September 20, 2013

Bruce Charlton on tests v. exams

Bruce Charlton comments on the massive kindergarten admission cheating scandals among the rich and famous of Manhattan and Brooklyn. This has led to an announcement that most of these vastly expensive schools will dump the use of the old Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence and replace it with a different and better test by February, or at least one that there aren't as many well-known ways to cheat on. (Good luck with that.)
The problem is the ambiguity in the word test
Weschler is a diagnostic test, designed for clinical use. It - quite reasonably - presumes honesty in the test taker. 
What is apparently wanted in the situation you describe is an exam - and an exam ought not to presume honesty.  
One difference is that an exam designed for repeated use must have a very large bank of questions - but a diagnostic test need not.

Good point. 

In general, we need a massive nationwide review of the effects of test-prepping and outright cheating in tests. 

High stakes tests were instituted by the Emperor of China in 595 A.D. for hiring well-paid mandarins. Presumably, test prepping was going on by 596 A.D. The Asian influx of recent decades has accelerated a massive change toward test-prepping, gaming, and dishonesty on tests, such as the recent cancellation of an SAT administration in South Korea. It would have happened anyway in the long run, but Asians have sped the process up by applying lessons they've learned over the last 1400 years.

In the past, I pooh-poohed the importance of gaming the SAT. Here's my 1991 op-ed on the SAT that appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. But, you live and learn (or, in the absence of much research, develop suspicions). Now when I think about my old insouciance on the question, I just feel like a Big Dumb White Guy.

We need some disinterested people to research and think through the issues raised by these phenomena.

For example, one question we need guidance upon is when is test-prepping a good thing or a bad thing? Recently, a federal judge threw out the Fire Department of New York's hiring test because it asked questions solely about firefighting. White guys tended to bone up on the complex subject of firefighting far more than black or Hispanic guys. Personally, I find guys test-prepping like crazy on the subject of how to save me from a fiery death to be, on the whole, a good thing. But the judge found test-prepping racist and evil. 

I would guess that test-prepping is a good thing for doctor, lawyer and accountant professional exams after graduation, and, perhaps, for the military's ASVAB entrance exam.

On the other hand, when the point of the test is to uncover information about applicants not included in the grade point average -- SAT/ACT, GMAT, and a few others -- it might not be. Or then again it might be, but I've never heard of any studies on this, one way or the other. I imagine some of my readers know of some, but I don't.

There are various studies over whether test-prepping works on the SAT in raising scores in the short run, but a major question is whether the gains on the SAT from exhaustive reviewing in high school are hollow or not in the medium to long term. I wouldn't be terribly surprised if converting the SAT into another test of work ethic and guile just proves you've got the right stuff. Or it could be that people who testprepped like crazy their ways to a higher SAT score tend to run into more trouble with, say, upper level courses in their majors. 

This wouldn't be terribly difficult for academics to test at their own universities, although there would be informed consent issues.

Finally, there's the question of how much all this stuff warps the culture. If your parents gamed the system like crazy when you were four to get you into Dalton so you could go to Yale and then Harvard Business School so you can become a Master of the Universe on Wall Street, is it all that surprising if you then try to game the mortgage market and wind up blowing up the world?

34 comments:

Tim said...

If Asians are such test-prep virtuosos, why don't they trounce whites on the LSAT or the GRE verbal?

Education Realist wrote in 2012:

Many people are dismissive of verbal tests. One common charge is that verbal questions are open to interpretation but—how can I say this delicately—that’s because the distinctions that resolve the ambiguities are often only obvious to people with exceptionally strong verbal skills.

The other frequent complaint about verbal tests involves the sneer that “they’re just vocabulary tests and anyone can memorize if they wanted to”.

