Coleman Speaks Out (Sort of)

Oh, the interwebs were alive with the sound of David Coleman, president of the College Board (and architect of Common Core), today. His fervent presentation about the new, CCSS-infused SAT roused journalists (Wall Street Journalist), sort of journalists (Huffington Post), and tweetists (now we’re on my level) galore. I read splintered quotes of Colemania, which must have merely scratched the surface, because I also read that his SAT speech earned the Standing O from the crowd in Austin

But I couldn’t be there (I was busy, you know, working for a living). So now, using such classic faux journalist techniques as “Splicing Together Secondary Sources” and “Reading Real Journalism” and even one I like to call “Making Shit Up,” I am going to bring you, loyal reader, David Coleman’s presentation of the the ideas behind the New SAT!

Let’s face it. The SAT is a doddering dinosaur of a test. Research just proved for the umpteenth time that it doesn’t predict college success as well as high school GPA, and proving that is laced with loads of cultural bias has become a training exercise for freshmen-level research assistants. The old girl needs a facelift, a tummy tuck, and a boob job. It’s not that I particularly care about the validity or usefulness of the test, but we are losing market share to the ACT and some colleges are starting to ignore us altogether. We’ve got a product to move, and that means releasing this year’s hot new model to stir up the customer base.

So what have we done?

Well, that essay portion that colleges just kept ignoring because it didn’t effectively test anything except a student’s ability to locate the piece of paper– that’s gone. Well, “optional.” If you still want to take it, knock yourself out.

But that won’t matter because we are expanding writing in the rest of the test. Students are going have to write stuff based on documents from other disciplines– in other words, none of that literature crap. God– where we ever got the idea that anybody should read, like, that Shakespeare guy is beyond me. No, it’ll be historical documents and biology charts and stereo instructions and quarterly earnings reports– things that really matter.

Their essays will be evidence based. So all they have to do is come up with the correct interpretation of the reading, support it with the correct evidence from the excerpt, and assemble the evidence in the correct manner. This makes the SAT invaluable, because the ability to regurgitate a pre-determined single reading of a text is central to college studies. The ability to repeat what they’re told is important for all American citizens, but real excellence is in being able to figure out exactly what we want them to say, and how, without us having to spell it out for them.

We’re also going to get rid of all that fancy-shmancy vocabulary. We’re chucking out words like “sagacious” and “ignominious” and putting in vocabulary like “empirical” and “synthesis” and “actuarial tables” and “return on investment.”

Now, I know that many students in this country get an unfair advantage on the SATs by hiring private tutors and prep programs, and I feel that it is completely unfair that this going on. Specifically, I feel that it is unfair that this is going on and we aren’t benefiting from it. But we have been learning from facebook and your grocery store customer card and every on-line retailer in the world, and we will be happy to provide you with some free test prep products and even a handful of other free services for a select few– all you need give us in return is all your personal information and the chance to market many of our other products directly to you. See? We are just a big bunch of humanitarians.

Look, these tests have become “disconnected from the work of our high schools,” by which I mean that I used CCSS to redefine what the work of high school should be, and I promised that it would line up with college, and now in this new job I get a chance to make my own prophecy come true. I don’t just get to move the goal posts– I get to declare that now a football game will be won by the team that hits the most home runs. Is this a great country, or what?

And to all you sunsabitches who griped about my Common Core work– how do you like me now? One way or another, I am going to force you to teach what I personally think ought to be taught the way I think it ought to be taught. Your students pee themselves over the SAT– they will beg and bully you to teach math and English the way I want you to in mortal terror that they’ll get a low score and end up working as a part-time cart-bearing greaser at some Wal-mart.

I am David Effing Coleman. I’m an education amateur, but I’m a well-connected one and I have personally redefined what it means to be an educated person in America. No more of this namby-pamby reading and writing about thoughts and feelings and ideas and the rest of that shit. From cradle to grave, you’ll focus on the only thing that matters– practical, literal stuff that helps people make money. “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”– what the hell was that Keats character smoking, anyway? The liberal arts?? Who in the bloody blue hell needs the liberal arts???!

Yes, the SAT was a biased test. It still is– but now it’s biased the right way. My way. We’ve got the CCSS and the SAT lined up. Next we’ll get your three-year-olds properly rigorized, and once that’s happening colleges won’t be able to keep from becoming the proper vocational training centers they’re supposed to be. Quality of life? Quality of life comes from money, baby. Education has something to do with a greater understanding of our world and our humanity and how we make sense of them, how we express our deepest connections to each other and the universe in a process of discovery, expression and wonder that continues our whole life? You’re killing me.

Look, an educated person is one who can do well the tests assigned by his betters, can fulfill a useful job for the corporations that hire him, and will behave properly for the government that rules him. If you wanted something more out of life than that, you should have arranged to be rich. In the meantime, enjoy the new SAT.

At least, that’s what I imagine him saying today. I might have paraphrased a little.

by Peter A. Greene (Curmudgucation)

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