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The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy

by

The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

What do we know about the history, origin, design, and purpose of the SAT? Who invented it, and why? How did it acquire such a prominent and lasting position in American education? The Big Test reveals the ideas, people, and politics behind a fifty-year-old utopian social experiment that changed this country. Combining vibrant storytelling, vivid portraiture, and thematic analysis, Lemann shows why this experiment did not turn out as planned. It did create a new elite, but it also generated conflict and tensionand America's best educated, most privileged people are now leaders without followers.

Drawing on unprecedented access to the Educational Testing Services archives, Lemann maintains that Americas meritocracy is neither natural nor inevitable, and that it does not apportion opportunity equally or fairly. His important study not only asks profound moral and political questions about the past and future of our society but also carries implications for current social and educational policy. As Brent Staples noted in his New York Times editorial column: “Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts announced that prospective students would no longer be required to submit SAT scores with their applications. . . . Holyoke's president, Joanne Creighton, was personally convinced by reading Nicholas Lemann's book, The Big Test, which documents how the SAT became a tool for class segregation.”

All students of education, sociology, and recent U.S. historyespecially those focused on testing, theories of learning, social stratification, or policymakingwill find this book fascinating and alarming.

Born in New Orleans in 1954, Nicholoas Lemann has been a journalist for more than twenty years. His last book was the prizewinning The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America. He lives in Pelham, New York.

What do we know about the history, origin, design, and purpose of the SAT? Who invented it, and why? How did it acquire such a prominent and lasting position in American education? The Big Test reveals the ideas, people, and politics behind a fifty-year-old utopian social experiment that changed this country. Combining vibrant storytelling, vivid portraiture, and thematic analysis, Lemann shows why this experiment did not turn out as planned. It did create a new elite, but it also generated conflict and tensionand America's best educated, most privileged people are now leaders without followers.

Drawing on unprecedented access to the Educational Testing Services archives, Lemann maintains that Americas meritocracy is neither natural nor inevitable, and that it does not apportion opportunity equally or fairly. His important study not only asks profound moral and political questions about the past and future of our society but also carries implications for current social and educational policy. As Brent Staples noted in his New York Times editorial column, “Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts announced that prospective students would no longer be required to submit SAT scores with their applications. . . . Holyoke's president, Joanne Creighton, was personally convinced by reading Nicholas Lemann's book, The Big Test, which documents how the SAT became a tool for class segregation.”

All students of education, sociology, and recent U.S. historyespecially those focused on testing, theories of learning, social stratification, or policymakingwill find this book fascinating and alarming.

What do we know about the history, origin, design, and purpose of the SAT? Who invented it, and why? How did it acquire such a prominent and lasting position in American education? The Big Test reveals the ideas, people, and politics behind a fifty-year-old utopian social experiment that changed this country.

“I use The Big Test in my Perspectives on Secondary Education class. It makes students come face-to-face with issues of race, class, and inequality in secondary education, and since everyone has taken ‘the big test, it really hits home.” Susan Semel, Associate Professor, Hofstra University

“An engaging, enlightening historical analysis of the idea of the SAT, dramatized by the stories of the people who designed it, the students who benefited from it, and recent battles over standardized testing and affirmative action.”Wendy Kaminer, The Boston Globe

“Engrossing . . . The narrative of The Big Test is carried along by a string of life stories [that] once more display Nicholas Lemann's talent for distilling social analysis out of personal history.”Alan Ryan, The New York Review of Books

Book News Annotation:

Lemann, a longtime journalist with The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, and other magazines, describes the attempt to set up a new social order in the US during the second half of the 20th century based on standardized testing. He traces the origins of the idea and how it was put into effect, as well as broader issues relating to the value of testing and the meritocracy it created and sustained.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

"[An] engaging, enlightening historical analysis of the idea of the SAT, dramatized by stories of the people who designed it and the students who benefited from it, and . . . recent battles over standardized testing and affirmative action". "The Boston Globe".

