I have argued for years that the SAT is actually more reliable as a “wealth test” than a test of potential, and the most recent results bear this out. Below are figures released in 2013 by the College Board that correlate SAT scores with the family income of the test taker.
FAMILY INCOME AVERAGE SAT SCORE (OUT OF 2400)
FOR 2013 COLLEGE-BOUND SENIORS
$0,000 – $20,000: 1326
More than $200,000: 1714
Now that is a correlation! (...)
If we can agree that the SAT, LSAT, and other standardized tests most reliably measure a student’s household income, ethnicity, and level of parental education, then we can see that reliance on such test scores narrows the student body to those who come from particular households. Then we must decide how to ensure that we open the admissions doors to a greater diversity of students—not just the ones from privileged backgrounds. I want to make it clear that I am not talking about affirmative action here. The loud debate over affirmative action is a distraction that obscures the real problem, because right now affirmative action simply mirrors the values of the current view of meritocracy. Students at elite colleges, for example, who are the beneficiaries of affirmative action tend to be either the children of immigrants or the children of upper-middle-class parents of color who have been sent to fine prep schools just like the upper-middle-class white students. The result? Our nation’s colleges, universities, and graduate schools use affirmative-action-based practices to admit students who test well, and then they pride themselves on their cosmetic diversity. Thus, affirmative action has evolved in many (but not all) colleges to merely mimic elite-sponsored admissions practices that transform wealth into merit, encourage over-reliance on pseudoscientific measures of excellence, and convert admission into an entitlement without social obligation. (...)
When I speak here of diversity, I’m not talking strictly along color or gender lines either. When the GI Bill was first proposed, toward the end of World War II, some university officials did their best to get it defeated. They were appalled by the prospect of what they saw as a mob of unprepared, unsuitable men trying to be their students. To their surprise, the veterans—many of them poor, most the first in their families to attend college—proved to be among the best students of their generation. By broadening access to college for those who had served their country, the GI Bill helped fuel the post–World War II economic boom while leveling the playing field for many Americans. The bill epitomized our country’s dual commitments: to open opportunity across the economic spectrum and to invest in people who will give back to society.
We see the problem of restricted access today in the new elite class, which passes on its privileges in the same way that the old elite from twentieth-century America passed on its privileges. But there is an even more worrisome aspect of the new elite. The old elite felt that it had inherited its privileges; in order to defend the social oligarchy over which it reigned, the old elite felt the need to give back through public service or a financial commitment to the greater good. The old elite recognized that it had been privileged by the accident of birth, so the message to those who were out of luck was that you were unfortunate but it was through no defect of your own.
The new elite, on the other hand, feels that it has earned its privileges based on intrinsic, individual merit. The message, therefore, to those who are not part of this elite is “You are stupid. You simply don’t matter. I deserve all the advantages I’m granted.” This attitude manifests in the jobs that college grads now take. For example, the student-run Harvard Crimson ran an article in 2007 about that year’s graduating class smirking that “only” 43 percent of female graduates entered finance and consulting compared to 58 percent of male graduates. The article, entitled “ ’07 Men Make More,” explained—with apparent disdain—that women choose jobs in lower-paying fields such as education and public service.
This is an excerpt from the book The Tyranny of the Meritocracy by Lani Guinier, the first woman of color appointed to a tenured professorship at Harvard Law School. The text tackles the culture of entry tests in U.S. academia, labeled by the author as "testocracy", exemplified by the SAT test (such tests are also used by the private Jacobs University in Bremen, by the way). Guinier argues that the SAT is not a barometer for future merit (as its advocates suggest), but is merely reflective of the student's ethnic and class background. Being rich and white improves the chance of good SAT results and effective application letters for Harvard, Yale and Stanford,the author asserts:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
This blog (EN-DE) is about knowledge production within and without Academia. We review, we critique, we read, and we record and discuss what goes on behind the scenes of universities, publishing houses, the news media, and everything else that determines our everyday lives.