TESTING TESTING by F. Allan Hanson


Social Consequences of the Examined Life
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 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.)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-520-08060-2
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Univ. of California
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1993


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