The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

March 8, 2014

Dumbing down the SATs won’t be the right answer

By Lynn Saternow

- — Colleges will continue to call it the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Some of us will refer to it as the dumbing down of America.

Now I hate to tell high school students today, but the SAT is supposed to be tough. It’s supposed to test your intelligence and ability to consider options when answering questions.

Or at least I thought that’s the way it was supposed to be. But hey, it’s been too difficult for the boys and girls today. And heaven knows we don’t want them to feel bad. So let’s make the test easier.

That’s the plan today. Keep making the SAT easier to take and make for higher scores. Let’s boost the self-esteem of all the kids. We wouldn’t want them to get a complex.

We could make them work harder, but that wouldn’t make sense, right?

When I took the SAT in the 1960s, I wasn’t happy with my score after my junior year because I was trying to get a military academy appointment, so I purchased books on the testing and studied hard. Practice makes perfect, as they say. Well I wasn’t perfect, but I raised my score considerably.

Then a couple of decades later, kids weren’t doing as well as they should. So they changed the scoring so people taking the test did better.

Then a few years back, they added an essay portion. That was a great idea because it can tell how well students can write. Obviously, that was too hard for kids also. So now they want to make the test even simpler. And guess what, the writing section would be optional. Really? How do you do that and how do you score it?

I’m thinking that the following is how the test scores will change:

1965 math question: What is the square root of 64?

• A. 32

• B. 12

• C. 14

• D. None of the above.

2014 math question: What is the square root of 4?

• A. 2

• B. A frog

• C. 2,890,456

• D. One of those things.

1965 verbal question: What is the verb in the following sentence: Jack took a walk.

• A. Jack

• B. Walk

• C. A

• D. Took

2014 verbal question: What is the verb in the following sentence: Jack took a walk

• A. Jack

• B. Walk

• C. A

• D. Who cares?

Do the SATs discriminate against minorities and the poor? Yes they do. But that has always been considered by college admissions people.

Still, dumbing down America by weakening the SAT isn’t the way to find out how smart are kids are today. Let’s just teach kids better and allow the more intelligent kids to have a better education than they have been getting.

The Herald’s Lynn Saternow writes this column each Saturday. He can be reached at