Instead, the college admissions scandal should draw attention to a different problem: That the companies that develop and administer standardized tests have no empirical basis for placing such an emphasis on speed. Yet these companies do put a terrible premium on speed, even though the notion that faster is better has been debunked: In fact, a student’s scores on such exams correlate in a perfect linear relationship with socio-economic status rather than with a student’s ability to solve difficult problems.
Stringently timed, high-stake tests have an adverse impact against racial minorities, women, those with low socio-economic status, non-native speakers of English, older applicants, and people with disabilities. Of course, that adverse impact is further exacerbated when the ultra-wealthy cheat to inflate their children’s scores.
One of the hazards of life in the 9.9 percent is that our necks get stuck in the upward position. We gaze upon the 0.1 percent with a mixture of awe, envy, and eagerness to obey. As a consequence, we are missing the other big story of our time. We have left the 90 percent in the dust-and we’ve been quietly tossing down roadblocks behind us to make sure that they never catch up.