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What is it like to be a national merit scholar?

By turmeric in Op-Ed
Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 03:31:00 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

I was one. I know some of you were. Why don't you grant all those unblessed by the illuminati cabal with a taste of what it is like to be 'one of the few'

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 shapes.

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 god 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. But

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 the 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 old turmeric-mouth.

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?


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


my SAT score
o 1500 36%
o 1400 30%
o 1300 16%
o 1200 3%
o 100 0%
o all cocked up 1%
o i only had a number 3 pencil, couldnt take it 8%
o i forgot it on purpose 2%

Votes: 146
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o illuminati
o cabal
o 'one of the few'
o god damned bubble sheet standardized tests.
o a complete untermenschen
o the nebulous underground network of test designers
o those magazines that decide everything.
o to give full scholarships for national merit scholars
o the biggest party state schools
o the tiny new england liberal arts colleges
o the SAT is culturally biased
o many brilliant and imaginative and creative students fall through the cracks of the system
o Also by turmeric

Display: Sort:
What is it like to be a national merit scholar? | 101 comments (86 topical, 15 editorial, 0 hidden)
Phew. A long read... (2.20 / 10) (#1)
by m0rzo on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 03:51:07 AM EST

And I read it for what reason? To inflate your ego, which is clearly already huge? Thanks for sharing your experience, I could never, ever even hope to aspire to be one of the 'blessed ones' like you. Such an uncondescending style aswell, brilliant.

Jesus must love you.

My last sig was just plain offensive.

Are you stupid (4.27 / 11) (#3)
by DranoK 420 on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 04:00:42 AM EST

or just resentfull? Did you not understand what he was saying? The "smartest" kids are ones who simply know how to jump through the right hoops, say the right things, and believe the right morals. Meanwhile geniuses are shoved into the back row for not being able to propperly conform.

This is the story about a boy whose parents chose for him his destiny, indoctrinated him in the values of being 'intellectual', alienated from his childhood friends and taught to think in a way which would both keep him isolated and brainwashed to sheepishly follow moral guidelines and values. Pity him or not, its irrelevant.

The story doesn't introduce anything we've never heard thousands of times before. But for the author, it's new. For the author who is first seeing things in a new way, it must seem like Hell.

And those of you who didn't go through this process could learn something today. For me, I remember what it was like when I dropped out of college and returned my scholarship. I felt like puking because I worried about my future, about my image, etc.

But now that I have the luxury of looking back on the time, I realize it was liberating. It was the best decision I ever made -- it made all the difference in my enjoyment of life.


Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence.

[ Parent ]
It's not so bad. (5.00 / 1) (#87)
by bunsen on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 11:30:38 PM EST

This is the story about a boy whose parents chose for him his destiny, indoctrinated him in the values of being 'intellectual', alienated from his childhood friends and taught to think in a way which would both keep him isolated and brainwashed to sheepishly follow moral guidelines and values.

I like being an 'intellectual.' I pity those who fit in. Who would want to fit into a society like this? I'm awfully glad I'm a Beta. I'm so much better than the beer-swilling, WWF-watching masses. They're all so ignorant and stupid. I'm so glad I'm a Beta...

(If you don't recognize it, go read.)

Do you want your possessions identified? [ynq] (n)
[ Parent ]

craptastic (4.80 / 5) (#4)
by turmeric on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 04:28:50 AM EST

come on now, first off, i wouldnt think
the author of 'downwardly mobile' would
miff me for being a snobbery bugger. at least
im not one of those anti-snobbery buggers.

but secondly, if you follow the link to the
'blessed' you will see that i am basically
saying all this SAT crap is like nazi
germany trying to select babies based
on stupid criteria and killing the rest.

oh bugger it nevermind, i can see this
story is getting a lot of -1.

[ Parent ]
Standardized testing... (4.00 / 4) (#2)
by seebs on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 03:55:19 AM EST

The question is not "is this test good". The question is "is this test better than not having a test".

