ERIC Number: EJ707602
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2004-Nov-1
Reference Count: N/A
Point of View--The Sat and the Assault on Literature
Phi Delta Kappan, v86 n3 p247 Nov 2004
It was during the early 1990s that the author began to suspect that teenagers were reading less--and less deeply--than they had been 10 and certainly 20 years ago. He found this paradoxical, because it was during the 1990s that SAT scores seemed to soar along with the economy. Students talked about them constantly, like securities traders in a bull market, and he was astonished to hear them routinely report scores of 650 and up. Had the scores become inflated, like grade-point averages? Or was he teaching whole batches of future laureates? Score inflation was supposedly impossible: the creators of the SAT in Princeton, New Jersey, have always claimed that their test has absolute constancy, like the laws of physics. But the second was impossible, too. True, students were adept at defining such terms as "allegory" and "dactyl." On the other hand, they found it difficult to summarize an essayist's argument or to paraphrase a poem. These skills demanded approaching works as wholes, as readers had always approached them. But these students, raised on aptitude tests, were less readers of books than scanners of texts. They searched not for the "soul" of a work but for the indispensable bit of information. While they had little passion for reading, they read more for coursework than ever before--they had to on account of increased academic requirements and heightened competition for admission to top colleges. But most found the notion that a book could change a life incomprehensible. Reading, like taking a test, was becoming a utilitarian task; it was useful for careers, but not for life. At least now, however, the test-makers in Princeton have decided to add a writing component to the SAT, which will be put into effect a year from now. While having to write a little expository essay under a severe time constraint may not inspire a new-found passion for writing, at least students will have to compose whole sentences, whole paragraphs, and, indeed, a whole composition. It does not make the SAT a great test, but at least it is a step in the right direction.
Descriptors: Personal Narratives, Aptitude Tests, Test Coaching, Recreational Reading, Writing (Composition), Literature
Phi Delta Kappa International, Inc., 408 N. Union St., P.O. Box 789, Bloomington, IN 47402-0789. Web site: http://www.pdkintl.org.
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: High Schools
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: SAT (College Admission Test)