Synopsis:

What do we know about the history, origin, design, and purpose of the SAT? Who invented it, and why? How did it acquire such a prominent and lasting position in American education? The Big Test reveals the ideas, people, and politics behind a fifty-year-old utopian social experiment that changed this country. Combining vibrant storytelling, vivid portraiture, and thematic analysis, Lemann shows why this experiment did not turn out as planned. It did create a new elite, but it also generated conflict and tension—and America's best educated, most privileged people are now leaders without followers.

Drawing on unprecedented access to the Educational Testing Services archives, Lemann maintains that Americas meritocracy is neither natural nor inevitable, and that it does not apportion opportunity equally or fairly. His important study not only asks profound moral and political questions about the past and future of our society but also carries implications for current social and educational policy. As Brent Staples noted in his New York Times editorial column: “Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts announced that prospective students would no longer be required to submit SAT scores with their applications. . . . Holyoke's president, Joanne Creighton, was personally convinced by reading Nicholas Lemann's book, The Big Test, which documents how the SAT became a tool for class segregation.”

All students of education, sociology, and recent U.S. history—especially those focused on testing, theories of learning, social stratification, or policymaking—will find this book fascinating and alarming.

Synopsis:

"[An] engaging, enlightening historical analysis of the idea of the SAT, dramatized by stories of the people who designed it and the students who benefited from it, and . . . recent battles over standardized testing and affirmative action". "The Boston Globe".

About the Author

Born in New Orleans in 1954, Nicholas Lemann has been a journalist for more than twenty years. His last book was the prizewinning The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America. He lives in Pelham, New York.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780374527518
Author:
Lemann, Nicholas
Publisher:
Farrar Straus Giroux
Location:
New York
Subject:
General
Subject:
History
Subject:
Testing & Measurement
Subject:
Educational tests and measurements
Subject:
United States - 20th Century (1945 to present)
Subject:
Intelligence tests
Subject:
Ability
Subject:
Social history
Subject:
Modern - General
Subject:
Elite
Subject:
United States - 20th Century (1945 to 2000)
Subject:
Elite (Social sciences) -- United States.
Subject:
US History - 20th Century
Subject:
United States - 20th Century
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st rev. pbk. ed.
Edition Description:
Revised
Series Volume:
199
Publication Date:
20001131
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Includes Notes and an Index
Pages:
420
Dimensions:
9.00 x 6.00 in

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Related Subjects

Education » Assessment
Education » General
History and Social Science » US History » 20th Century » General
History and Social Science » World History » General

The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy Used Trade Paper
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Product details 420 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374527518 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , "[An] engaging, enlightening historical analysis of the idea of the SAT, dramatized by stories of the people who designed it and the students who benefited from it, and . . . recent battles over standardized testing and affirmative action". "The Boston Globe".
"Synopsis" by ,
What do we know about the history, origin, design, and purpose of the SAT? Who invented it, and why? How did it acquire such a prominent and lasting position in American education? The Big Test reveals the ideas, people, and politics behind a fifty-year-old utopian social experiment that changed this country. Combining vibrant storytelling, vivid portraiture, and thematic analysis, Lemann shows why this experiment did not turn out as planned. It did create a new elite, but it also generated conflict and tension—and America's best educated, most privileged people are now leaders without followers.

Drawing on unprecedented access to the Educational Testing Services archives, Lemann maintains that Americas meritocracy is neither natural nor inevitable, and that it does not apportion opportunity equally or fairly. His important study not only asks profound moral and political questions about the past and future of our society but also carries implications for current social and educational policy. As Brent Staples noted in his New York Times editorial column: “Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts announced that prospective students would no longer be required to submit SAT scores with their applications. . . . Holyoke's president, Joanne Creighton, was personally convinced by reading Nicholas Lemann's book, The Big Test, which documents how the SAT became a tool for class segregation.”

All students of education, sociology, and recent U.S. history—especially those focused on testing, theories of learning, social stratification, or policymaking—will find this book fascinating and alarming.

"Synopsis" by , "[An] engaging, enlightening historical analysis of the idea of the SAT, dramatized by stories of the people who designed it and the students who benefited from it, and . . . recent battles over standardized testing and affirmative action". "The Boston Globe".
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