We can always improve tests, and if you're the one who figures out how to do it, more power to you. The interesting question is whether we're better off having tests at all. I think we probably are.

when you have kids (3.66 / 3) (#5)
by adiffer on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 04:43:16 AM EST

Try to remember this when you get around to having kids. The lesson will finally complete itself when you can see this same issue from the parent's side.

It's good you see this. There is more to come. I would sound extra preachy though if I said too much more. 8)
-Dream Big. --Grow Up.

Maybe I'm in the minority (4.50 / 6) (#6)
by Delirium on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 04:43:40 AM EST

But I didn't see any of what you described. I was a National Merit Scholar, sure, but it's not like this was any major goal. I took the SAT once, and my score qualified, so of course I'll take it. And "smart math classes" are generally a good idea in my experience; some people learn some things faster than others. If you do away with honors classes, you end up having to choose between, for example, either teaching all 8th-graders algebra, or teaching none of them algebra. Neither are particularly good choices. Same with the choice of whether to teach high school seniors calculus or not.

Fuck the fucking SA fucking Ts. (2.85 / 7) (#7)
by Ludwig on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 06:06:40 AM EST

Like the majority of my ["gifted magnet school"] classmates, I was a National Merit finalist, and frankly, I can't remember that particular dubious accolade having the slightest effect on me, whether emotional or academic or sexual or whatever. Unless you're dead-set on getting into a college with a preternaturally shortsighted admissions staff, SATs don't mean jack shit. Mind you, in contrast with -- for instance -- the currently popular notion of "emotional intelligence", that being largely propagated by folks noticeably lacking in the ordinary everyday run-of-the-mill ho-hum type actual non-imaginary intelligence endeavouring to empower themselves, or whatever else the fuck it is these dumpy hygenically-challenged halfwit poetry majors are doing to stave off suicide, this is coming from someone who did quite well on the very same yardstick he is denigrating. Now I forget what I was talking about.

Oh, yeah: Also, I heard if you took the SAT before like around 1992 you're entitled to tack on like 200 points to your score when comparing it to your kids'. Seriously. They like dumbed it down because all these lesbians and immigrants complained. This guy I useta score crystal from told me. Oooh, speaking of which, meth is totally the number one shit for acing standardized tests, I shit you not.

Go now; that is all I have to teach you. The seito has now surpassed the sensei.

haha, cool. [i guess i'll +1 it.] (none / 0) (#49)
by Maniac_Dervish on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 12:32:39 AM EST

Oh, yeah: Also, I heard if you took the SAT before like around 1992 you're entitled to tack on like 200 points to your score when comparing it to your kids'. Seriously. They like dumbed it down because all these lesbians and immigrants complained.

hey, cool. so i can add 200 points to the SAT scores from when i was a seventh grader. that means i outscored some people i know who took it as seniors.... :)

god, i hate this article. i was a national merit scholar, yeah. and i was in the 26th percentile of my high school graduating class. and i fucked around all through college. but got into a master's program. and am getting into PhD programs. grades and SAT and PSAT and ACT and GRE don't mean a whole hell of a lot, but they sure do help you cover up your fuckups.

[ Parent ]

I was an NMS (4.25 / 8) (#8)
by persimmon on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 07:10:36 AM EST

And I remember a lot of hoop-jumping, back in the day. I took my SATs junior year and before I got the scores got called to the principal's office for a smug lecture on how well I represented the school. I'd jumped through the "Q" of the PSAT/NMSQT. After more paperwork, the university in my damn backyard said "4000 a year, if you come here", so I did. And then I did again, and got depressed, and applied for exchange, and failed all my classes, and got kicked out of my exchange school.

Is there a moral here? Fuck, I don't know. Obviously intelligence is no barrier to crappy scholarly comportment, and NMSs measure not only an ability to confort intellectually, but a willingness, at least to pretend. It's not really that much of a scholarship, nobody gives a flea's toenail once you're actually in college, and these days they make you re-apply every year. And now that I'm not in college, people care even less. It's really not much of a deal, and that's probably why it seems like you did absolutely nothing but paperwork to get there.
It's funny because it's a blancmange!

