Easter: The Profane And The Eternal

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nyt-obama-in-front-of-cross-thumb-500x325-10204It’s Easter, and perhaps time to consider the difference between the world of men and the eternal. In a February 8, 2012 article, I wrote in part: 

Perhaps the most egregious, and to Christians, the most insulting manifestation of this trend was the New York Time’s Easter 2010 image of Mr. Obama depicting him “preaching” before a brace of microphones, his hand raised in a Christ-like pose, his image superimposed over a cross, at the base of which is the White House.  When Obama sycophants address Mr. Obama as “The One,” a title coined by Oprah Winfrey, they obviously embrace the messianic implications the name was given in the “Matrix” films, that of a transcendent, supernatural, all-powerful, savior figure.

Whether the NYT was trying to insult Christians or was merely so religiously tone deaf as to believe such an image would be pleasing to them and helpful to Mr. Obama, any Christian so depicted would move Heaven and Earth to disavow it and to ensure that such imagery never happened again. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t recall Mr. Obama doing this–for any of these images–which is not surprising for a man who, upon winning the nomination of his party for President, said:

…this [his nomination] was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal…

Christians that live their faith tend not to think—or speak—this way.  Actually, who–not being possessed by debilitating, clinical narcissism and/or messianic delusions–thinks or speaks this way?

One of my daily visits in the blogosphere is my friend Bookworm at Bookworm Room.  Not only is she a fine writer, her past provides a unique perspective on cultural issues. She is, you see, a recovering progressive, and more, she lives in one of the most progressive places on the planet: Marin, California. Her thoughts often provoke my own, as did a significant article comparing the words of Barack Obama on Christianity and Islam. 

This is a topic–is our President a Muslim or a Christian?–I’ve addressed several times in the past, because it is a matter of some importance. The beliefs of any President of the United States and his means of putting them into practice can change the world. Here’s another excerpt from my February 8, 2012 article. Looking back, in terms of relevance, I could easily have written it today.

Is Barack Hussein Obama a Muslim?  Mr. Obama has repeatedly claimed that he is Christian by choice.  Americans routinely take people at their word on such matters, but Americans are free to change churches and religions at will. The world’s observant Muslims have quite a different take on this issue.

There is no question that Mr. Obama was born to a Muslim father.  It is not only a matter of record, but Mr. Obama has admitted it in writing and in multiple interviews and speeches.  In addition, despite progressives–and some Muslims–crying discrimination and racism when Mr. Obama’s middle name is mentioned, he has often traded on that name–and his self-confessed affinity for Islam–when he has considered it advantageous.  The fact remains that only Muslim children are named “Hussein.”  He was Mohammed’s grandson and is revered in Islam as a holy martyr.  On his school enrollment forms in Indonesia, the young Obama was recorded as a Muslim.  This is unsurprising as the children of a Muslim father are themselves Muslims; it is not a matter of choice, nor may one choose to leave Islam.  Those who do become apostates and Islam dictates but one fate for apostasy: death.  That most Muslims would not try to kill an apostate speaks well of their individual character, but millions and more would, which speaks to the dictates of their faith and their willingness to follow it to the letter.

Mr. Obama may claim any faith he chooses and many Americans will accept that—as long as there is not convincing evidence to the contrary—but the world’s Muslims are a different story.  This would seem to make Mr. Obama’s belief in his ability to engage and persuade the Muslim world naïve in the extreme.  The leader of the “Great Satan,” who also happens to be a self-proclaimed apostate is unlikely to be well received or convincing, and his open, extended hand will most likely be met only with a clenched fist, as has been the case to date.  His initiatives to the Iranians, Palestinians, Libyans and Egyptians, for example, have been abject failures and have arguably made things worse.

