400 or so on the SAT, will do just as well in his or her carrier whether admitted to one of the super elite colleges or not. What I have seen, inside the firm at which I’ve worked for some 35 years, suggests he is quite right.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
1 year ago

Getting rid of the SAT gets rid of the evidence that admissions are decidedly not based on any semblance of academic merit, but other things–and then it is obvious that race and sex are the real biases, and much more than they want to admit.
Remove the standardized tests and that evidence goes away..That is what this is about, and the only thing it is about, though they will lie that there are other things (equity, equality, past racism…) to mislead and distract.
I cannot prove it, but strongly suspect that the rules are being jiggered by the people the author describes as “grinds,” 20 years on. Not all that bright, they succeeded through work, compliance, single-minded commitment to impressing admission committes at the expense of not having real lives, family connections, and family money. The bright but awkward underachievers were the people they made jokes about back in high school and college.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
1 year ago

Getting rid of the SAT gets rid of the evidence that admissions are decidedly not based on any semblance of academic merit, but other things–and then it is obvious that race and sex are the real biases, and much more than they want to admit.
Remove the standardized tests and that evidence goes away..That is what this is about, and the only thing it is about, though they will lie that there are other things (equity, equality, past racism…) to mislead and distract.
I cannot prove it, but strongly suspect that the rules are being jiggered by the people the author describes as “grinds,” 20 years on. Not all that bright, they succeeded through work, compliance, single-minded commitment to impressing admission committes at the expense of not having real lives, family connections, and family money. The bright but awkward underachievers were the people they made jokes about back in high school and college.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

Coming from the other side of the Pond I have always wondered what these SAT thingies are – and now I know, so many thanks for that!
I do wonder if they are analogous to the English ’11-plus’, used for decades to stream pupils at age 11 (now often thought a dubious proposition anyway) for selective state ‘grammar’ schools (over here that means high school). It’s basically an IQ test, quite effective if come to cold but can be trained for – which means that over the past few decades parents who care about their child’s education (and can afford it) have had them crammed, sometimes for years, which wholly distort the results to the advantage of the middle-classes, especially Asian (mostly here from the Indian sub-continent) and detriment of poorer ‘white’ children.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

Coming from the other side of the Pond I have always wondered what these SAT thingies are – and now I know, so many thanks for that!
I do wonder if they are analogous to the English ’11-plus’, used for decades to stream pupils at age 11 (now often thought a dubious proposition anyway) for selective state ‘grammar’ schools (over here that means high school). It’s basically an IQ test, quite effective if come to cold but can be trained for – which means that over the past few decades parents who care about their child’s education (and can afford it) have had them crammed, sometimes for years, which wholly distort the results to the advantage of the middle-classes, especially Asian (mostly here from the Indian sub-continent) and detriment of poorer ‘white’ children.

Frederick Prete
Frederick Prete
1 year ago

As a Biological Psychologist — and someone who taught SAT and ACT prep courses for over a decade — I think this analysis of the types of students who do well on standardized tests is a bit simplistic. Although, I do agree that the ACT is a fair measure of what the student has actually learned in high school.
https://quillette.com/2022/07/16/the-act-discriminates/
The SAT is a bit different than the ACT. I like the SAT better but it is a little bit more difficult conceptually. Over the decade I was teaching the tests, to stay familiar with the them as they changed, I took a couple dozen of each myself. So, I know the tests pretty well.
The issues of race/ethnicity and standardized test performance are quite confused and so bound up with politics that for all practical purposes, they will never be resolved.
https://everythingisbiology.substack.com/p/when-black-and-hispanic-students
In any event, thank you for a very thought-provoking essay, Frederick.. Substack: “Everything is Biology.”

Last edited 1 year ago by Frederick Prete
Frederick Prete
Frederick Prete
1 year ago

As a Biological Psychologist — and someone who taught SAT and ACT prep courses for over a decade — I think this analysis of the types of students who do well on standardized tests is a bit simplistic. Although, I do agree that the ACT is a fair measure of what the student has actually learned in high school.
https://quillette.com/2022/07/16/the-act-discriminates/
The SAT is a bit different than the ACT. I like the SAT better but it is a little bit more difficult conceptually. Over the decade I was teaching the tests, to stay familiar with the them as they changed, I took a couple dozen of each myself. So, I know the tests pretty well.
The issues of race/ethnicity and standardized test performance are quite confused and so bound up with politics that for all practical purposes, they will never be resolved.
https://everythingisbiology.substack.com/p/when-black-and-hispanic-students
In any event, thank you for a very thought-provoking essay, Frederick.. Substack: “Everything is Biology.”

Last edited 1 year ago by Frederick Prete
Deb Grant
Deb Grant
1 year ago

One of the only ways for bright but wayward kids to get recognised and developed is intelligence and aptitude tests, divorced from rote learning. Potential needs assessing as well as diligence. I guess Americsn SATs do that in a way grade averages don’t. Get rid of those tests and lose an important upward mobility device.

Deb Grant
Deb Grant
1 year ago

One of the only ways for bright but wayward kids to get recognised and developed is intelligence and aptitude tests, divorced from rote learning. Potential needs assessing as well as diligence. I guess Americsn SATs do that in a way grade averages don’t. Get rid of those tests and lose an important upward mobility device.

Bob Hardy
Bob Hardy
1 year ago

“since there are race and class disparities in SAT scores — white and Asian pupils score better than Hispanic and black, and rich better than poor — then the test must be discriminatory”
And those with an Indian background are presumably floating around somewhere in the middle of all this?

Simon S
Simon S
1 year ago

My great grandfather the English psychologist Charles Spearman, whose pursuit of the ‘g’ factor (general factor of intelligence) and creation of the rank correlation coefficient laid the statistical basis for standardized testing, insisted such tests had no place in schools because they deflected teachers’, pupils’, parents’ and politicians’ attention from what he regarded as the true purpose of education: drawing out whatever talents a student may have. I think he would be horrified by the conformism that has resulted and the machinations to which they are subject.

Last edited 1 year ago by Simon S
B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago

Racial diversity is meaningless. We might as well talk about weight diversity or height diversity ..or any other superficial demographic diversity sorter. Having a campus which is more or cosmetically diverse means nothing.
Trying to shift those cosmetics is, therefore not only a waste, but wrong… and if we’re shifting by discriminating on the basis of color or sex, such efforts are also unconstitutional. Regardless of ‘good intent’, the End does not and cannot justify the use of immoral, and unconstitutional Means.
But of course, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing for generations, as the author notes.
Is it so surprising, then, that this ongoing racist & sexist discrimination has not only created a “Mismatch Problem” (where lesser-qualified individuals, placed in academically-demanding environments struggle & fail)…but it’s also significantly weakened the University as the quality of the curriculum declines in a horribly misguided effort to retain the unqualified. It is no longer uncommon to find college graduates who can neither read nor write (at anywhere near a college level) and who struggle to handle arithmetic.
The author tells us that “black people and poorer people face many hurdles in life, thanks to entrenched inequality.” This is true. But he does not go far enough.
Everyone, in truth, faces hurdles in life. Some greater, some lesser, some horrific, some not. So-called ‘entrenched inequality’ is a part of life.  Unequal as snowflakes (save before God & the Law) we arrive in the unequal lives our unequal parents have unequally built.  We grow-up, unequally — entrenched in inequality. This is life.
The author suggests that we must fight ‘discrimination and inequality’. He is only half right.
To fight against what is, in fact, a natural & eternal condition (that we are, indeed, unequal people leading unequal lives in unequal ways) is both pointless and dangerous. The urge to mandate Equality creates only the dystopia of Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”:
“THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213 th amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.”
But yes, to his final point, yes, absolutely we must fight against discrimination. And one of the very best ways to fight against discrimination is to ensure that every race run is run fairly — with every runner (no matter how strong or weak they may be) starting at the same point…hearing the same gun…running the same distance…judged by the same standards (be they SAT, or GPA, or ???). Let the best one win!
And then……when we lie there in the hospital, with an ailing heart, waiting for our surgical team to arrive, we can be sure of one single, salient thing. Each one of them is an expert at fixing hearts.
Ask us then if we care if they’re diversely… Black or White or Gay or Straight or Male or Female or Whatever. We already know the answer, don’t we?

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
1 year ago

So if you do away with SATs you can fiddle your admissions policies. It’s awkward when so many of the top graders turn out to be Asians.