No difference (2.00 / 5) (#9)
by epcraig on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 07:54:13 AM EST

All making the National Merit Finalist thingy did for me was get me chewed out by the head of the English department. (Seems I was flunking the subject at the time).
There is no EugeneFreeNet.org, there is an efn.org
I was a National Merit Scholar (2.66 / 3) (#13)
by DesiredUsername on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 09:19:17 AM EST

I think. Here's what happened.

I was attending school, minding my own business. One day in my...junior?...year of high school my English teacher said to me "I recommended you as a National Merit Scholar, the awards are tonight so you should come." I came. I stood on stage with everyone else. I got a pin. I never learned anything more about what the award is, what it means or why I got it.

Oh, and I never took the SAT, either. Just the ACT. No practice, no studying. Just walked in and took it.

Play 囲碁

Or was I? (5.00 / 2) (#17)
by DesiredUsername on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 10:28:15 AM EST

Now that I think about it, that might have been the "National Honor Society". My confusion over this just proves my point, though--it had zero impact on my life either before or after.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
You are correct, sir. (5.00 / 1) (#46)
by Mr. Piccolo on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 11:23:46 PM EST

that was NHS not NMS.

The BBC would like to apologise for the following comment.

[ Parent ]
NHS & NMS (none / 0) (#83)
by rigorist on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 10:50:41 PM EST

I have pretty pissed off memories of National Honor Society.

I did well in high school. Not valedictorian well, but good enough. I had discovered the secret of reading (thank you Mrs. Blakeborough, wherever your are!) early in life, so I could get through those dumbed down text books easily. Math was also pretty easy for me, since my father used the practical approach of playing blackjack with all us kids to teach basic arithmetic.

I didn't _learn_ anything in high school, but I did enough to look OK.

But, apparently, not enough to be nominated to join NHS.

I have always been very good at standardized tests. It's just the way I am. I have friends who I think are just as smart who suck at them.

Anyway . . . I did very well on my SAT, 1430 pre-correction. I did will on my LSAT, too. It was good enough for NMS.

Apparently, it was embarrasing to the powers that be (or were) at my high school that the ONLY NMS in that year's class was not a member of NHS. So, I was rushed into membership one week before graduation. They even spelled my name wrong on the certificate. It didn't help me get into college (already accepted + six grand a year back when that paid for something thanks to NMS).

I think my mother still has the certificate. It makes her feel good. But I still think NHS sucks ass.

Life is not a fucking Ayn Rand novel.

[ Parent ]
Here's what National Merit is: (4.83 / 12) (#16)
by garlic on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 09:49:33 AM EST

National Merit Scholar is a designation you get after you complete certain steps to do so. These steps are:

1. Take the PSAT your junior year in highschool (2nd to last year, when you're typically 17).
2. Score in the top 2% or something similar. At this point I believe you are a National Merit Qualifier.
3. Take the SAT and submit your scores to the Merit scholar people to show that it wasn't a fluke. At this point, I believe you are a National Merit Finalist.
4. Fill out a personal information form, similar to stuff that goes on your resume or a College Admission Form.
5. From here the judges decide if you are a national merit scholar
6. If you are ranked a National Merit Scholar, hope that it all doesn't mean nothing, and that someone actually offers a scholarship too you because of it. When I became a National Merit Scholar in 1996, The max you could get for it was $2000 per year through the National Merit organization. I qualified for this because my father worked for a company that supported any children of its workers who were National Merit Scholars.

What does this all come down to? You probably get a few more merit scholarship opportunities than those who aren't National Merit Scholars. Not tons more, but something like 2-5 more.

HUSI challenge: post 4 troll diaries on husi without being outed as a Kuron, or having the diaries deleted or moved by admins.

*sniff* It's just like me (none / 0) (#79)
by BloodmoonACK on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 07:01:12 PM EST

'cept I wasn't a National Merit Scholar because I wanted to sleep while the Writing section was going on - not enough sleep the night before. However, I am a Presidential Scholar (top twenty male and top twenty female SAT scores in each state get nominated for this). In a class where there are 18 people with 4.0's and a 3.95 is not in the top 10% of the class, my 3.3 GPA looks godawful =P I'm hoping to get in somewhere good, though (come on corrupt colleges accepting higher percentages of children of alumni!)

