In a fascinating mash up of patriotism and international competition, the new SAT brings a new emphasis on what The College Board is calling a “global conversation”. Focusing on US founding documents like the Declaration of Independence, Federalist Papers and Bill of Rights, this will require students to think critically about the implication of central principles underscoring American democracy.
One could argue that the “global” conversation’s exclusive focus on US-centered information creates an additional hurdle for international students. After all, each country encourages study of its own national identity and historical documents, but in order to achieve college admissions in US schools, the 2016 SAT will mandate literacy in foundational American texts that until now have not been prominently featured.
Each new SAT exam features passages similar to what an AP US History student might expect to find, where students have to accurately assess and analyze the meaning and implications of key historical writings, including excerpts from American thinkers Henry David Thoreau, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Martin Luther King Jr. Despite a sprinkling of cameos from the likes of Gandhi and Edmund Burke on issues like human dignity, freedom and justice, this new SAT really waves the red, white and blue.
Not all documents date back several centuries, either. A sample question from the pre-released test, for example, asks students to analyze the main rhetorical effect of the series of three phrases by Congresswoman Barbara Jordan of Texas in the impeachment hearings in 1974 against then-president Richard M. Nixon. How much do you think an average international student knows about Tricky Dick? In this change, American students seem to have a decided edge of familiarity.
Look, there are always reasons corporations do things, and most of the changes coming to this test strike me as a deliberate attempt to minimize international competition for American admission, maximize College Board profits, or both.
Oh, and did you know? According to pubic tax records, between 7/1/10-6/30/11 – this “non-profit” netted an astounding $71.7 million. The College Board would practically hold a monopoly on college admissions were it not for test-optional schools and the ACT.
“You want into our universities? Learn to think American.”
How’s that for a global conversation?