Well, if any group were going to prove that assertion true, it would be Asians. Asian American teens spend 100 hours or more in SAT test prep (and that’s just class time) and now have higher scores than whites in math and writing. But somehow, despite the fact that the 2005 SAT became significantly friendlier to memorization, whites still top Asians in reading. Back in China and Korea, where testers spend, literally, months in full time test prep, memorization should certainly do some good. But the rampant cheating in both China and Korea (and Taiwan and a host of other Asian countries) suggests that memorization wasn’t getting the job done, which is why GRE banned testing in these countries. I’m not suggesting that all Asians cheat, nor do I think that high Asian American scores are due to cheating (one of my many second jobs is at an SAT academy). But anyone who thinks that memorization is a key factor in high verbal scores isn’t acknowledging that we’ve got a demographic willing to put in the time, and it’s not made a big difference.

Ironically, given this confidence about faking out the GRE, a difficult verbal test is nearly impervious to coaching and the old GRE was the worst. I quit taking GRE students because it was too depressing. The LSAT reading test, as I mentioned, is challenging to eke out improvement for most people–the text is abstract and the questions as tough as I’ve ever seen–tougher than the GRE, where the difficulty is in the vocabulary sections. In contrast, the GMAT and MCAT verbals are entirely coachable. That does not mean the tests are easy, but coaches can teach people how the test works, increase their content knowledge, teach them how to read more strategically, and see improvement.

Unlike the SAT, the GRE was never renormed for the huge influx of average and below average intellects. It remained, as the SAT once was, the closest thing the college tests had to a pure IQ test. The math test didn’t allow a calculator and, while the subject matter never got beyond geometry, it remained more abstract than the SAT was after the changes in the 90s and 2005–and consequently, much more difficult than it’s given credit for. But it, too, could be coached. (By “coached”, I only mean that people could improve their performance to the top of their range. For some people, that range is much greater than they know; for others, it’s a small step. That’s why average coaching improvements look so small.)

Anonymous said...

In agreement with Tim about the tests. I would look at who in the US cares to test prep the SAT. The answer (after we exclude the Asians) is upper middle class educated whites whose children learned little in k-12, who they want to have a chance at working the future credential game.

To change the subject slightly, public schools are truly abysmal. They are day care. but even in privates and charters, no one is learning anything academic in school. Let me repeat: no one is learning anything academic at school. Schools' scores can not distinguish the hypothesis that kids were taught something there from the null hypothesis that good scores are due to students whose natural ability allows them to score well. Bad score schools come from having students who are low natural performers; good score schools have better performers as students.

Parents who love their "good" schools are dimly aware by high school that their child knows no grammar, rhetoric, vocabulary, expository composition, or content (and absolutely no math.)

So they then spend a bunch on test prep to minor avail, because their kids aren't geniuses or pro level athletes.

The top schools--ivies, MIT, Stanford etc.---aren't taking in white kids who had to test prep to get into the 2150 range. They can take the ones who cakewalked. Test prep is then left to help the non-genius whose mom hopes to get into Carleton or at least Drexel.

They are kids who have no drops of politically correct blood to help them, and whose parents know the game is rigged since they approved of the rigging when they thought they were sticking it to the man.

Low and middle class whites don't seriously test prep. And rich whites endow chairs instead.

Anonymous said...

Why don't these kind of tests have a humor section? I think that sense of humor has always been considered a huge separator of thought types. No value in predicting future success?

Neil Templeton

Anonymous said...

SAT test prep still won't work for the 2 digit IQ; it requires a level of judgment and analysis they can't do. And SAT test prep isn't going to work if you don't put in the effort to from the vocabulary and learn how to read effectively. So SAT test prep is a kind of proxy for hard work and effort which is probably a decent thing for college success in most places.

But the corruption of the culture to the credentialed one is a problem. Still that wouldn't matter if colleges taught real subjects anymore.

No one cares that k-12 teaches nothing because neither does college. Our current college and grad level elites know no literature and no history; can't perform basic algebraic manipulations and never could tell ballpark if a computation produced reasonable mathematical answer.