"It's like declaring a 'war on crime' and then claiming every (accused) thief is an 'enemy combatant'." - Hizonner
[ Parent ]

Who the hell cares? (4.33 / 6) (#18)
by ucblockhead on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 11:14:08 AM EST

Ah, yes, I remember well, the pressure, the pressure! It went something like this:

They tell young Blockhead, "Take this test, it's a pre-SAT".

Young Blockhead says "uh...ok".

A few months latter, they say "Hey, young Blockhead, you are a National Merit Society semi-finalist!!!"

Young Blockhead says "uh...whatever..."

Young Blockhead is called into the Principal's office. He watches as the beaming principal, a man he's not previously met, talks to the press, saying "the fact that this school as more National Merit Semifinalists than any other school in the state shows how great blah blah blah". Blockhead wonders why the Principal thinks he had anything to do with it.

(Young Blockhead will have no further interaction with his principal for the rest of his High School career.)

Two months later, they tell young Blockhead, "they got a look at your grades...you are not going to be a National Merit Scholar young man! Why didn't you work harder!?".

Blockhead says "uh...whatever".

The next year young Blockhead gets pretty much the same score on the SAT (despite a mild hangover), goes to the university of his choice, and lives happily ever after until the World Wide Web is invented and he because addicted to a certain website, sucking him into a pit of despair.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

Heh, that pretty much describes my life... (3.00 / 1) (#38)
by BlckKnght on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 07:33:03 PM EST

I was a National Merit Semifinalist, one of three from my class. My GPA was by far the lowest of the three. One of the others graduated a year early and the other went on to be valedictorian. None of us became finalists.

I however didn't get into my first choich school (they only took 3 people from my class, as opposed to the 15 they'd taken the previous year) or the CS college of my second choice school (I could have gone anyway and been a physics major), but I'm pretty happy where I ended up

Error: .signature: No such file or directory

[ Parent ]
UIUC (2.00 / 1) (#53)
by Weezul on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 04:07:16 AM EST

I've been to the UIUC campus once for a mathematical logic confrence. The two mathematicians I know there, Pillay and van den Dries, are really cool. But man, talk about the middle of no where! I would not mind being there for a period of time where I'm supposed to be working my ass off (like post doc), but I would think it would suck to be an undergrad there. Heck, I'd have my doubts about going any place that is not downtown in a city with a population of at least 2 million (for undergrad).

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini
[ Parent ]
Stop calling me Blockhead! (none / 0) (#84)
by bunsen on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 11:00:50 PM EST

Really, that's surprisingly parallel to my own experience. Except the hangover part, and my principal had met me before (and since) under circumstances not conducive to beaming, but close enough.

I really wouldn't have minded getting a couple grand in scholarship money, but my GPA (somewhere between 2.5 and 3.0 at the time) didn't help much. When asked why I didn't work harder, I explained at length, then asked why the faculty didn't work harder (this is mostly the kind of thing that got the principal so well acquainted with me).

Do you want your possessions identified? [ynq] (n)
[ Parent ]

Life Priorities (3.75 / 4) (#19)
by SPrintF on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 11:40:02 AM EST

I voted this up because it makes an important point that young overachievers should ponder: getting perfect grades and aceing the SATs requires a lot of hard work and offers little reward. Yes, I was able to get into the college of my choice, but getting those big, big numbers on my SAT didn't make my college work easier, nor did it help me fit into the college social environment.

By all means, study hard. But life is more than study.

I sure wish someone had explained that to me when I was a kid.

Darth Insidious (3.00 / 4) (#21)
by medham on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 01:36:22 PM EST

Intelligence testing is much less useful than phrenology, which at least anticipated modern faculty psychology (Fodor's Modularity of Mind takes you through gently).

The most obvious proof of its utter inconsequence is the amusing discovery (by a psychometrician) of the "Flynn effect," which purports that IQs are rising. I don't think I have to explain the rest, though I can point you towards resources.

