Monday, March 26, 2007

Aptitude, schmaptitude

Via Uncertain Principles, here is an excerpt of an essay, allegedly in English, that was written for the SAT:
A major reason why cooperation is a preference to competition is because competition induces civil struggle at a time of crisis while cooperation reduces tension. In the 1930’s, American businesses were locked in a fierce economic competition with Russian merchants for fear that their communist philosophies would dominate American markets. As a result, American competition drove the country into an economic depression and the only way to pull them out of it was through civil cooperation. American president Franklin Delenor Roosevelt advocated for civil unity despite the communist threat of success by quoting ‘the only thing we need to fear is itself,’ which desdained competition as an alternative to cooperation for success. In the end, the American economy pulled out of the depression and succeeded communism.

The essay from which this paragraph was taken (see the article to download) doesn't get any better than this. In additional to the above historical revisionism, there is a complete misrepresentation of Brian Jacques' Redwall Chronicles and an incoherent personal anecdote. Yet the essay in question received the highest possible rating from the readers, who thought that the essay demonstrates "reasonably consistent mastery" as well as "strong critical thinking, generally using appropriate examples" and that it "effectively develops a point of view". In fact, the essay was a piece of intentional nonsense written by a student coached by MIT writing professor Les Perelman.

The A in SAT stands for "aptitude". That's clearly not what the test is measuring.

No comments: