Dumbing down the SATs

For many, the SAT is a hurdle long since cleared.  For those who are parents, there is still the specter of having to relive the experience vicariously.  Those parents, as well as the rest of the population, need to consider yet another instance of forced conformity and a closing of our collective American mind: the format of the new SAT essay.  The original SAT did not feature an essay section, the revamped SAT of ten years ago did, and next year there will be yet another version of the test, with an essay section, but one that has a noticeably different format.

Traditionally, on virtually every scholastic essay assignment, the student is asked to evaluate and respond.  As a tutor, I am quite familiar with the rolled eyes and deep sighs at the prospect of writing an essay.  However, at its core, the traditional essay format affords each student the opportunity that far too many people on this planet never get: a chance to speak his mind.  Whether it is a twenty-minute assignment or one a kid mulls over for several days, the opportunity for self-expression is still there.

But that opportunity is lost on the new SAT essay.  Instead of having the liberty to speak his mind, the student is forced merely to evaluate an essay.  The poor student must read an argument, often offensive and deeply flawed, and simply determine how the author made his argument  did he use persuasive language, or appeal to logic or to authority?  As an educator, independent thinker, and free-born citizen, I find this change in format alarming and wrong.

For those who have not set foot in a school or perused a textbook in recent years, the goings-on in academia might come as a shock.  At the very heart of our troubles as a country is the degeneration of our educational system.  Instead of being taught to think and to be self-reliant, our students are overwhelmed with biased, negative information designed to subdue them into conformity.  You can find support for my assertion in the school curricula and, sadly, in this new SAT as well.  We should acknowledge the diseased state of our educational system, and we should push to fix it.  Like a tiny, almost imperceptible lump in a breast that one day has the potential to metastasize into something dreadful, so too do tiny restrictions here and there  on speech, religion, and self-expression on a standardized test  have the capacity to grow into something ferocious.