It’s almost hard to imagine that our relations with the Muslim world, actually, virtually the entire world, are even worse now than when I wrote that article. Mr. Obama’s choice of Hillary Clinton and the execrable John Kerry as successive Secretaries of State have had a substantial hand in the diminution of America’s power and prestige. It is surely not out of bounds to suggest that Mr. Obama’s often stated affinity for Islam is playing a hand in our foreign policy, whatever it might be at any given moment.

From Bookworm, a sampling of Mr. Obama’s statements on Christianity:

Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation.’

‘We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation.

‘Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith?’

‘Even those who claim the Bible’s inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, sensing that some passages – the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ’s divinity – are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life.’

‘Obama’s response when asked what his definition of sin is: Being out of alignment with my values.’

‘If all it took was someone proclaiming I believe Jesus Christ and that he died for my sins, and that was all there was to it, people wouldn’t have to keep coming to church, would they.’

‘In our household, the Bible, the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology.

For the President of the United States, being out of alignment with his values is sin.  I might be wrong, but I believe Christian theology has quite a different definition.

A sampling of Mr. Obama’s statements on Islam:

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.’

‘The sweetest sound I know is the Muslim call to prayer.’

‘We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world — including in my own country.’

‘As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam.’

‘Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance.’

‘America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.’

‘I made it clear that America is not – and will never be – at war with Islam.

Christians do not judge the depth and quality of anyone’s relationship with God, however, we must make judgments about the character and integrity of others every day. To do less is to fail ourselves, our families and our nation. It is surely within the purview of any American, Christian or not, to judge the character and integrity of the President of the United States.

Gentle readers: I recommend you take the time to read my original article, and of course, Bookworm’s complete article. Then, if you please, setting aside for just a short while the American tradition of religious tolerance that generally causes us to take any man’s profession of faith at face value, do Mr. Obama’s own words–and his actions–lead you to believe he is a committed Christian, a committed Muslim, or something in between? And perhaps you might comment on the consequences of this?

Ft. Hood: They Never Get It

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credit: levycountysheriffsblog

credit: levycountysheriffsblog

The good folks over at Pajamas Media have been kind enough to publish my scribblings for the last three or so years, and have fallen for it again with my latest article: “Fort Hood and Disarmament,” which was the headline article on 04-16-14, but is inevitably working its way to the bottom now. It’s about the ramifications of the latest Ft. Hood shooting, and school shootings, specifically, that our attention is focused on each new outrage, but our politicians never seem to get the message that the only thing that stops bad guys with guns is good guys with guns.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with Pajamas Media, one of the premier conservative sites on the Internet. If you have a few minutes, it may be worth your time.

Am I a God and Gun Clinger?

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I find myself in the odd position of commenting on one of my own articles. Regular readers know that SMM is not a confessional blog dripping daily with my existential angst. I’ll be frank (who would you like to be?): I generally consider that sort of thing to be far too self-absorbed and doubt that readers are much interested in that sort of navel-gazing. After all, I’m not a big-busted starlet, and I assume, gentle readers, that you have lives that occupy you sufficiently that trying to live vicariously through me is not only unnecessary, but tiring.

This little bit of navel-gazing is occasioned by an article recently published by the good folks at The Truth About Guns, one of the most trafficked gun blogs: Why It’s So Hard To Discuss Guns Rationally With Some People.” 

In essence, the brief article was nothing more than a primer on Progressive/statist philosophy regarding the Second Amendment. I linked to that TTAG article at SMM with “Self-Defense and God.” 

Actually, the article contained only a brief reference to God, a reference I naively thought would be non-controversial. Silly me. Here is the offending passage that caused a great many readers to ignore and/or misunderstand the rest of the article, indeed, the point:

The common man isn’t capable of knowing what’s best for them. In order for statism to exist and flourish, individualism and individual rights must be continually diminished. The rights of the individual can’t be allowed to hinder the inevitable growth and power of the state and the wise and benevolent diktats of the elite ruling class. It is this attitude, and the second factor, that allows the progressive/statist to deny that unalienable rights exist. The foremost of unalienable, natural rights is the right to self-defense. Without it, what other right truly matters?