Please, no one please cite anything from the WHO about condom-distributions, please.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.

If you can point us towards resources (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by scanman on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 02:29:40 PM EST

...then why don't you?

"[You are] a narrow-minded moron [and] a complete loser." - David Quartz
"scanman: The moron." - ucblockhead
"I prefer the term 'lifeskills impaired'" - Inoshiro

[ Parent ]

If you need the (none / 0) (#25)
by medham on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 02:50:47 PM EST

Rest explained to you, I can. I thought it was self-explanatory, myself.

The Mismeasure of Man is one good place to start. Then, move over into John Horgan's work.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

Mismeasure of Man... (5.00 / 1) (#52)
by seebs on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 03:42:26 AM EST

I've seen some very harsh criticism of that. For a longer analysis, look at this page.

Basically, Gould goes out of his way to pick results from the early half of the 20th century, and carefully avoids looking too closely at modern work in the field. It's not his most intellectually honest work.

If you come up with any remotely plausible way to measure any two "cognitive" functions, they correlate. That's not half bad for a starting point.

It's popular to say "hah, intelligence tests have flaws, therefore they're totally worthless". It's especially popular because we're seeing hints that the results, once we get the tests debugged, will be unpalatable.

The fact is, if we treated tests of physical capabilities the way we treat intelligence tests, we'd be accusing the NBA of racism.

[ Parent ]

May I recommend (none / 0) (#65)
by medham on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 01:57:25 PM EST

The work of J. Phillipe Rushton to you?

You may also find this an intriguing source of information.

Though, I would like to point out that this:

If you come up with any remotely plausible way to measure any two "cognitive" functions, they correlate. That's not half bad for a starting point.
Doesn't make any sense.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

I'm not sure what about it doesn't make sense. (none / 0) (#67)
by seebs on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 02:25:45 PM EST

The idea of "intelligence" would be a generalized ability at cognitive functions. Take any two things, from poetry to rocket science, and ability with one correlates to ability at the other. Sounds like "intelligence" to me.

[ Parent ]
Yep (none / 0) (#68)
by medham on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 02:32:11 PM EST

Since you put it that way, I now see your point. Still check out the eugenics.net stuff, though; they have some very important things to tell us (note some of the Edmonton connections carefully).

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

Facts vs. Politics (none / 0) (#89)
by cameldrv on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 02:53:49 AM EST

Just because you do not like the consequences of a fact does not mean that it is not true. You can be pro-IQ and anti-Eugenics. If you think that the reality of IQ causes some unpleasant inevitable logical consequences, then the problem is that your ethical system is inconsistent. You should therefore look to yourself to solve this problem rather than putting up strawmen to dodge facts.

[ Parent ]
What do you speak of, my son? (none / 0) (#92)
by medham on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 01:02:28 PM EST

What "facts" are we thinking about here? That those poor black people you pay taxes to keep in Cadillacs aren't as congenitally smart as you and are thus best left to telemarket for Sprint in Albertan organ farms?

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

But think about those condoms for a sec... (1.00 / 1) (#28)
by Kasreyn on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 03:54:20 PM EST

Most colleges hand out free condoms every which way. Think about that. All college-age kids are gonna fuck, we already know this. But for some reason we single out the SMART ones to give contraceptives to...

Weird kind of reverse eugenics, eh? I'm surprised the Flynn effect isn't working the other way around...


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Actually (none / 0) (#29)
by medham on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 04:22:54 PM EST

I was hoping that a Murrayite wouldn't start making correlations between "race," IQ, and average penis size to be followed by grave predictions about the future of the welfare state and white womanhood.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

Must be a US thing. (3.50 / 2) (#26)
by xriso on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 03:01:55 PM EST

I never took a SAT test up here in Canada. There are the provincial tests for Grade 12 courses, but those were pretty easy.
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
The SATs--- (5.00 / 2) (#31)
by jeffy124 on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 04:42:23 PM EST

In the US, the SATs are tests given to high school students intending to go to college. It tests a student's math and verbal skills and scores each in the range 200-800. The scores from the test are (at most schools) used as a factor in deciding a student's college admission. It may also get used for deciding scholarships and other awards. As part of testing, the testing board attempts to maintain 400pts in each category as the average score. The other 200pts in each cat. is for things like spelling your name right. (Beleive it or not, I know someone who got his gender wrong)

The Pre-SATs are given to HS juniors for just what it says - Preliminary SAT. However, a few HS students take the SATs before the PSAT, earliest I've heard of was 8th grade. Most take it late Jr year, early Sr year. Many also take them more than once.

