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December, Volume 11 Nr. 4, Issue 125
SAT Testing as Criteria for Employment:
Eugenics in the 21st Century

Jozef Hand-Boniakowski

An article published in the Wall Street Journal by Kemba J. Dunham on Nov 3, 2003, entitled, "More employers ask job seekers for SAT scores" reports that as a prospective job seeker "looking for an entry-level job in financial services more than a year ago, she repeatedly has stumbled over a common requirement for many of these positions: a combined SAT score of at least 1300 out of a maximum 1600."  How convenient.  A national debate rages over the relevance of the SAT with scores being depicted as successful indicators of nothing more than successfully being able to take the test.  With that kind of negative publicity and some colleges dropping the SAT as a requirement of entry application, the free marketeers are at it again.  Time to create a new need for the test, fellow marketeers.  The creation of a new SAT marketplace for a product that proves little has huge profit making potential.  Fewer and fewer people in the United States can afford to attend college.  As increases in the increases in revenues of the testing industrial complex decline or remain stagnant, what is mass the testing industry to do?  Diversify, of course.  Almost everyone sooner or later has to apply for a job.  If the testing free marketeers could only get employers to demand SAT scores as a criteria for hiring prospective employees and continue to do so over the course of workers lifetime, well then, profitability beyond irrelevance would be insured.

I graduated from high school in 1966 at a time when the Vietnam War was on every male graduate's mind.  I took the PSAT and the SAT in my junior and senior year.  It was a given then, as it is now, that everyone take the SAT.  The results were not Earth shattering with a combined score of just over 1,025.  The SAT did not test to see that  English was my second language nor did the scoring criteria take that into consideration.  Some in my graduating class pulled scores better than 1400.  A SAT test score pecking order commenced channeling those males that scored poorly into fighting an illegal and immoral war in Vietnam orchestrated by those that did well.  Yet I made it through college, graduate school, retiring from a successful 30-year teaching career, this month celebrating my 40th year as an amateur radio operator.  I am now in my fourth year working in research and development within the integrated telecommunications industry.  I publish more than one newsletter, write poetry, artistically create fountain pen ink on paper artwork, etc.  The point is that the SAT test did nothing but contribute to my anxiety as a secondary school student.  If the SAT had been used as  hiring criteria during my almost 40 years of continuous successful employment, I would have been discarded into the dustbin of the not-worthy-enough to be hired.  Nothing succeeds like success, and nothing fails more than not having the opportunity to succeed.  This is what mandatory SAT testing of potential employees will accomplish.  

During my teaching career, one of my students pulled a score of 800 not only on both the verbal and math portions of the SAT, but on the physics achievement test as well.  That student later dropped out of an Ivy League college for academic insufficiency.  The SAT in his case and in many others fails to predict college success well.  It will likewise, fail to be an indicator of employee success.  What it will do is line the pockets of the testing industry and spawn preparatory courses, books, lectures, classes, and most significantly, another level of corporate control over our lives.  It will further complicate our lives and increase overall unnecessary anxiety.  It is not surprising then that Dunham's Wall Street Journal article reports that "SATs, taken by high school juniors and seniors and once used as the sole criterion for college admission, are following many through college and into the workplace as a defining performance measure."  In other words, who cares if these tests prove anything.  The goal is to sell the testing product as a commodity the nation cannot do without.  Purchasing official scores and transcripts over the course of an entire lifetime is what it's all about.  

Much Maligned

As Seppy Basili, Kaplan Inc., one of the many test-preparation companies explains, the SAT is "such a maligned instrument,  It is not designed to measure job performance, and the kind of person who performs well on SATs is not necessarily the kind of person who will perform well sitting at their desks."  Nor will it be the kind of person that does well in the classroom, on a sales call, in a hospital, or bank.  A ubiquitous acceptance of baseline SAT scores for hiring in professional and semi-professional arenas will drive down the employability of applicants.  There is a risk that SAT score-based employment opportunities would consign otherwise highly skilled and motivated employees down the economic opportunity ladder.  So much for being created equal.  The Wal-Marts of the world could then have their pick of a further marginalized work force willing to work for poverty wages but with higher than average SATs.  The impoverished would further become impoverished.  This is why real unions are so important and why Wal-Mart spends so much energy in defeating them.  Under the SAT test score employment scenario, it is not inconceivable that a minimum SAT score of a 1000 would be required just to apply for a $18,000/year Wal-Mart job in one of the new grocery supermarkets that pay 14% lower than other grocery markets ( Southern California: 40 new super centers opening in February 2004).  Imagine all those employees with their high turnaround rates buying and sending their SAT test score results to all those prospective employers.  One can smell the green as yet another commodity recreates the conditions for its own sale.  I sense this arena being fertile ground for kickback impropriety.