The second factor: a refusal to acknowledge the existence of any power higher than themselves. In essence, they refuse to acknowledge the existence of God. For some, this lack of belief is nothing more than being made uncomfortable by the idea that there is One greater than themselves, than their current maximum, cult-of-personality leader, than the state itself. For others, progressivism/statism takes on all of the characteristics of a religion; it become a matter of unquestionable faith. For such people, believing in God is essentially apostasy.

As it relates to the Second Amendment, these two factors make it not only possible, indeed, mandatory for the progressive/statist to deny the unalienable right to self-defense. If there is no God, the individual human life has only the value recognized by the state at any given moment. The individual exists only in service to the state, and the value of their life is measured by the individual’s adherence to the state’s goals and their usefulness to the elite ruling class. That being the case, there’s nothing particularly unique or precious about any individual, therefore an unalienable right to self-defense is nothing but an annoying impediment to the larger, more important goals of the state.

Help me out here, gentle readers; I need your feedback. In making this point, I was making primary reference to the natural rights argument that inspired our Constitution. Notice that I did not demand anyone believe in God or suggest that if one does not so believe, their arguments are invalidated. Nor do I suggest anywhere in the article that if one is not a believer, they may not support the Second Amendment, or their support is somehow illegitimate or unwelcome.

In the very next paragraph I acknowledged that God need not be involved in this debate to understand progressive/statist thinking:

Indeed, God need not even be involved for the committed statist to deny the existence of any right of self-defense. Any unalienable right is an inherent limitation on the power of the state, and no such limitation can be acknowledged. Whether such rights are bestowed by God or invented as a result of human philosophy matters not. The power of the state cannot be diminished, and if the individual is allowed control over their own existence — if that control is bestowed by God which is far more powerful than the state — the power of the state becomes illegitimate and unquestionably hampered.

In response, “joleme,” whose comment is representative of many, wrote:

#1

Am I wrong in believing “joleme” is reading much more into my argument than is actually there? In fact, I was partially inspired by no less a progressive/statist (/Marxist?) than President Obama himself, who in 2008, speaking to a group of progressive supporters and thinking no “non-believers” would hear him, explained what non-progressives believe, saying: 

Credit: riehlworldview.com

Credit: riehlworldview.com

And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Mr. Obama was referring to small-town Pennsylvanians, and by implication, all Americans living in fly-over country. He was quickly obliged to engage in damage control: 

I said something everybody knows is true, which is there are a whole bunch of folks in small towns in Pennsylvania, in towns right here in Indiana, in my home town in Illinois, who are bitter,’ he said on a visit to Muncie, Indiana. ‘So I said when you’re bitter, you turn to what you can count on. So people vote about guns, or they take comfort from their faith and their family and their community,’ he said. ‘Now, I didn’t say it as well as I should have. If I worded things in a way that made people offended, I deeply regret that.

So Mr. Obama regretted that people were offended by what everyone—at least all good progressives–knows is true, which is non-progressive, flyover-country Americans are bitter, hate immigrants and foolishly cling to God and guns. If no less an authority on progressive/statist thought than Barack Obama raises the issue of God and guns, linking them, am I constrained from addressing the same?

“Hannibal,” apparently thinking along the lines of Mr. Obama, said:

2

Did I suggest that one must believe in God in order to “believe in self-defense? I believe I specifically made the opposite point. And on that side, is “Another Robert,” who said:

#3As I noted in the original article, if God doesn’t exist, the individual life has only the value allowed by the state. But that allowance is not dependent, one way or another, on the existence of God. Man is more than capable of denying the humanity of others, of making some animals more equal than others and therefore more deserving of human rights, and of denying those rights—such as self-defense—and the means to best achieve it, to others without Divine involved of any kind.

Perhaps I needed to provide a variety of disclaimers, to wit:

(1) While I believe in God, I do not in anyway denigrate or look down upon those that do not.