Chances are good the provincial tests you speak of are similar to the SATs and get used in similar manners.
You're the straw that broke the camel's back!
[ Parent ]
Curious (3.00 / 1) (#51)
by John Milton on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 02:25:43 AM EST

I'd like to find out what percentages of high school students take the SAT and the ACT. Since I wasn't planning on going out of state to college, I only took the ACT. Besides the extra padding, I didn't see any reason to take the SAT.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

[ Parent ]
Provincial Exams (5.00 / 3) (#54)
by raaymoose on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 04:12:56 AM EST

It's true that the provincial examinations at the end of grade 12 (or 13) are standardised tests, however, they're different in each province. There are provincial examinations for each (common) subject, such as english, chemistry, physics, biology, lit, french, 'regular' mathematics, calculus etc.

Now, I graduated high school in British Columbia, I'm not sure if it's the same across Canada, but they would take your English 12 exam mark and combine it with the 3 highest others for your final 'score'. These scores were numeric values that were relative within each subject, I assume fitting a nice bell curve from the results from past years. This final score would detirmine whether you got the $1000 provincial scholarship. I've never seen it used for anything else, except the test was part of your final mark for the class.

All the universities I consitered didn't take the provincial exam averaged 'score' into account at all. They just looked at your final percentage in the course as the detirmining factor. The criteria were adjusted for students in each province, since each curriculum differs slightly.

I got 100% on my Bio 12 Provincial exam, but other than securing my $1000, it didn't do anything for me. My university merely counted my 'A' in biology in the acceptance requirements.

So, provincial exams aren't exactly filling the same function as the SATs do in the states, but they are similar as they are both standarised tests.

[ Parent ]
Drew University is in New England? Really? (3.66 / 3) (#30)
by yankeehack on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 04:38:51 PM EST

Has New Jersey been moved close to Massachusetts and I missed it?

Ahem. Drew University is in Madison, New Jersey. New Jersey is NOT a state in New England. You might want to refer back to geography class.

And I did get accepted there, without being a merit scholar.

Thousands of reasons why we are fighting a just war.

My experience (3.50 / 2) (#32)
by EricHeinz on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 04:44:27 PM EST

I must say I had a very different experience than some of the other posters I see here. I too was one the "outstanding few" who gained recognition through the national merit but I was never really pushed into any "super smart math classes" for it.

Yes I took as many AP (advanced placement - high school classes you can take for college credit) but that certainly wasn't a rarity in my school. There are plenty of kids who are in AP's with SAT's of 1100 or so, which is a good deal below that cutoff. I guess you could call AP Calc "smart people math" but it still has its share of kids who have no intention of going into math based fields.

I don't intend to criticize them at all, I think it's unfortunate that kids who want to be journalists or liberal arts majors still have to take AP Physics and AP Calc just to get looked at the by the most selective schools. The problem I see with most high schools is that they are built for the middle ground (I suppose by necessity) and as such they leave kids to either extreme (very bright or challenged) with a lackluster education.

sha boom boom
I was in AP calc. (4.00 / 1) (#43)
by rebelcool on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 10:59:09 PM EST

I got shoved into it. Back in second grade I was recognized for being 'accelerated', and that set the tone for the rest of my public school career. I'm horrible at math. I believe I got a C in it that year..didn't bother wasting money on the test for it and ended up retaking the same subject matter my first semester in college.

Now i'm still struggling through another semester of calculus.. so, in effect ive been taking calculus almost continuously for 3 years.


