« March 2005 »

Memo to the College Board: DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!

You did it. You finally did it. You've taken something that was good, wholesome, and wonderful, and you've consigned it to a slow, lingering death. You don't care how many lives you ruin in your pursuit of academic relevance, do you? No, you do not. Bastards.

I would like all and sundry reading today's column to pause in a moment of silence for one of the great comedy touchstones, the SAT Analogy Joke. While it's not actually dead yet, it cannot survive the removal of its cultural anchor from the collective mind-space. This year, the College Board removed the entire analogy section from the SAT's. No more this, no more is to that, no more as the other thing, and no more is to blank. Gone. Obliterated. Nothing but a smoking crater and an essay question where the glorious analogies used to be.

With the analogy section out of the test, the SAT Analogy Joke becomes the Terri Schiavo of comedy. Sure, you can keep it alive for a while through extreme measures, but since entire generations of students will no longer know what you're talking about when you pull out the old one-colon two-colon one-colon, what's the point? Better to let it sail off into the West, where it can live a long, quiet life, with the elves and the hobbits and jokes about Fabian.

Why did you do it, College Board? Why remove such a potent tool from the comedy arsenal? For the students? Screw the students. It doesn't matter what bullshit you put on there. You could have an entire section devoted to different brands, types, and flavors of croutons and it wouldn't change a goddamn thing from the students' perspective. Right now, they all spending $30 on a study guide, $50 on test-prep software, and $300 on a two-day course to learn bits of math and vocabulary to get their scores from 1200 to 1275*. If the SAT were all about croutons, they'd instead be spending $30 on a crouton study guide, $50 on test-prep software with 3-D crouton modeling, and $300 on a two-day course on croutons to get their scores from 1200 to 1275*.

Plus, you could probably get them to eat more salad, creating healthy eating habits that would last a lifetime.

The fucking test is already completely divorced from both knowledge and reality. Making the Youth of Today write three paragraphs on some generic subject is not going to change things. You create a beast whose importance is overstressed, and tie success on it to success for people's entire future life, and that's when you stop testing actual knowledge and you end up testing people's ability to take the SAT's. Or their ability to afford help taking the SAT's. But the College Board has to maintain its position, so they come up with bullshit reasoning to justify vaporizing a cultural artifact. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"Analogy questions have been removed because they are less connected to the current high school curriculum. Additionally, some educators have expressed concern that the analogy format encouraged rote memorization of vocabulary words. Yeah. With those pesky analogies out of the way, the SAT's link to rote memorization has vanished forever. And if the SAT's really want to be connected to the current high school curriculum, there should be an entire 800-point section devoted to oral sex. That way, tutors would drastically lower their rates.

The day someone opens their acceptance letter, the SAT's cease to matter. From that point forward, every single person will remember two things about the SAT's: their score, and the ANALOGY SECTION. No other part of the test carries any cultural resonance whatsover.

And of those two things, only the analogy section provides any real use as fodder. The only thing your SAT scores are good for are that unavoidable point in any mediocre party where someone starts the Score Comparison Conversation. And the Score Comparison Conversation is only useful as a ten minute warning before someone brings up Gilligan's Island. To this day, whenever I hear anybody say "fourteen hundred", I reach for my coat instinctively.

The analogy joke, on the other hand, was a wonderful thing. A beautiful thing. The analogy joke was to comedy what a fine French cheese was to... but what's the point? It's dead, it just hasn't stopped moving yet. It's extinct. Oh, sure, there are a couple of animals left alive, but they're both male. And cloning is still in its infancy. The analogy joke has been murdered, and the College Board has blood on its hands. I hope they're happy.

*They've changed the scoring too, from a max of 1600 to a max of 2400, but it'll be another ten years or so before we in the referencing-SAT-score industry have to adjust for that inflation.