Home > Uncategorized > NYTimes Russ Douthat’s Assessment of Admissions Criteria Overvalues Tests

NYTimes Russ Douthat’s Assessment of Admissions Criteria Overvalues Tests

March 17, 2019

Over the past week the NYTimes has been full of stories on the admissions scandal whereby millionaire parents have blatantly used their money to effectively buy their children’s way into school. At the end of the week, conservative columnist Russ Douthat weighed in on the the scandal advocating that concluding his analysis with this:

But the “more meritocracy” world — the world where bipartisan criticism produces a Harvard class of 2032 with fewer legacies and non-Asian minorities and an average SAT of 1570 — could be worse than what we have. Because such a change’s essential premise, that intelligence alone really merits power, is the premise that has given us many present difficulties, and if extended may only give us more.

This concluding paragraph illustrates how Mr. Douthat, like USNews and World Report and way too many parents and admissions counselors, views SAT scores as a sound metric for “intelligence” and evidence of “merit”. Standardized tests like the SAT are a poor proxy for “intelligence” or “merit”…. but they yield a seemingly easy and precise means for ranking students and colleges, they are relatively cheap to administer, and they can be used to short-circuit a more comprehensive and more time consuming method of analyzing an individual’s “intelligence” or “merit” or the “quality” of an educational institution. The SATs, then, are a easy, cheap, and fast way to assess “intelligence” and “merit”… and our politicians and voters are always seeking easy, cheap, and fast solutions to problems whose solutions are complicated, expensive, and time consuming.

If we ever hope to improve our public schools, we need to disabuse parents, voters, and politicians of the notion that there is a fast, easy, and cheap means of measuring “intelligence” and “merit” and MAYBE even re-think why this compulsion to measure is even important at all.

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