A non gameable test would be better for pure aptitude, but so what if colleges don't so anything with aptitude anyway but provide an expensive dating service for parents? They want to know how well their future daughter in law's parents were able to game the system and how much effort they put in to trying.


Education Realist said...

I've actually changed my views since that on the SAT, when I looked at the percentiles of Asians in the top group, here:

http://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/college-admissions-race-and-unintended-consequences/

Weird. SAT scores are generally pretty stable. Until I started researching this, I had no idea that the Asian increase was that dramatic, and it is part of a series of discoveries over past year making me wonder if the big gap between Asian and white test prep use (and time spent in test prep) is doing more than just giving Asians a slight edge. This piece is long enough without bringing up the ACT, but I believe that a 700 M corresponds to a 32—or it used to, anyway—and notice that a 32 is only 85%ile for Asians. I have been working on these two essays for ten days or so, and I haven’t yet been able to find ACT percentiles by race over the past ten years or so. Reading and English appear to be roughly the same. However, almost three times as many Asians take the SAT as take the ACT.

One other thing to keep in mind—the number of native Chinese and Koreans taking the test has exploded. Are they fluent in English? Ask any university freshman at an elite school with a Chinese or Korean grad student instructor. So by any stretch, the Asian mean should have been dropping slightly, shouldn’t it? Which means either Asian Americans have gotten phenomenally better, the Chinese/Korean nationals are also getting high Verbal SAT scores, or….what? What explains this jump?

Whites had increased scores in reading, which I believe supports my contention that the 2005 changes were easier. Why did white math scores stay stable? That’s part of a longer post that’s all intuition on my part. Suffice it to say that the SAT math section is both shorter and easier. This helps people with high attention to detail who aren’t as intuitively strong in math. (yes, I know, the SAT supposedly tests higher math since 2005. Too long for this post, but I would disagree.) However, I do understand there could be other factors at work.


I'm actually writing more on this right now. Fundamentally, I'm starting to wonder if Asians are changing the game, test prep wise. But I'm not entirely sure about the 'how'.

(and dude, next time, provide a link! I just luv the traffic.)

Anonymous said...

The bar exam is a hybrid. No matter how smart you are, you can't pass it without some study. But if you are dumb, hundreds of hours of tutoring won't be enough to pass it. At my good law school not a single minute was spent on bar prep. At bad law schools, roughly 100% of time is for bar prep, because many of these schools have bar pass rates under 40%, and risk being shut down if it goes any lower.

A number of obscure topics relating to intestate succession and accounting for assets in community property divorces are tested. Less than 1% of lawyers will ever deal with these topics, but they require the memorization and application of a large number of arbitrary rules, and are thus extremely g-loaded tasks.

Indeed, the multistate bar exam tests a set of common law rules that don't even exist in any one state. Officially, you prep for and are tested on the "majority rule."

This has been going on for some time now. Some of the random rules law students have to memorize deal with English real property circa 1780, including concepts like "fee tail" and legal devices that let noblemen keep their land with blood relatives, even if the relatives want to sell or give them to someone else. Right now, fee tail estates are only allowed in Rhode Island, yet every law student in every state needs to know in detail what it is and how it works. Meanwhile, no law student will learn how to help someone picked up for DUI.

Generally, the legal profession tries to keep out criminals and people with IQs below 120. Beyond that, you also have to pay bar fees of $400 a year, and spend $250 every three years taking continuing education classes.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Charlton makes a good point on the tests. In the first grade, children have to learn the words on the first grade word list in order to go to second grade. It is not much of a feat, only about 100 common words, but there it is. However, to judge how students are learning to read, teachers use a really short word list of like ten (maybe 15) words that are representative of a certain reading level. Obviously, if kids had the list, they could memorize them and game it, but there is little point because it just gets them moved up to a set of reading materials that they can't read anyway. It is just a tool teachers have that they can use to figure out a kid's reading level in about 30 seconds to a minute.

Anonymous said...