Rich Gibson of San Diego State University, April 2001, in a piece entitled, "The Fascist Origins of the SAT Test", points out that Carl C. Brigham created the SAT test by making a "few inconsequential" changes to the Army I.Q. test.  The military industrial complex lives.  This is the same Brigham, who in his book, A Study of American Intelligence concluded that "race mixture," would alter the gene pool downward while making society "dumber and weaker".  So now we want to extend a eugenics-era testing instrument created by a racist bigot to sort out the workforce worthy.  Gibson correctly points out that it is the SAT scores that segregated those that fought and died in the Vietnam War from those who results allowed them the luxury of deferments.  Surprisingly and significantly, Carl C. Brigham the eugenics enthusiast, before his death, chastised the founders of the Educational Testing Service who run the SAT (Conant and Chauncey, 1948), saying that the SAT could not accomplish bias-free testing.

Of course, the well to do can always purchase methods of improving SAT test score results, such as tutoring and test review.  The poor and disenfranchised are highly unlikely to benefit from such programs as they cannot afford them.  The net result is that dedicated workers and good people further fall by the wayside.  Over the long haul, this does not make for a happy populace.  Nor does it promote democracy in the workplace.  Sooner or later the gig will be up.  The strains and cracks in the lives of working people caused by the military industrial complex are no longer invisible nor subtle.  Fellow workers will more often stop blaming each other for the failures of the system and those who control it.  Jeff Schmidt, who holds a PhD in Physics from UC Irvine, writing of the SAT in Disciplined Minds, stated that “The SAT would more properly be called the Scholastic Attitude Test” because, not surprisingly, it is biased “in favor of those best prepared to serve the status quo.”

As the unsustainability of neo-liberalism becomes more obvious, it will further pursue  excessive means of self-preservation.  Neo-liberalism will wage perpetual war on the workers of the world in order to protect itself.   What neo-liberalism  cannot test away by SAT or loyalty oath, it will attempt to annihilate.  The war in Iraq is but one example.  Any success that the SAT achieves in becoming a de facto screening process for employment will come with the prospect and peril of revolt.  People are fed up.  Free human beings rarely put up with such control over their lives, of which the SAT is but one example.  Creating SAT-based human beings to serve the system, i.e., a  new-eugenics for the 21st century, will over time, foster a collision with an angry populace, especially after all the good paying decent jobs are exported to countries where test results are higher and wages lower.

Dump the Bosses of Your Back

So what does a combined SAT score of at least 1400 garner the average college graduate today?  Typically, it means massive college loans to repay with little or no prospect of meaningful, well-paying employment with benefits in the field of study chosen by the applicant. No wonder there is a rebellion across the United States in opposition to the SAT.  The big changes are yet to come, however, as John Brill, aptly explains in his song, "Dump the bosses off your back".  Sung to the tune of "What a Friend We Have In Jesus/Take It to the Lord in Prayer" and first published in the 9th edition, the Joe Hill Memorial Edition, of the Industrial Worker "Little Red Songbook," March 1916.

Are you poor, forlorn and hungry? Are there lots of things you lack?
Is your life made up of misery? Then dump the bosses off your back.
Are your clothes all patched and tattered? Are you living in a shack?
Would you have your troubles scattered? Then dump the bosses off your back.

Are you almost split asunder? Loaded like a long-eared jack?
Why don't you buck like thunder, And dump the bosses off your back?
All the agonies you suffer you can end with one good whack
Straighten up, you orn'ry duffer - And dump the bosses off your back.

Dump the bosses of your back.  All of them, beginning with the SAT.

© 2003 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski, PhD


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