Taking the SAT? Then Brush Up on Your Reality TV

Remember the SAT? That horrid little test that measured not what you knew, but how fast you could think, and that had a disproportionate influence on your college admissions prospects?

Back in the early nineties, one’s score was measured out of 1600 points and you actually had to get every question right to get a 1600.

Since then, the test sponsor, ETS, has re-centered the SAT by 100 points, making it easier for students to earn higher scores and allowing some to score 1600s without getting every question right. Then ETS completely revamped it to a point where I would barely recognize the test.

Now, you can even use a calculator!

The redesigned SAT now has an essay component. That’s fine. However, this past weekend, some versions of the SAT asked students to opine on reality television.

Really? My children would have been screwed. Given Comcast Cable’s ever rising cable rates, I canceled cable television in 2007 and never looked back.

Here is the full text of the prompt via The New York Times:

Reality television programs, which feature real people engaged in real activities rather than professional actors performing scripted scenes, are increasingly popular.

These shows depict ordinary people competing in everything from singing and dancing to losing weight, or just living their everyday lives. Most people believe that the reality these shows portray is authentic, but they are being misled.

How authentic can these shows be when producers design challenges for the participants and then editors alter filmed scenes?

Do people benefit from forms of entertainment that show so-called reality, or are such forms of entertainment harmful?

Here’s the College Board’s defense:

“It’s really about pop culture as a reference point that they would certainly have an opinion on”

Seriously? Shouldn’t we be testing students on their ability to write rather than their ability to opine on shallow pop culture celebrities, whose fifteen-minute fame clocks are just about up?

To use this material as subject matter for a test that will make or break someone’s admission to college is a disgrace, and reflects poorly on the American educational system. No wonder more people vote on American Idol than in actual elections.

About Sean Patrick Hazlett

Finance executive, engineer, former military officer, and science fiction and horror writer. Editor of the Weird World War III anthology.
This entry was posted in Education, Policy, Politics and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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