Monday, July 13, 2009

Ricci and me: Sotomayor's hearing and the Ricci case has got me thinking about my own experience with testing. I thank God for tests. I come from a rural, working-class family. My parents are high school graduates. My dad is a retired maintenance man. I didn't know many college graduates growing up. No connections of any sort.

We often hear about how a special teacher makes all the difference in the life of a kid from a humble origin. My teachers were fine, but I am not where I am today because of their special efforts. I don't know--some kids might have a Mr. Smith or a Ms. Thompson to thank, but I owe everything to Mr. SAT and Ms. GRE. The SAT got me into a good university with a full-tuition scholarship. My GRE was certainly the reason why I got a teaching assistantship and a tuition waiver in grad school.

Sotomayor will say that tests cannot measure the cultural assets that one brings to the table. And I say bullshit. We're equal there, lady. Your Puerto Rican experience gives you a fresh angle on things. My experience as a rural, working-class kid of a particular region and religion, with a particular personality gives me a unique perspective. So what. We all see things from a unique place, so no one has an advantage there. Aptitude tests predict better than anything we know whether a person will succeed or fail, so unlike skin color, testing tells us something valuable.

Testing has been a way to make social class barriers more porous--a pretty progressive idea. Liberals have turned their backs on working-class white guys like Ricci and me. So we turn our backs on them.


  1. Yeah people mechanizing agriculture, increasing the world's carrying capacity and settling frontiers that others come to occupy with their children have a perspective that is of equal value to Puerto Ricans.

  2. Anonymous9:03 AM

    My experience as a rural, working-class kid of a particular region and religion, with a particular personality gives me a unique perspective.

    Unfortunately, the government has deemed that your perspective doesn't count for anything. Rural working-class people don't get any preferences.


  3. Your second and third paragraphs are golden. I'd like to quote them (with attribution) somewhere on my blog.

    My feeling about standardized tests is much the same, only I'm not from a small town or from the working class. Members of the bourgeoisie can be ignored pretty easily, if they are terminally unaggressive and introverted. For most of my life, the only way I could land a job was if there was some way I could prove myself objectively - a typing test or a software applications test.

    It's funny ... mainline establishment types are always attributing my difficult twenties to either my dourness or my cheerfulness, to my tendency to withdraw and listen, or to my habit of shaking hands, learning names, and looking people in the eye. I'm way too friendly or introverted, one or the other. I'm too vigorous or lazy ... something like that. Lots of explanations are extremely plausible; anything except the conclusion that anti-intellectual bigotry is the force in American political life.

  4. "I owe everything to Mr. SAT and Ms. GRE."

    So do I.

  5. "Aptitude tests predict better than anything we know whether a person will succeed or fail . . . "

    For this reason, anyone who wishes to live in a society which functions reasonably well, and in which people's abilities are effectively matched to the requirements of their work, should be thankful for such testing.

  6. Anonymous8:49 PM

    Hey, email Ron's comments to your representatives.

  7. Anonymous9:24 PM

    I've never commented here before, but I'm inspired to do so today in response to your remarks on testing.

    My story is more or less identical, right down to Dad's occupation. And what was I told in university, over and over and over? That I was 'privileged' over many of my middle and upper-middle class peers none the less.

    Freedom from liberal guilt is invigorating, isn't it?

  8. You're exactly the reason the SAT was instituted by Harvard (with Princeton and Yale following quickly) in the first place. You didn't need a crazy list of activities helping poor people or fitting some convoluted metric of "diversity" or glowing recommendations from teachers you sucked up to.

  9. Anonymous11:47 PM

    amen Ron......100%

  10. Great post.

    Agree with Blode as well...otherwise it's personality uber alles. Hey, this is America, we can't have smart people working for us, it's gotta be the captain of the football team...

    Ironically, one of the reasons Harvard and Yale started de-emphasizing tests and emphasizing extracurriculars was because the 'wrong people' were getting in...and continue to do so today.

    And ironrailsironweights is guys don't count, you vote Republican.

  11. Anonymous2:17 PM

    It's not fair that nature favors some racial groups with the mental skills necessary to do well on such tests. Ergo, such testing should be undermined as much as possible. In any case, it's only those who score well on such tests that are eager to hold them up. I'm sure most whites who get mediocre scores wouldn't worship them like you do--and therefore wouldn't care as much about their abolition.


Allelic variants found only in populations of African ancestry predict kidney disease and preeclampsia in blacks

Study Link Black women in the United States and Africa are at an increased risk for preeclampsia. Allelic variants in the gene for apolip...