As a college faculty member, I was concerned with being labeled a racist. While there was nothing that should have caused that to occur, I knew that the allegation could come out of nowhere, over anything that someone wanted to construe in that manner. This became manifest on one occasion when I pioneered a humanities course on The Holocaust at my college. Several of my Black students suggested it was racist, since I didn’t introduce a course on The Atlantic Slave Trade. I would also note that there was more than a hint of anti-Semitism in these accusations.
This concern grew as the weaponizing of race, as a political tool, became more common…and alarming. I had taught in a mixed racial environment for many years, quite successfully as documented by many teaching awards, but knew that all it took was one malcontent who might ruin my reputation…or career. While any labeling of this type would have been outlandish, I had seen too many lives destroyed to ignore the potential if it did occur and, in fact, that accusation was hurled at me one other time. This circumstance was particularly revealing and of significance.
When I ran for the Peekskill Board of Education, I supported the use of the SATs as one of many measurements that should be used for college admission. For the most part, not an exclusive device, but one of many standards that could be used. As an exclusive device it could only be used for extreme lows. For example, no one with a 400 SAT score in math could have, nor should have, been accepted into MIT. Those type of situations, however, were not the norm.
At the school board debate, I was called a racist for advocating the SATs since Blacks, on average, underperform on these objective measurements. As I indicated above, the need to perform well in math is critical to predict success in, for example, an actuarial college, and this is well documented, as is the need to perform well on the English SATs to succeed at any high quality liberal arts college.
Yet, by suggesting the use of this important measurement, cries of “racism” went up from several in the audience. The reaction was so immediate and intense, it resembled a chant that had been drummed into their minds by those who would gain from this perspective. It certainly wouldn’t have been the students, who would not have succeeded at academic institutions where their SAT’s should not have warranted their admission.
My support of a nationally used, widely accepted, objective device, to determine level of competency in critical academic areas, turned me into a racist. No suggestion was made that my position or logic were incorrect. I was a racist for merely supporting a method that produced lower levels of performance for Blacks, on average, than Whites or Asians. In the parking lot on the way out, there was a face to face aggressive confrontation where that charge was repeated.
This concept of, “on average,” must be understood. Any individual Black might perform at a higher level than any White or Asian and they, of course, must be reacted to entirely on their own individual merit. In other words, average performance of a group has nothing to do with individual members of that group…yet, I was a racist for supporting the SATs.
It would be absurd, and racist, to suggest that all Blacks should not be admitted to a college because they, on average, underperform on the SAT’s. I have never heard that thought being offered, least of all by myself.
Recently, Rich Lowry, editor-in-chief of the National Review, published a revealing essay on this exact subject. I’ve reproduced it below in its entirety. His writing contains some of the more recent, and important information on this topic:
“The long era of the dominance of the SAT in college admissions is coming to an end. The test is increasingly being shelved not because it failed but because it succeeded in all the wrong ways.
According to a survey from an anti-testing outfit, more than 80% of four-year colleges won’t require standardized tests for admissions this coming fall. Many have made the tests optional, and some won’t consider them at all. In a swath of academia, the pandemic expedient of dropping the tests has seamlessly transitioned to a permanent change.
If this isn’t a leap forward for fairness or rationality, it is another ringing victory for the equity of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” fame. With homework now on the chopping block for not being equitable enough — kids with involved parents tend to actually do their homework — it shouldn’t be a surprise that the SAT is being shown the door.
The SAT, with its signature four-option multiple-choice answers, isn’t perfect. As a mass-administered, easy-to-grade, objective test, though, it’s hard to beat.
Despite progressive denialism, it has been established that the SAT and ACT predict academic performance. As the renegade academic Freddie deBoer points out, there is a correlation between family income and SAT scores, but it doesn’t account for most of the divergence in scores. (I would add…it really doesn’t matter what caused the underperformance. The SAT’s documents “readiness” at that moment, and explaining why a student does not do well might generate changes elsewhere, but it does not alter that a student may fail because of their inabilities as they enter a university in the coming fall)
Lowry goes on…MIT, which can’t fool around thanks to its demanding math requirements, has bucked the trend toward minimizing or dumping the SAT. The dean of admissions explained in 2022 why the school was bringing back the SAT requirement after the pandemic: “Our ability to accurately predict student academic success at MIT is significantly improved by considering standardized testing — especially in mathematics — alongside other factors.”
The deeper problem with the SAT, of course, is that it doesn’t produce the racial outcomes that the people who run institutions of higher education, especially elite ones, want.
The test that has been smeared as a tool of white supremacy is a conveyor belt for Asian Americans into top colleges in numbers that college administrators find embarrassing and inconvenient. So, they have an affirmation-action regime designed to keep those numbers down and fine-tune the racial balance of their student bodies to their liking.
This is where the SAT is unwelcomed in another way. As a measure of preparedness with hard numbers attached, it provides incontrovertible evidence of the racial bias against Asian Americans.
With a potential loss in the Supreme Court’s big affirmative action case looming, colleges and universities are already finding a way to finagle out of the decision. Without the SAT, they can continue to get the racial results they want without as obvious a paper trail.
You can have the twisted notion of equity that now prevails throughout our elite culture, or you can have a test that demonstrates academic talent regardless of race, but you can’t have both. Academia is making its choice.”
Lowry’s points are well documented and indisputable in their logic. However, and this is not the fault of Lowry’s, the issue of SAT’s is but a specific example of a general problem. That problem can be identified as circumstance that will occur whenever there is a consistent underperformance by African Americans in any area of academic pursuit.
Whenever, and wherever, that lower performance cannot be remedied by any interventions, the answer has consistently been to lower academic standards to a point where relatively equal outcomes can be achieved. With this as the defining feature of the “modern” educational system, the result, of course, is a dramatic reduction in the quality of graduates.
This is true whenever and wherever it takes place; it is true in elite universities, law schools and medical colleges. Once the “need” is accepted to produce equal outcomes, and you can’t produce them at the top, then the only place they can be realized is somewhere closer to the bottom. With that, there has been a clearly recognizable decline in, not only our level of literacy and numeracy, but the performance across the board in all significant occupations that are necessary for a quality society to be…a quality of society.
I would go as far as saying that this is the most significant problem facing America and, if not remedied, will make all other problems irresolvable.
Here is but one story with some immediacy that illustrates all that has been offered:
“Approximately 40 medical schools have dropped the MCAT, an exam that determines an individual’s ability to problem solve, think critically, and understand concepts about medical study.
This will have far-reaching effects on the future of medical care.”