Whites had increased scores in reading, which I believe supports my contention that the 2005 changes were easier. Why did white math scores stay stable? That’s part of a longer post that’s all intuition on my part. Suffice it to say that the SAT math section is both shorter and easier. This helps people with high attention to detail who aren’t as intuitively strong in math. (yes, I know, the SAT supposedly tests higher math since 2005. Too long for this post, but I would disagree.)


Yeah, I also disagree.

My son tends to make on or two simple errors when he takes these tests regardless of how easy or hard they are. Obviously missing two problems out of 20 on an Alg. 1 test looks a lot different from missing one or two on a Trig test. So, he is always happy when the tests are really hard because he generally will do better compared to other test takers who may not actually know how to do the problems on the more difficult test but who may have an advantage by just making fewer small errors.

Anonymous said...

As I understand it, all the 'big' tests like SAT or GMAT are really just IQ tests in disguise ie they are highly g-loaded and serve as a proxy for direct IQ tests.
From what I've read 'test prepping' on such tests does give one an improvement, (over an 'unprepped' candidate), but to a point. Their is a ceiling at which the score 'maxes-out' due to individual IQ. Also there is the question of the test setters - if the same individual is setting all the questions, then the cunning candidate gets to 'recognise' the setter's style - hence all the big tests are done by committees.
Anyway, the point is that there are an enormous number of guides and self-help books on the market enabling virtually any candidate who so wishes to practice as much as he wants. As for the kiddy tests, well that's just getting ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

"boys earn 96% of the perfect 800's on math"

That high in 91! Today it's only 67 and decreasing.

"Even average students respected it for exposing some straight-A classmates as mere grindaholic weenies who never read anything besides textbooks."

There is a good blog post by some guy who instead of getting beaten up by bullies stood up to them, while the nerds thought such behavior was beneath them.
However, their mental superiority suffered greatly when he outscored them on an aptitude test.

Callowman said...

I taught Princeton Review SAT prep courses back in the 80s. A lot of what they taught were basic test-taking strategies that smart people have already figured out, and dumb people may know intuitively even if they can't put them into words.

For example, each question has 5 possible answers, and you get 1 point for a correct answer and lose 0.25 for a wrong answer. Thus it's worth your while to guess if you can eliminate even one possible answer. Knowing this enables you to leverage partial knowledge. If e.g. you don't know what "pusillanimous" means, but you know it's something bad, you can eliminate any candidate answers that mean something good.

Being able to do meta-analysis of things like test-taking strategies is no doubt g-loaded, but you can slightly game the system by paying smart people like the people who designed the Princeton Review courses to do the meta-analysis for you. Not to turn this into an ad for them, but I had also been fed the dumb idea that nothing but a lifetime of reading and thought could prepare you for the SATs when I was in high school. The reality is that even smart people can derive some marginal benefit from those courses, and the average thoughtless upper-middle-class dummy can gain quite a lot.

Anonymous said...

But the corruption of the culture to the credentialed one is a problem.

This.

Everything else is just so much hot air.

What are we at now? Six of the ten richest counties are suburbs of The Emperor's Walled City on the Potomac?

The fundamental problem here is this top-down smash-mouth bureaucracy-driven pedal-to-the-metal suicidal plunge towards mandarinized eunuchized professionalistic credentialism amongst the children who ought to be our best and brightest.

I don't know if I have a sufficiently broad familiarity with Western history to recognize the big epicyclic patterns at work here, but it seems as though even the men of Athens and Sparta would have recognized this sort of thing - in their own era - as at least a neo-Feudalism, if not already a neo-neo-Feudalism.

Still that wouldn't matter if colleges taught real subjects anymore.

Exactly.

All of this studying wouldn't be such a bad thing, if it helped a bright secondary-school student move from calculus of a single variable to calculus of several variables to advanced calculus and linear algebra and some basic group theory.

Or, on the left-brain side of things, from a Stratfordian analysis of the Sonnets to the reading of Ovid in the original Latin to a study of Tudor-era micro-history to an Oxfordian analysis of the Sonnets. And therefrom perhaps a budding familiarity with the great intellectual and spiritual debates of that era which were being waged between the peoples of Northwest Europe versus the eunuchs of the Emperor's Walled City in West-Central Italy.

panjoomby said...

"boys earn 96% of the perfect 800's on math" + "That high in 91! Today it's only 67 and decreasing."
probably b/c it's been 'dumbed down' (some hard items have been deleted - so there are more people who score '800' - meaning the test has decided not to discriminate - as in 'differentiate between' - those at the 99th %ile vs. those at the 99.9th %ile & simply lumps them together - aka a 'ceiling effect')

Anonymous said...

So where will all these sociopaths-in-training go when Wall street shrinks back to a more economically constructive size. During the Great Depression, Wall Street employment fell dramatically (> 80%), by the advent of WWII. I'm sure their parents shudder at the prospect of the children actually doing honest work for a living, especially after all the training in lying and cheating.

rob said...

There is a good blog post by some guy who instead of getting beaten up by bullies stood up to them, while the nerds thought such behavior was beneath them.
However, their mental superiority suffered greatly when he outscored them on an aptitude test.


I think I remember that. A blogger called 'Manhattan Transfer' wrote about it a few years ago. The 'bullies' were mostly blacks. The nerds didn't fight back, but not because it was beneath them. They didn't fight back because they thought that grades, disciplinary records, and such mattered for admissions to the top tier NYC high schools. Schools punish kids for stomping or even upsetting bullies more they punish the bullies even when the bullies are white; the nerds were more concerned about their futures...

Dizzam! I found the post.

http://manhattantransfer.blogspot.com/2004/10/you-arent-as-smart-as-you-think-you.html

MLK said...

There is a good analogy in the distinction drawn between a test and an exam in a bar exam. I have taken and passed California's. It consistently has about a 50 percent pass rate, thus it does its job. It is not a test of knowledge in that there is no particular body of law from which the right answers are drawn. Thus it functions as a test of one's skills in preparing for and taking the bar exam. Moreover, the enormous range of possible subject matter ensures that intelligence and the other skills necessary to be a lawyer are correlated with overall outcome, much more so than with the amount of prepping (ala Gladwell). The bar exam is pass/fail. It is not ranking takers on a bell curve.

It seems to me that this last facet should be applied to whatever test is given to four and five year olds. A test designed to iidentify membership in a top percentage, not to distinguish among the left most portion of the bell curve. After all, these are elementary schools for the elite, not for little geniuses. Indeed, the exclusive purpose of these tests should be thought of as the opposite, to simply weed out from consideration any children below a certain threshold of intelligence, regardless of their juiced-in connections. This is little different than what you have described in terms of admissions to elite colleges through large donations by parents. As long as the kid doesn't fall BELOW a certain threshold they're in.

Structuring the admissions test this way would serve the institution's purpose, and would still direct enormous parental resources to prep companies.

However, if this can function well with young adults, it should even more so with four and five year olds. The objective is to outsmart those who are relying on rote memorization over on the fly reasoning. Surely it cannot be that difficult to come up with a large enough and varied enough test for four and five year olds that can do this.

Mountain Maven said...

When I was hiring I used testing to weed out those who were not qualified to do the job. The tests were based on the actual work to be done. Exposed the pretenders and liars very well.

Mountain Maven said...

Prepping for and cheating on tests will get you in the school and maybe into your first job. But if you don't have the ability and the character, you will plateau at best. I worked with very book smart people in my profession who went to brand name school passed all the tests but went nowhere with their careers. But I wasn't a fireman.

John F said...

Remember that NYT article on ubiquitous, shameless cheating at Stuyvesant? Harvard, Princeton, Yale, etc., recruit heavily from schools of such elite quality. (I went to a prep school in MA which sent ~10 students to Harvard per year, out of a class of ~20.) Big Finance recruits-- sometimes with virtual exclusivity-- heavily from colleges of said quality. What's that phrase again? Oh, yes: "You do the math!"

The most infuriating part of that article to me, IIRC, was a story about a teacher who let his pupil's cheating slide just because the student had gotten into an Ivy. Disgusting, and a perfect synecdoche for our current, perilous national disorder.

Anonymous said...

One other thing to keep in mind—the number of native Chinese and Koreans taking the test has exploded. Are they fluent in English?

I suspect the high foreign- to native-born ratio of Asians taking the test explains the Asian to white disparity in the verbal section. Imperial exams have been part of the Chinese landscape for 1400 years. To the extent that the Chinese alive today are mainly descended from the high-level literati* of antiquity, you'd expect Chinese verbal scores to be higher rather than lower than white averages.

* Even during the Great Leap Forward, the literati got to eat. The peasants, not so much.

Anonymous said...

Just focus on cheating. Test prepping has its limits. A mediocre student, no matter the amount of prepping, will not do good on a test if the test measures something other than rote memory stuff.

It's like everyone has his or her limits in running. No matter how hard you train, you aint run beyond your natural limit.

So, prepping will help smart do better but will not really help the average and dumb, at least when it comes to elite colleges. An average student, by working very very hard, might make it into a decent public university, but he or she aint gonna make it to princeton, yale, or harvard.

However, prepping might help the very studious bright-but-not-genius student over the genius-but-not-too-studious student who might actually achieve more at an elite college. The former may do better on the test but have less long-term potential for high achievement than the latter.

To fix this, maybe there should be an alternative exam offered. This would be a hardcore super-IQ-centric exam that is impossible to prep for.
Suppose your school grades and SAT scores aren't good enough to get you into Harvard but you feel that you got more natural IQ than most.
Then you are offered this super IQ test and if you do well on it, you get special admission to elite colleges.

elvisd said...

We need some disinterested people to research and think through the issues raised by these phenomena.

I've seen this almost-dead word turn up a couple of times recently, and I'm happy for it. I plan to have a discussion with my students on the concept of disinterestedness-and if my brain still has recall, find a couple of dusty old texts on the subject for them to read.

elvisd said...

Being able to do meta-analysis of things like test-taking strategies is no doubt g-loaded, but you can slightly game the system by paying smart people like the people who designed the Princeton Review courses to do the meta-analysis for you. Not to turn this into an ad for them, but I had also been fed the dumb idea that nothing but a lifetime of reading and thought could prepare you for the SATs when I was in high school.

Here in ACT-flyover country, we found that Princeton's was the best as well.

Anonymous said...

Check out the recently-released lists of national merit semifinalists. In California it was an epic blow-out by the Asians. So much that the bar rose by three points vs last year. Even the great and the good couldn't be vey happy, as only about a dozen white kids at the Palo Alto schools made the cut.

Anonymous said...

If Asians are such test-prep virtuosos, why don't they trounce whites on the LSAT or the GRE verbal?
I agree, I think whites are better at verbal tests than Asians for Law School or graduate school.

Anonymous said...

As I understand it, all the 'big' tests like SAT or GMAT are really just IQ tests in disguise ie they are highly g-loaded and serve as a proxy for direct IQ tests.
Is is true, the similarity in the verbal test is very similar. I just read that Verbal IQ Peaks around the early 50's while Performance around 24 to 25.

Anonymous said...

SAT test prep still won't work for the 2 digit IQ; it requires a level of judgment and analysis they can't do. And SAT test prep isn't going to work if you don't put in the effort to from the vocabulary and learn how to read effectively. So SAT test prep is a kind of proxy for hard work and effort which is probably a decent thing for college success in most places.
Not true, there is a disorder called Williams where IQ's on the Verbal are between 100 to 140 but very poor on performance 50 to 90. Williams people can write a detailed paragraph about an elephant but can't draw an elephant. Its a chromosome disorder. Turner's syndrome in girls can produce IQ's in the 90's because the performance is poor like Williams the Visual-Spacial skills are much worst. Turner girls can have verbal scores between 100 to 140 but low average to retarded on some of the performance parts of IQ. These girls are great in English but poor in math.