(2) The God-given, natural rights view of unalienable rights is not the only way to understand those rights.

(3) My belief in a God-given right to self-defense is, far from an impediment in securing that right, but an additional and powerful moral argument, but surely one that must be rejected by most progressives/statists.

(4) Religious faith and support for the Constitution are not mutually exclusive, nor must they coincide.

(5) In drawing a parallel between faith in God and faith in government, I make no demand that anyone worship God.

(6) In writing this primer, I do not believe or suggest that this is the only way to understand the thinking of the progressive/statist, merely one way to do so, a way based in the study of the writings of former progressives/statists that have explained their conversions, and on my own observations.

Obviously, many of those commenting made the assumption that because I did not make these specific disclaimers, I must of necessity be arguing that every progressive/statist thinks precisely as I suggested, all supporters of the Second Amendment must be “Bible thumpers,” and if they are not, they are somehow illegitimate, and even the mention of God in this debate is somehow divisive and damaging to the Constitutional, pro-freedom side.

How one may successfully square this with the indisputable fact that totalitarian governments ruthless suppress faith in God as a direct competitor to their legitimacy is anyone’s guess.

It is a source of never-ending fascination that those claiming ownership of tolerance and diversity are so often neither tolerant nor diverse. The consideration of theology is surely a legitimate topic of debate, for it encompasses the very nature of Man and of his obligations and rights. There can be no doubt that many, probably most, progressives/statists are irreligious. They admit as much, many indignantly and proudly. That state of belief is not an accident, and it has consequences, not only for personal philosophy, but for public policy. One need not be a Christian to aspire to live a moral life, or to fully support the Constitution, but when one considers the alternatives, it is arguably helpful, for freedom of all kinds—not merely religion—flourishes in free societies and is ruthlessly eradicated in tyrannies.

What’s that you say? You’re not a Christian but you believe there is an unalienable right to self-defense and fully support the Second Amendment? Good for you. Welcome to the team and have a comfortable seat on the bandwagon. We’ll begin and sustain our relationship on that basis, and if, someday, you are moved to discuss faith, I’ll be willing. Until that time, I’ll not raise the issue or try to impose my belief on you—actually I’ll never do that; it’s not Christianity–trusting that the way I live my life will be testimony enough, and a better persuader.

So, gentle readers, what do you think? Did I provide a useful analysis of political thought, or am I an intolerant Bible thumper alienating potential allies?

Women And The Nevada Taliban

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Oh dear. Every now and again I run across an apparently rational person that really, really misses the point, or at least part of one. There is a great deal of continuing fallout relating to the BLM/Bundy Ranch standoff. This is a small part of it.

In an article titled: “Bundy Ranch and the Political Powerlessness of Rural America” by David French at National Review online, French argues, reasonably, for limiting the power of the federal government to its constitutional boundaries. But at the end of the article, he writes:

Final note: Even if one sympathizes with Bundy, nothing — absolutely nothing — justifies this utterly reprehensible nonsense. Deliberately placing women in harm’s way for propaganda value is a Taliban tactic, and I do not use that term lightly.

The article to which French linked was posted on The Blaze and quoted former sheriff Richard Mack:

Former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack revealed on Monday that he and other organizers who traveled to Clark County, Nev., to support Cliven Bundy during his land dispute with the feds planned to put women on the front lines in case the ‘rogue federal officers’ started shooting.

Mack made the chilling revelation on Fox News’ ‘The Real Story’ Monday, two days after the tense standoff between Bundy and the federal government came to a peaceful end.

‘We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front,’ he said. ‘If they are going to start shooting, it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers.

A Taliban tactic? Hmm. Let’s review. It is the Obama Administration that has mandated combat roles for women.  Is that a Taliban tactic? Technically, female police officers are eligible for service on police SWAT teams, though relatively few hold those positions, state, local or federal. Is putting them on the pointed end of the spear a Taliban tactic?

