The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy
The widely acclaimed study of what's gone wrong in American higher education.
What do we know about the history, origin, design, and purpose of the SAT? Who invented it, and why? How did it acquire such a prominent and lasting position in American education? The Big Test reveals the ideas, people, and politics behind a fifty-year-old utopian social experiment that changed this country. Combining vibrant storytelling, vivid portraiture, and thematic analysis, Lemann shows why this experiment did not turn out as planned. It did create a new elite, but it also generated conflict and tension—and America's best educated, most privileged people are now leaders without followers.
Drawing on unprecedented access to the Educational Testing Service's archives, Lemann maintains that America's meritocracy is neither natural nor inevitable, and that it does not apportion opportunity equally or fairly. His important study not only asks profound moral and political questions about the past and future of our society but also carries implications for current social and educational policy. As Brent Staples noted in his New York Times editorial column: "Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts announced that prospective students would no longer be required to submit SAT scores with their applications. . . . Holyoke's president, Joanne Creighton, was personally convinced by reading Nicholas Lemann's book, The Big Test, which documents how the SAT became a tool for class segregation."
All students of education, sociology, and recent U.S. history—especially those focused on testing, theories of learning, social stratification, or policymaking—will find this book fascinating and alarming.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - jonerthon - LibraryThing
Another of the older titles that has been on my reading list too long. Some of this history is important to consider again, as the SATs were in theory going to be revamped again in 2019 before public ... Read full review
THE BIG TEST: The Secret History of the American MeritocracyUser Review - Kirkus
Enlightenment is available here for anyone who has struggled to understand why their future depended upon filling in little ovals with a #2 pencil in response to odd questions about vocabulary. Lemann ... Read full review
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