High achievers, low-scorers

Our culture places an exceedingly high value on the notion of potential to achieve, rather than achievement itself. For most Americans, a "gifted" student is one who scores off the charts on aptitude tests, not one who demonstrates practical knowledge on worthwhile endeavors....

Consider, for instance, the mainly poor and black students at Northampton East High School in rural North Carolina. They took their physics and chemistry lessons and built an electric car that in national competitions bested entries from many of the country's elite high schools, whose students typically score far higher on standardized mental tests. Although Northampton East made the best car, their competitors, who might score a perfect 1,600 on their SATs, are deemed by cultural norms to have won the meritocratic contest that really counts.

Indeed, the notion that merit and achievement equal high test scores, or that higher standards means requiring higher test scores, is repeated constantly in the popular culture....

Perhaps most responsible for the grip that mental testing holds on America is that it is a highly effective means of social control, predominately serving the interests of the nation's elites.

- from "Standardized Minds"

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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