August 25, 2009

Why not Bil Keane?

The truth is, however, that Stanley Kaplan was wrong. What he did in his basement was subversive. The S.A.T. was designed as an abstract intellectual tool. It never occurred to its makers that aptitude was a social matter: that what people were capable of was affected by what they knew, and what they knew was affected by what they were taught, and what they were taught was affected by the industry of their teachers and parents. And if what the S.A.T. was measuring, in no small part, was the industry of teachers and parents, then what did it mean? Stanley Kaplan may have loved the S.A.T. But when he stood up and recited “boo, boo, boo, square root of two,” he killed it.

Talk about mixed feelings. It's viscerally hard to honor the man who made SAT prep a grueling rite of teenage passage. I never took an actual Kaplan course myself. I much preferred a devious book called How to Beat the SAT. But that book, like other approaches that took for granted that the SAT did not actually measure anything valuable, could not have existed without Kaplan's initial insights and industry.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Cause of death?

a. Heart attack
b. Cancer
c. Suicide
d. Accident
e. None of the above


a. journalism
b. sex slavery
c. fact-checking
d. self-loathing

Read the paragraph above. Based on the information contained in it, you can conclude that.
A)The S.A.T. is subversive.
B)Bil Keane will die one day and then Mr. Radosh will have to let go of his clever little inside jokey joke.
C)You wish you had learned the meaning of "visceral" when studying vocabulary.
D) Christ what an asshole.

I'm confused. What does all this have to do with Ted Kennedy?

Why not Stanley Kaplan? Has anyone made more of a contribution to fostering the gaps in SAT results between rich and poor than Kaplan, whose courses offered score boosts to whoever could afford it?

@Gary. Another reason for the mixed feelings. But I prefer to think of that as heightening the contradictions. By demonstrating that one could purchase higher scores, he (unintentionally) proved that the SAT did not measure what it claimed to.

Lots of kids don't pay for their Kaplan course, in fact. Also, test-prep courses are not really much of an instrument for perpetuating social class advantages. They let public-school kids take a course and narrow the admissions gap with prep-school kids. (I used to be a Kaplan teacher and I really liked the screw-the-ETS, homemade spirit of the thing.)

The problem is that Kaplan didn't kill the SAT (obviously). He revealed that the SAT didn't measure what it claimed to be and inspired a whole bunch of people to think about how to game the test, but he didn't dislodge it in any way. He showed that the SAT was a social fiction and it turned out that no one cared.

Post a comment

Powered by
Movable Type 3.2