Viewing video of confrontations of citizens with federal officers in the Bundy situation, I noticed quite a few women actively participating, actually on the front lines, facing the dogs, tasers and the guns of federal officers with as much courage as any of the men present. We know of the misogyny of the Taliban, and French is right, they do misuse, women, children and innocents in general for their evil purposes. The fundamental difference is that for the Taliban and similar vermin, women have no choice and no voice.

American women, in Nevada and elsewhere, are as patriotic, brave, and dedicated as men. While I always feel a protective impulse toward women, I respect them enough to honor their informed decisions. If they wish to stand on the front lines in the face of tyranny, my only desire is to stand beside them, or if they wish, behind them. This, the honest freedom to act as free men and women in defense of liberty, is what distinguishes those who went to Nevada to confront the agents of tyranny.

One may reasonably argue that such tactics are politically unwise, but Taliban tactics, Mr. French?  Really?

The SAT: New And Improved?

credit: englishcoachny.com

credit: englishcoachny.com

The Scholastic Aptitude Test has been a fixture in American education for decades, but the once mighty test, lauded as a brilliant predictive instrument, is losing its luster, in fact, it is being fundamentally revised, even “dumbed down.”  More and more colleges and universities, even elite schools, no longer require it. But the testing industry, scores of educators who make a good living teaching SAT test preparation, and supporters of standardized testing are fighting this trend.

Regular readers know that I am not in any way a fan of standardized testing, particularly mandatory, high-stakes testing. My objections are primarily based on the extraordinarily high costs of such testing, its limited or non-existent usefulness, and the extraordinary amount of class time it demands. While the SAT does not normally take class time, nor does it cost local school districts millions of dollars, I find it objectionable for many of the secondary reasons that bother me regarding the testing with which I am obligated to deal.

Keep in mind that apart from having taken the SAT as a youngster, I have also taught semester-long sessions of SAT preparation. My track record in this endeavor is, I suppose, good. By this I mean that students that take my class increase their SAT score from 100-300 points, which is a significant improvement. This improvement is primarily due not to my instructional brilliance but the fact that I know how to teach kids how to take specific kinds of tests. Using those skills, they are able to raise their scores, which absolutely contradicts the article that is the subject of this missive.

David Z Hambrick and Christoper Chabris, in response to major changes being made in the SAT, have published a defense of the SAT titled: “Yes, IQ Really Matters: Critics of the SAT and other standardized testing are disregarding the data.”  They begin:

The College Board—the standardized testing behemoth that develops and administers the SAT and other tests—has redesigned its flagship product again. Beginning in spring 2016, the writing section will be optional, the reading section will no longer test ‘obscure’ vocabulary words, and the math section will put more emphasis on solving problems with real-world relevance. Overall, as the College Board explains on its website, ‘The redesigned SAT will more closely reflect the real work of college and career, where a flexible command of evidence—whether found in text or graphic [sic]—is more important than ever.

They generalize—actually give short shrift to—opponent’s arguments:

Critics of standardized testing are grabbing this opportunity to take their best shot at the SAT. They make two main arguments. The first is simply that a person’s SAT score is essentially meaningless—that it says nothing about whether that person will go on to succeed in college. Leon Botstein, president of Bard College and longtime standardized testing critic, wrote in Time that the SAT ‘needs to be abandoned and replaced,’ and added:

‘The blunt fact is that the SAT has never been a good predictor of academic achievement in college. High school grades adjusted to account for the curriculum and academic programs in the high school from which a student graduates are. The essential mechanism of the SAT, the multiple choice test question, is a bizarre relic of long outdated 20th century social scientific assumptions and strategies.’

Calling use of SAT scores for college admissions a ‘national scandal,’ Jennifer Finney Boylan, an English professor at Colby College, argued in the New York Times that:

‘The only way to measure students’ potential is to look at the complex portrait of their lives: what their schools are like; how they’ve done in their courses; what they’ve chosen to study; what progress they’ve made over time; how they’ve reacted to adversity.’

Along the same lines, Elizabeth Kolbert wrote in The New Yorker that ‘the SAT measures those skills—and really only those skills—necessary for the SATs.

They are not impressed:

But this argument is wrong. The SAT does predict success in college—not perfectly, but relatively well, especially given that it takes just a few hours to administer. And, unlike a ‘complex portrait’ of a student’s life, it can be scored in an objective way. (In a recent New York Times op-ed, the University of New Hampshire psychologist John D. Mayer aptly described the SAT’s validity as an ‘astonishing achievement.’) In a study published in Psychological Science, University of Minnesota researchers Paul Sackett, Nathan Kuncel, and their colleagues investigated the relationship between SAT scores and college grades in a very large sample: nearly 150,000 students from 110 colleges and universities. SAT scores predicted first-year college GPA about as well as high school grades did, and the best prediction was achieved by considering both factors. Botstein, Boylan, and Kolbert are either unaware of this directly relevant, easily accessible, and widely disseminated empirical evidence, or they have decided to ignore it and base their claims on intuition and anecdote—or perhaps on their beliefs about the way the world should be rather than the way it is.

Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, it’s not just first-year college GPA that SAT scores predict. In a four-year study that started with nearly 3,000 college students, a team of Michigan State University researchers led by Neal Schmitt found that test score (SAT or ACT—whichever the student took) correlated strongly with cumulative GPA at the end of the fourth year. If the students were ranked on both their test scores and cumulative GPAs, those who had test scores in the top half (above the 50th percentile, or median) would have had a roughly two-thirds chance of having a cumulative GPA in the top half. By contrast, students with bottom-half SAT scores would be only one-third likely to make it to the top half in GPA.

Notice that the authors begin modestly, suggesting that the SAT predicts collegiate success “relatively well,” then quickly cite a psychologist’s description of the validity of the SAT as an “astonishing achievement.” What is most telling, however, is their continued use of correlation as evidence of the wonders of the SAT.

A venerable axiom is “correlation is not causation,” which is unmistakably accurate. Correlation simply means that two trends—as plotted on a graph, for example, are moving in the same general direction. Two examples:

There is a very high correlation between death and the fact that most people die in bed.

A politician in a midwestern city hired his mother at a high salary to watch for tidal waves. A reporter, hearing of this particularly obvious bit of nepotism, objected that there had never been a tidal wave in that city. “Don’t thank me; thank Mom,” the politician replied.

In the first example, it’s ridiculous to conclude that the unquestionably high correlation between bed and death should lead us to believe that mattresses are deadly. In the second, Mom, and her high salary, had nothing to do with the prevention of tidal waves, despite the irrefutable correlation between her vigilance and the lack of tidal waves.

But what of the argument that high SAT scores are correlated with first year success in college, a high GPA, eventual graduation, and even success—measured by high salaries—later in life? Let’s consider other potential factors that would contribute to those achievements, factors that are far more powerful predictors, and which cost nothing.

Who takes the SAT? Students planning to attend college. Despite the contemporary push to enroll everyone and their dog in college, those that do best, that graduate on time, and that tend to have higher-paying jobs, have always been the most intelligent and motivated people. Such people are generally willing to take the extra time to take SAT prep classes, and to spend the money and time to take the SAT multiple times to obtain the highest possible score. In addition, these students tend to be those what worked hardest in high school, kids concerned about their GPA and class ranking. While not all of these kids come from families that do not have to struggle for mere survival, a great many come from comfortable and well-off families.

As the authors suggest, IQ matters. Charles Murray suggests that in order to succeed in college, one must have a minimum IQ of 115, which is above average.

