For me personally, it was like this. They cram
you into the 'smart math class' around grade
4 or 5. This alienates you from your friends
in the 'dumb math class' but on the other hand,
you have lots of fun drawing letters and such
on sheets of paper and thinking about imaginary
Then later along they give you the
'Pre-SAT', god knows why, i've forogtten by now.
Probably to get you used to seeing those
damned bubble sheet standardized tests.
Just think, there are a finite number of combinations
of bubbles you could fill in on those sheets,
and it determines the entire rest of your life!
Better not pick the wrong combination!
No doubt you are still shoved into 'smart math'
and made to feel like
a complete untermenschen
if you dont make it.
Maybe you are in advanced science or english too,
to sweeten the odds you will get into 'the big game',
the National Merit Semifinals.
Then later on you get to the Real SAT. This is the big one.
You probably just learned to drive so you stumble
your way around town trying to find some high school
you've never heard of in some classroom full of
people staring at you (and they all think everyone
is staring at them) to face the challenge of
yet another bubble sheet. Hours and hours pass by,
you and your number 2 pencil calculate the odds
of getting this or that right, of which way
to guess on question 1 and question 2, and
on the 'reading' section you are no doubt
engrossed by some story of an obscure article
pulled from the depths of
the nebulous underground network of test designers
Imagine if you will for a moment what it is to be
a test designer! How honored a position, or is
it damnable and used as punishment inside the halls
of the testmaking bureaucracy!?!?! I will surely
never know, for the entire operation must by it's
very nature be clouded in secrecy
to hide the sacred rituals from
the leery lust of the unwashed masses hungering
not for knowledge but merely for a numerical score.
Damned in this hypocritical contradiction, to encourage
learning while at the same time reducing all of
human endeavor and thought into a series of
#2 pencil marks inside of circly lines, surely
the people who work there must go completely mad.
Or perhaps they just figure out some way to live
with it, like everyone does with their job.
So if you got a low SAT score, your parents may decide
to pay a couple hundred bucks to send you to 'improve
your SAT score' school. This is held by a court
of various charlatans and con-men who promise the
suburban parents fulfillment and a chance for
them to live their dreams of ivy leage, if only
vicariously through their offspring.
Of course they work, a bit. A bit. Nothing that
couldn't have been done probably in the preceeding
6 to 10 years of SAT preparation, though.
I mean come on, have 3rd graders memorizing SAT
questions and no question your scores at
9th or 10th grade would be through the roof.
If you got a good SAT score, though, you may
still be sent to these 'improve yr score' classes. Why? Because,
dear ladies and gentleman, the SAT can be RETAKEN
MULTIPLE TIMES. The highest score wins! Isn't
that generous and wonderful!?!? I think so. For
if you are one of the lucky winners of the SAT game,
you will soon learn quite a bit about the design
and layout of college advertising brochures.
Colleges slaver over National Merit Scholars like
hyenas eyeing a gazelle carcass. You see,
the number of National Merit Scholars makes a college's
little ranking go up in
those magazines that decide everything.
Much like a role playing addict
who locks her children in the closet in order
to play Everquest for 12 hours straight and
gain a level, the college admissions people are charged with an
inner fire to make their 'national merit scholar' count
go from a frumpy low number up into a warm glowing
high number. In fact, many schools go so far as
to to give full scholarships for national merit scholars in order to try
to attract them.
This means pamphlets. Brochures. Sometimes even
little booklets. The papers come in your mail from all over the
nation, from the biggest party state schools
to the tiny new england liberal arts colleges
to those freaks in the desert who teach you to be
a cowboy-scholar (no women allowed).
The pamphlets and brochures will come every day for months on end,
full of pictures of trees and leaves and immaculate lawns
and wonderful classrooms and smiling young folks wandering around doing
who knows what, but surely they are contemplating
great things and deeply involved in changing the world,
just as you must be. There are also teachers that care, fun facilities,
blah blah blah blah blah. I don't know who
writes these brochures but they resemble ads for hotel
resorts and the information in them is laregly
useless in making any sort of meaningful decision.
You dont know what you want, but it probably
does not involve 'how close is the college
to a volleyball court'.
So there you are with boxes and boxes of
college letters. You may also get invited to
'scholars weekend' or some other such hobnob
party where you and the other suckers.. i mean
scholars from around the country come and
get wined and dined for several days or a week
on how lovely the school is.
They will put you up in a dorm, (the nice
part of the dorm, not the part with rats crawling
through it or a funky odor),they will chock
you up with t-shirts, fancy slogans, book bags,
pencils, pens, folders, etc, they may
feed you a big fancy dinner with waiters and
the president of the college on a podium
blabbering about how you should go there,
they will show you all the wonderful sights, they will
instill in you a sense of awe for their
traditions. They will get you into
lectures (sometimes just a normal class)
and presentations (randomly chosen professors trying
to spout their philosophy and hook you in) and tours around
the various facilities (here is our lab
full of graphics workstations, here is our
nuclear linear accelerator atom smasher) to learn what the place
is 'all about.' If you have ever seen a movie about
how coaches try to recruit basketball players
by putting them in a stadium and having a mock
crowd applaud to their name, well, its not
totally the same but you may feel sort
of an identification with those kids. Why
the fuck are these adults supposedly sooooo
interested in me? What the hell should I do?
What do I base my decisions on?
Damned if I know, kid, you are on your own.
Now, I know I might read the above and say
'damn this guy is kinda pissed off and negative.
whats the big deal, they are just trying to encourage
scholarship.'. It's true, my vision is clouded by
my own foibles. Where some see opportunity,
I see a gigantic pile of crap. Or perhaps it is
that where others hide problems, I want
to point them out?
Like the fact that
SAT is culturally biased , the National Merit
program (and all colleges) rely way too much
on standardized bubble sheet tests, that
many brilliant and imaginative and creative
students fall through the cracks of the
system, that the colleges basically
fall over themselves trying to attract some
'elite' group of 'smart students' by paradoxically
appealing to the stupidest marketing schlock
this side of a computer convention... including
rampantly stupid jingoism and group psychology...
i dont know. it just leaves a bad taste in the
anyways, that is what i remember about it. it was
several years ago and probably has zero relevance
to my life right now, or anything i consider
truly important. What about you guys/gals?