I used to date a girl who strongly believed that it's discriminatory to give grades to students. She argued that grading is culturally-biased, harmful to the student's self-esteem, and too subjective to be of any use. Eventually, she believed, all schools would understand this truth and phase out grades altogether.
For some reason, this came to mind when I read this article about universities phasing out the SAT requirement. I have a somewhat unique take on this- I never took the SATs, not expecting to actually attend university, and wound up doing fine without it. So it's sort of hard for me to believe that the SAT is the key to later success in academia.
On the other hand, it's tempting to make the lazy quip that this should lead to more richness and diversity among the group of college drop-outs. I teach an introductory course to freshmen who, across the board, know nothing- they are completely and totally uneducated after high school. Their high school diplomas are barely worth the paper they're printed on. It's nothing personal, or particularly culturally-specific- they're mostly white kids from the suburbs- it's not even their fault. It's just that public education has completely failed them. It's too much public and too little education. The SATs are messages from that dying world.
So, on we go. Our eternal dream is to take the uneducated and to educate them. This is what keeps me awake at night. When I meet a student who wants to know anything more than they know, my heart soars. And, thankfully, some of them will indeed be more educated after four years of university. Many of them will not. It's still fairly hard for us nerds to compete for attention with the college booze cruise. Over half of them will flunk out. But I'm skeptical that the SATs really do predict which ones will thrive and which ones will wilt in the college soil.
Honestly, it seems to me that the ''factor'' that is most important to future college success is simply fear. The ones who do well seem to me to be the ones who are most shocked when they realize just how uneducated they are, and they scramble to get through university without flunking out. Ultimately, a humanistic education should assault your sense of self. It's not supposed to be therapeutic or comforting. It's hard work and sometimes painful, but in the end, it's worth the struggle. I still believe that this is good for us. Year after year, the students I see who are the most assaulted by the ''college experience'' are the ones who graduate magna cum laude, all the while sure that they'll fail. They're the ones I would do anything to help when I have them in my classes, probably because I see myself in them. I am still only partially educated, and still working every day to become educated.
It's hard for me to see what difference the SATs make in any of this. Given the total failure of public high schools, I see no distinction between a student with good scores and one with lousy scores. What makes the difference is just their desire, and frankly most people, much less most teenagers, simply lack that.