Monday, March 27, 2006

Will This Be On The Test?

Many colleges now claim they no longer use SAT scores when considering a student’s application. Some colleges will only consider SAT scores as a last ditch tie-breaker for identically qualified applicants. California and Texas now refuse to consider standardized testing for admission to their state colleges. By all appearances the SAT is almost all but dead. Many of today’s students may consider that a good thing but really it’s quite the opposite. However varied it’s flaws, the mere existence of the SAT test and related SAT II, formerly the Achievement Test, is the defacto national standard with respect to what students are expected to know before college.

Recently errors in scoring have opened a national debate on whether students should even be subjected to the College Board SAT evaluation at all. It is a fact that the SAT’s are a blunt instrument when used to evaluate any individual students chance of success in college. Boys score higher then girls and with a tighter distribution but fewer take it suggesting only those boys who wish to attend college are counted. Many intelligent boys who expect to find employment with trade guilds right after high school don’t even bother with the exam, thus further illustrating the SAT’s irrelevancy.

Why is it important to keep the SAT? It serves as a concrete reminder to some of our more backward states that you can’t skip major portions of your child’s education and expect them to function in college. If anything, the SAT needs to be more rigorous and exacting in pointing out gaps in any student’s education. Perhaps then, when the entire state of Kansas scores a combined 800 average they’ll wake the fuck up and realize you can’t take evolution out of biology and expect your child to become a physician. At best you can expect your child to be a Christian game show host or talk radio DJ. At worse, you’ll die of antibiotic resistant strep. Maybe it’s not so bad, less competition for jobs that require independent thinking and reason. And we wonder why the flyover states are so hostile to northeasterners with our smug intelligentsia and good SAT scores. Our kids get into a decent college.

OK, perhaps an intimate knowledge of biology isn’t really important when one expects a career in software engineering. After all, it’s not as if the fastest growing technology sector is medical devices. If I remember correctly, one of the fundamental practical exercises in any calculus course is predicting the growth of a colony of bacteria as they adapt to changing food sources and antibiotic attacks. Bacteria don’t grow and change, God made them. In any event, it's not important to account for changing biology when designing life support technologies, is it?

There’s the old argument over why we should educate our children at all. You wouldn’t want your ambulance driver to not know how to read your street sign. The counter to that is not every child will be an ambulance driver. Some of them end up line cooks. Yes, some of them do end up spatula in hand. In fact, there’s a real demand for cooking staff in another growth industry, nursing homes. Wouldn’t you like to know that the people in your kitchen understand why it’s important to mix Steramine in the proper ratio?

So skip the SAT and teach your children that God made the dinosaur bones to test your faith. Just don’t complain when you catch Listeria from a dirty ice machine.

2 Comments:

Blogger TommyOkktane said...

In a similar event that clearly shows our nation’s ineptitude towards grade-level education, the state of Florida passed a bill that would require high school students to select a major:

http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/wire/sns-ap-high-school-majors,0,901913.story?coll=sns-ap-nationworld-headlines


The inherent problem with all of this mass education reform is that instead of increasing a child’s broad-based scholastic aptitude, it’s doing the exact opposite; we’re basically manufacturing drones - highly skilled and educated in one specific field – ready to be plugged into whatever entry-level employment hole there is at Faceless Corporation, Inc. Come to think of, the ones that are really making a killing at this are the higher education institutions; nowadays it’s common to see people with multiple degrees across a broad range of subjects if only because that’s the only way a person can protect himself from being held at the mercy of a limited job market, or he could take the more specialized route and further his education in one field by continually taking classes to keep himself from becoming obsolete and replaced by the next entry-level drone.

The big bite in the ass for society is that true Renaissance Men are a thing of the past; people with broad scopes of knowledge are now being reduced to helping civilization trying to win over unimpressed masses on internet message boards and (once-) smoky coffee houses. Had Benjamin Franklin come of age in the 21st Century, he most likely would have whiled his life away not as a master of all, but probably as a lawyer or, worse, a college professor.

We are now a society of a bunch of easily-led automatons that are more prone to pelt an innocent man with cigarettes than broaden our intellectual horizons.

Mar 27, 2006, 3:23:00 PM  
Blogger RicketyFunk said...

I can't agree more.

I also appreciate the ambulance driver reference.

Take my degree in Philosophy and throw it away. What do I need knowledge of logic and questioning for anyway?

Mar 27, 2006, 5:23:00 PM  

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