The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy

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9780374527518: 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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Review:

Nicholas Lemann's The Big Test starts off as a look at how the SAT became an integral part of the college application process by telling the stories of men like Henry Chauncey and James Bryant Conant of Harvard University, who sought in the 1930s and '40s to expand their student base beyond the offspring of Brahmin alumni. When they went into the public schools of the Midwest to recruit, standardized testing gave them the means to select which lucky students would be deemed most suitable for an Ivy League education. But about a third of the way through the book, Lemann shifts gears and writes about several college students from the late '60s and early '70s. The reasons for the change-up only become clear in the final third, when those same college students, now in their 40s, lead the fight against California's Proposition 209, a 1996 ballot initiative aimed at eliminating affirmative action programs.

Do these two stories really belong together? For all his storytelling abilities--and they are prodigious--Lemann is not entirely persuasive on this point, especially when he identifies the crucial moment in the civil rights era when "affirmative action evolved as a low-cost patch solution to the enormous problem of improving the lot of American Negroes, who had an ongoing, long-standing tradition of deeply inferior education; at the same time American society was changing so as to make educational performance the basis for individual advancement." Lemann's muddled transition is somewhat obscured by frequent digressions (every new character gets a lengthy background introduction), but a crucial point gets lost in the shuffle, only to reappear fleetingly at the conclusion: "The right fight to be in was the fight to make sure that everybody got a good education," Lemann writes, not to continue to prop up a system that creates one set of standards for privileged students and another set for the less privileged. If The Big Test had focused on that issue, where equal opportunity is genuinely at stake, instead of on the roots of standardized testing, where opportunity was explicitly intended only for a chosen few, it would be a substantially different book--one with a story that almost assuredly could be told as engrossingly as the story Lemann chose to tell, but perhaps with a sharper focus. --Ron Hogan

About the Author:

Born in New Orleans in 1954, Nicholas Lemann has been a journalist for more than twenty years. His last book was the prizewinning The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America. He lives in Pelham, New York.

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Descripción Farrar, Straus and Giroux, United States, 2000. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Revised ed.. Language: English . Brand New Book. 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. Nº de ref. de la librería AAS9780374527518

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Editorial: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, United States (2000)
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Descripción Farrar, Straus and Giroux, United States, 2000. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Revised ed.. Language: English . Brand New Book. 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. Nº de ref. de la librería AAS9780374527518

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Descripción Farrar, Straus and Giroux, United States, 2000. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Revised ed.. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. 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. Nº de ref. de la librería BTE9780374527518

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