Michael Matteo: Wokeness and the dumbing down of America

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

For decades so-called progressive educators (an oxymoron), have pushed for standards to be dropped for a variety of reasons.  The latest fashionable group of ideas for the elimination of standards include the repetitious woke words: “Diversity and Inclusion.” The SAT has been in existence since 1926, and it has been a source of controversy for many years.  It has been redesigned, and since many universities and colleges are now making it optional, the test has been shortened and by 2024 will be completely online according to the College Board.

The SAT is not new to changes, but the changes of previous years involved competition with the ACT because most colleges required one of these tests as part of their admissions process.  However, now, in the era of inclusion and diversity a student’s proficiency to show that they can understand complex reading passages or do difficult math problems is seen by many as inequitable.  For years the SAT had a top score of 1600 (800 for math/800 for reading and writing), then it was changed to 2400, with individual scores for reading, writing and math), then it was back to 1600.  The essay writing was mandatory, but then it became optional.  The once dreaded vocabulary section (leading to the often used phrase “SAT words”) was dumped as part of the reading section of the test over a decade ago because of a general feeling that this part of the test was no longer useful.

According to the College Board, the new test will be 2 hours instead of 3 hours, there will be additional time between questions, shorter reading passages and reading passages will have a “wider range” of topics.  For math sections calculators can be used for the entire section (in the past certain sections didn’t allow calculators).  Students will also be able to use their own devices.

Previous changes to the SAT were more about marketability and competition.  Yet, whether a student took an ACT or an SAT, it was a good measure of a student’s aptitude and ability to perform in college when viewed along with the students high school grades.  There have been many studies about SAT scores and student success.    According to 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. 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. Why SAT Scores Predict College and Life Success • Love the SAT Test Prep

Despite claims of those on the left, it is obvious that the combination of college entrance exam scores and student GPA’s have a correlation with whether or not a student will graduate from college.  It is unconscionable to place students in situations that they are not academically prepared to face, and this factor obviously contributes to high college dropout rates.  Students in foreign countries take TOEFL or IELTS tests to determine their level of English proficiency before they are allowed to be admitted to a university.  Doesn’t it make sense to determine English proficiency before admitting a student to an English speaking university?  Yet no one is clamoring for the elimination of English language tests for foreign students.  Doesn’t it make sense that the admissions process should determine if a students has the skills to read college level texts?

According to ThinkImpact, college dropout rates average 40% for undergraduate students. Only 41% of graduates graduate in 4 years or less and 3 in 10 students drop out after or within the first year in college. These numbers illustrate a serious problem with student preparedness to do well at the university level.  As we move away from merit in favor of having diverse looking campuses, it’s obvious that this creates a serious problem of competency.  Standards have been viewed as exclusionary by some, including Georgetown law professor Sheryll Cashin who called for the abolition of the SAT in an op-ed piece she wrote for Politico. She labeled the SAT as one of many “old norms of exclusion” and went on to discard it for “a fairer and more inclusive system.”    Jonathan Sures who serves on the University Of California Board Of Regents said, “I believe this test is a racist test, there’s no two ways about it.” Varsha Sarveshwar, current president of the University of California Student Association, stated that because wealthier students can pay for test preparation courses it is “classist and racist.”  California has made it a state policy to do away with standardized tests as part of its admissions policy for at least the next five years.

The idea that students shouldn’t have to demonstrate requisite skills before entering college is the equivalent of denying employers the right to use measures to determine whether or not an applicant has the requisite skills to be hired for a job.  To win in competitive markets whether they are domestic or global, companies must employ the best workers; diversity may be a benefit, but it is surely not the best way to win at anything.  Professional sports teams don’t win championships by putting the most diverse lineup on the playing field, they do it by putting the best lineup on the playing field, and the same is true for companies and admissions to universities.

If we are to use diversity as the main criteria for admission to college, it is no wonder that the dropout rates are so high. Replacing vital skills as a requirement with spurious factors such as race, gender or ethnicity as a criteria for admission may make a campus look desirable to some, but the reality is that it does a disservice to those who are qualified, but not admitted as well as to those admitted, but not qualified because they end up quitting.  Of course the colleges still get their tuition money, but the true cost ends up falling on those denied and those who can’t handle the work.  Inevitably society suffers due to the waste of time and resources.

Trickle down stupidity doesn’t just lie with the college admissions process. Some public school systems are also advocating eliminating D’s and F’s because of the stigma associated with failing.  Other school systems, such as in New York, have individuals advocating the elimination of gifted programs that have been charged with being racist and exclusionary.  It’s obvious that these people believe that the best and brightest students should be held back in the guise of equity, but if that were the case would we have ever allowed people like Einstein or Edison to have jumped ahead of everyone else because they had the audacity to know more than everyone else in their fields?

Denying that the interior of an organization, an educational institution or anything else should be the determinant in terms of its quality is a fatal mistake.  A piece of candy or delicious dessert may look great on the outside, but if any of the ingredients is spoiled, the after effect could make a person ill.  The same holds true when individuals are hired for jobs or admitted to universities that are beyond their abilities and solely on how they “look.”  Unfortunately this is the woke way, which is the ideology that when people don’t do well on a test, it’s the test’s fault, and said test must be changed to yield the desired results.

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