After my first letter exposing the bias of the SATs was published, some anguished reactionaries expressed outrage that I should dare to challenge their cherished preconceptions. Here was my reply.
To the Editorial Page Editor:
Christopher Powers (letter, 4/28, p. 12) should be commended for his interest in the SATs. However, his letter contains a few inaccuracies.
Powers accuses me of stating that "high school grades are a "good measure of college success." However, I said only that HS grades are "the best predictor," i.e. there is no better. Powers has misread my l etter (4/21, p. 15).
Powers disagrees with my statement that the racism of the SATs "is essentially no different than that of Hitler or the Ku Klux Klan." However, I think my statement fits the facts.
Carl C. Brigham, inv entor of the SAT test in 1925, had published the following lines two years earlier:
We must face a possibility of racial admixture here that is infinitely worse than that faced by any Euro- pean country today, for we are incorporating the negro into our racial stock, while all of Europe is compara- tively free from this taint (emphasis added).His goal? "to maintain the purity of the white race" (quotes from David Owen, None of the Above: Behind the Myth of Scholastic Aptitude, 1985). Owen's book gives much detail about the racist an d anti-working class bias of the SATs.
The more recent work by two educational statisticians, James Crouse and Dale Trusheim, The Case Against the SAT (University of Chicago Press, 1988) comes to similar conclusions: the SATs are biased against blacks and lower-income, i.e. working-class, students generally. I strongly recommend these two studies for anyone who wants to appreciate the full significance of the racism and elitism of the SATs
The Princeton Review Co. runs a leading "SAT prep" courses. Their SAT Manual for HS juniors states:
What Does It [the SAT] Measure? Beats us... Most of all, the SAT measures how well you take the SAT.... The SAT is biased against women (by about 70 points) and blacks (by over 100). The correlation between SAT scores and family income is much higher than the link between scores and college grades.
Several years ago ETS agreed to standardize raw SAT scores to eliminate bias against women. They have never standardized for ethnic origin or income, though this could be done similarly. This reflects the racist assumption that a test which "shows" men have more "Scholastic Aptitude" than women must be defective, but one that shows whites and wealthy students have more "Scholastic Aptitude" than blacks and wo rking-class students need not be changed!
The Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan made the racist assumption that certain "minority groups" were inferior to whites, and acted upon that assumption. Those who sell AND THOSE WHO USE the SAT, like Montclair Stat e "University", make the same assumption: that blacks and working-class students are "inferior", less "deserv- ing," and so on. Many, many white students and others, ignorant of the racism and elitism of the SATs, draw the racist conclusion that black students are "taking the place of deserving whites."
This attitude -- that some "minority group" is "inferior" -- has justified slavery; the Jim Crow system; South African apartheid; Western imperialism; and the Holocaust. Its deadly effects, in lower livin g standards, poorer social services, greater unemployment, and higher death rates among black Americans, as well as for the working class, white and non-white, continue today.
The SATs, like any other kind of racism, hurt everyone but the wealthy elite.
Grover Furr, English Department
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