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.