Anonymous said...

If Asians are such test-prep virtuosos, why don't they trounce whites on the LSAT or the GRE verbal?
I agree, I think whites are better at verbal tests than Asians for Law School or graduate school.


Unless you filter for native- vs foreign-born, there's probably some kind of language issue involved. There's also the question of whether there's any filter for foreign students at all, or if they're all shoehorned into the Asian category. East Asians, in particular, are handicapped by the nature of their native languages, which are nothing like the Indo-European languages, as I found to my chagrin while trying to pick up conversational Mandarin.

Anonymous said...

"boys earn 96% of the perfect 800's on math"

"That high in 91! Today it's only 67 and decreasing."

I guess Larry Summers was wrong.
As girls focus more on math, they are catching up and fast too.

Anonymous said...

"information...not included in the grade point average"
Partly because testing has arisen with the locus of control in publi
$$hing and not within schools and colleges and work settings, there has been a tendency to lose sight of the elemental fact that interest in testing arose from, and as an extension and refinement of, assessment. Assessment was refined and extended when it became more than informed "evidence of the eyeball" in work and school settings and started using rating scales, checklists, etc.
The assessment indications appear to have been conclusive that as a group Negro slaves were markedly mentally dull vis a vis White workers. As expensive chattel , slaves were not enhanced in market value by being so characterized. It is just that Mr. Reality seemed to reward such a social/assessment/ judgment by the use of closer worker supervision,
and a better fit between worker and task demands. Testing is rooted far earlier than Binet and
J. M. Cattell.

Anonymous said...

"I guess Larry Summers was wrong. As girls focus more on math, they are catching up and fast too."

No, two things:

The past 25 years in education has been about the tailoring of the school experience toward the profit of girls and the detriment of boys.

Teenage girls aren't nearly the consumers of online porn and video games that teenage boys are.

pat said...

It seems to me that the heart of the "Rocky" movies is test prep.

Rocky has an upcoming fight with an opponent who is bigger, stronger and more skilled. But Rocky goes into his 'test prep' mode and triumphs in the final reel.

We have all seen the movies where Denzel Washington as the charismatic football coach molds a bunch of mixed race under achievers into winners through aggressive test prep. Working hard in training is the moral lesson taught in our preachy sports films.

Yet why don't we have movies with someone like Chow Yun Fat leading a group of Asian kids to prepare for their GREs? You don't have to commission a new screenplay - just change the ethnicity of almost any sports drama.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

"Check out the recently released lists of National Merit semi-finalists" It seems well within the range of collaborated effort to find out, locale by locale, how many Blacks have made it as Semi-Finalists--and how Black they seem to be inasmuch as about all high schools yield up yearbooks containing photos of about all students. ("about all" The "Buckley Amendment" in the late 70's allows students to demand in writing that they not be included in such photos, et., but this little wrinkle would not affect the validity of any wide survey ) Again, with due regard to the privacy rights that can be activated by student/parent request, all local newspapers publish the names of National Merit Semi Finalists. (There is no indication, as far as I can determine, that Barry Obama made Semi-Finalist in his Hawaian high school )

Anonymous said...

Teenage girls aren't nearly the consumers of online porn and video games that teenage boys are.

If boys were falling behind because they were distracted, the raw # of males scoring 800 would have fallen but I don't think that happened.

The 2/3 / 1/3 ratio can probably be accounted for by the "fat tails" that men have on the bell curve. The low hanging fruit that brought the ratio from 90/10 or whatever it was in the distance past has all been picked and now that number will lock in, just like the 100 point black/white gap which has been rock solid for decades. The people who are saying that the gender gap will completely disappear are the same ones who have been saying that the racial cap will disappear any day now. They are not dealing in facts but in ideology.