Are high SAT scores, then, necessary to demonstrate intelligence, or are the more–even most–intelligent students taking the SAT, self-selecting the correlations and results test proponents trumpet? Obviously, students who have no intention to attend college, regardless of any test, will not take the SAT. If only more intelligent students take it, how trustworthy are the results? After all, is predicting that the most intelligent and dedicated students in a given population will do well in higher academic pursuits a real accomplishment of valid test-making?  Is a test really necessary to come to that conclusion?

The authors argue that the SAT allows students whose parents are of modest means the chance to excel, to demonstrate their intelligence and ability, noting:

Thus, just as it was originally designed to do, the SAT in fact goes a long way toward leveling the playing field, giving students an opportunity to distinguish themselves regardless of their background. Scoring well on the SAT may in fact be the only such opportunity for students who graduate from public high schools that are regarded by college admissions offices as academically weak.

Unfortunately, in many institutions, particularly so-called “elite” schools, there are many factors far more important than a high SAT score. If one is of currently favored gender, race, or political leanings, high school performance and a high SAT score are of decidedly secondary importance, as is intelligence, yet the authors suggest that the SAT is the only way for disadvantaged students–whatever that might mean to a given college–to succeed. This is, obviously, ignoring the myriad factors that go into admissions decisions, factors that change dramatically from place to place and over remarkably short periods of time. How, without the SAT, do colleges that require no SAT score, make an admission decision, and do their students do worse than students with an SAT score? If so, the authors don’t say.

This is interesting:

What this all means is that the SAT measures something—some stable characteristic of high school students other than their parents’ income—that translates into success in college. And what could that characteristic be? General intelligence. The content of the SAT is practically indistinguishable from that of standardized intelligence tests that social scientists use to study individual differences, and that psychologists and psychiatrists use to determine whether a person is intellectually disabled—and even whether a person should be spared execution in states that have the death penalty. Scores on the SAT correlate very highly with scores on IQ tests—so highly that the Harvard education scholar Howard Gardner, known for his theory of multiple intelligences, once called the SAT and other scholastic measures “thinly disguised” intelligence tests.

While I have little doubt that the SAT and similar tests have aspects in common with intelligence tests, how is it then possible that my students have increased–almost uniformly–their SAT scores by 100-300 points after my less than a semester class? Did I significantly increase their IQ by teaching them what a given section of the SAT is designed to measure, how to give the test graders what they are looking for, and other “tricks” of the test-taking trade? Certainly not. I simply helped them apply their intelligence to a very specific problem: the taking of a single, very specific test.

The authors conclude:

Given everything that social scientists have learned about IQ and its broad predictive validity, it is reasonable to make it a factor in decisions such as whom to hire for a particular job or admit to a particular college or university. In fact, disregarding IQ—by admitting students to colleges or hiring people for jobs in which they are very likely to fail—is harmful both to individuals and to society. For example, in occupations where safety is paramount, employers could be incentivized to incorporate measures of cognitive ability into the recruitment process. Above all, the policies of public and private organizations should be based on evidence rather than ideology or wishful thinking.

Indeed, and what’s the best, most meaningful evidence? One score on one test taken on one day, or a student’s complete academic record, including recommendations from teachers who know their academic abilities best, essays (many colleges require hand written samples from applicants), records of their accomplishments, and even personal interviews?

College teachers can quickly tell which students are capable and serious and which are not regardless of an SAT score they will never see. SAT scores will not predict which students will spend their college days awakening in unfamiliar surroundings in pools of their own–and other’s–vomit and which will be on time for every class, having read and absorbed the material in advance. In fact, SAT scores may well be deceptive in that regard, or at the very least, not correlate well with eventual success.

If tests like the SAT are to be abandoned, it should indeed be because they don’t provide the evidence of intellect, dedication, determination and resolve their supporters claim. Ultimately, Mark Twain was right:

There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

And if the SAT is such a perfect predictive instrument, why is it being entirely revised? Has humanity changed fundamentally in brain structure and intelligence of late, or are the test maker and their cheerleaders responding to other, more potentially profitable trends?