NONE OF THE ABOVE: Behind the Myth of Scholastic Aptitude by David Owen

NONE OF THE ABOVE: Behind the Myth of Scholastic Aptitude

Email this review


More than most readers will care to know about ETS (the Educational Testing Service), and much more hostile coverage than ETS would like to see in print--but a strong, sometimes deadly, indictment of the whole SAT system. Owen gained some attention with High School (1981), which reported his mostly depressing experiences after he managed to pass himself off, at age 24, as a senior at ""Bingham High."" Logically enough, he now takes on the glossy institution that hangs its Damocles' sword over the heads of college-bound adolescents. In a nutshell, Owen argues that ETS primarily tests the ability to take its own tests, that ETS is a nasty monopoly (tax free revenues of $133 million in fiscal '83), and that it ought to be abolished. Other, related complaints: ETS test-makers display ""flabby writing, sloppy thinking, and a disturbing uncertainty about the meanings of shortish words""; the questions in the verbal part are sometimes ambiguous; ETS lies to the public (they claim students can't be coached to improve their scores significantly, but two sharp characters named Katzman and Robinson have proved that students can easily be taught to ace the SATs and boost their scores 185-250 points); the ETS people (time for some ad hominem stuff) are smug, self-righteous capitalists luxuriating in country-club conditions at their Lawrence Township headquarters (not in Princeton, N.J., an address they dishonestly use to suggest a connection with Princeton U.); SATs are weak predictors of college performance; in fact they're really used only at a few dozen selective colleges (non-selective schools won't admit they'll take you with dismal SATs, but they will); the SATs are full of statistical quirks and follies (leaving all questions blank or marking them at random would get you a score higher than the one attained by some 40,000 recent test-takers). All this packs a certain punch, but Owen also wanders far afield with reflections on the cultural biases and inequities of testing ""aptitude."" Instead of scoring a few precise hits, he goes in for saturation-bombing. Still, he certainly demolishes the target.

Pub Date: April 16th, 1985
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin