Testing Testing: Social Consequences of the Examined Life

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9780520080607: Testing Testing: Social Consequences of the Examined Life

This book is about how our addiction to testing influences both society and ourselves as socially defined persons. The analysis focuses on tests of people, particularly tests in schools, intelligence tests, vocational interest tests, lie detection, integrity tests, and drug tests. Diagnostic psychiatric tests and medical tests are included only tangentially. A good deal of the descriptive material will be familiar to readers from their personal experience as takers and/or givers of tests. But testing, as with much of ordinary life, has implications that we seldom pause to ponder and often do not even notice. My aim is to uncover in the everyday operation of testing a series of well-concealed and mostly unintended consequences that exercise far deeper and more pervasive influence in social life than is commonly recognized.

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About the Author:

F. Allan Hanson is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of Kansas. His previous books include Meaning in Culture (1980), Studies in Symbolism and Cultural Communication (1982), and, with Louise Hanson, Counterpoint in Maori Culture (1983).

From Kirkus Reviews:

A well-informed analysis of pervasive testing in America today, with a substantial historical overview, from cultural anthropologist Hanson (University of Kansas). Drawing inspiration and his critical stance largely from the arguments of Michel Foucault, Hanson provides ample evidence that Americans now live in an ``age of infinite examination.'' Testing, the author explains, is divided into two broad categories--either for determining authenticity or measuring qualifications--but in every instance its application takes the form of an agency gathering information from and about an individual. Drawing comparisons between the methods used to identify witches (tie the accused hand-and-foot and put them into a river to see whether they float) and the more technologically advanced polygraph, Hanson contends that these and other tests invariably transform, and often create, the condition that they are intended to measure. Qualifying tests are no less suspect, as evidenced by the persistent correlation between SAT scores and socioeconomic status, and by the fact that IQs have proven completely unreliable as a measure of one's future social success. Such measurements, the author says, serve ultimately to fragment the sense of self, providing under any aegis only a partial, misleading view of the person examined--but their use is undeniable as an extension of the power that agencies of every sort can wield over Americans. Not earth-shattering, but provocative and solid nonetheless: a compelling demonstration that the social consequences of ubiquitous testing are by no means positive. (Illustrations.) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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F. Allan Hanson
Editorial: University of California Press (1992)
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