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[ Parent ]

Multiple Calc (none / 0) (#85)
by rigorist on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 11:06:28 PM EST

I was in "smart kids math." I took calculus at the local University in tenth grade in a special program.

It sucked. Most of the other kids were real math geniuses. I am good at math, but not a genius. I dropped out after one semester

Took my high school calc class the next year. Went fine. I didn't take the AP test because of a scheduling conflict.

Went to college, with a non-technical major - economics. While we had some heavy duty math in econometrics, I did not take enough to meet my distribution requirements. Should have taken that AP test.

In my senior year of college, I took calc for a third time. I intentionally took a class where homework was not collected. I did not buy the books because I had my old ones from "smart kids" calc and my dad's college books. My dad's books were fine - first year calc has not changed since the 1950s.

I LOVED calc the third time around. I actually LEARNED it. While I can't remember the actual integrals anymore, I bet I could get up to speed again in about fifteen minutes.

Life is not a fucking Ayn Rand novel.

[ Parent ]
Unfortunate placements (4.25 / 4) (#33)
by webwench on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 05:22:09 PM EST

The only complaint I had about the way the 'gifted' were treated where I went to high school was that, if you were put into an AP* Calculus or Ap Physics class, for example, you were also put into all the other AP classes. I, for example, never did well in history, found it boring, and made average grades in the subject. But yet I found myself in AP History one year, for no really good reason. On the up-side, the teacher who taught that AP HIstory class was a fantastic teacher, who finally conveyed to me that history could be interesting and was worth studying.

What I find unfortunate is that there are so few *really good* teachers in the US public school system. When the best teachers are funneled (or funnel themselves) into the 'better' classes, the indifferent through slow students are left with pretty bad teachers (the kind that think teaching history involves no more than forcing the memorization of dates), which can only turn into a downward spiral of disinterest and malaise.

As an aside, I had the opportunity in 1994-1996 to give career talks to students in a local high school. (I was flight instructing at the time, and the teacher, who was one of my students, would bring me in for career day.) The last year, I spoke to two science classes; one was an honors class, and one was a 'regular' class, with a percentage of what the teacher called 'difficult' students. The difference between the conduct of the two classes was like night and day; the honors class asked intelligent questions, were respectful, and got a lot out of the talk. The regular class was all over the place: fidgety, continually being disruptive, asking asinine and smartass questions, and had to be shouted down a couple of times by their regular teacher. If their parents could see how they acted at school, their parents would be ashamed (or should be, anyway). If I was a teacher, I know which classes I'd be clamoring for. If I had seniority or was a particularly valuable teacher, I'd be tempted to force the issue.

The reasons that so few really good people go into teaching could be the subject of about 50 articles in and of itself.

(*Advanced Placement, sort of an honors-accelerated class, billed as 'college level' but given to high-school students, with a special test at the end, for you non-Americans)

All APs is not a mistake (none / 0) (#55)
by Weezul on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 04:18:38 AM EST

The AP classes are oftin less stupid work, so you are better off if you just take AP classes.. and do lots of extra work for the ones you care about. The truth is that the material covered in high school (like basic calculous) is just so damn easy that the best solution is to throw all the slightly harder more interesting stuff at the gifted students and see what sticks.

I only wish they had made me take more of the classes I hated (like Bio and Chem) as AP. I took AP english and got a 2 on the exam. It was still not a waist of my time.

btw> Good collages should stop teaching calculous (i.e. you can still take remidial calculous, but it will not help you much towards a degree).

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini
[ Parent ]
That's too bad... (none / 0) (#74)
by kescom on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 04:16:21 PM EST

I'm a senior at Hunter College High School in New York. We're not forced into APs here. While many of the second-level classes (eg: the second year of physics) are AP, but you don't have to take the AP and the focus is more on the material than on preparing for the test. The only forced AP class was American History. About half of the grade (myself) didn't take the test because the teachers were either poor or awful, and it wasn't worth $70 of our or our parents' money anyhow (though that's a different story).

[ Parent ]
Could someone explain... (3.00 / 4) (#36)
by p0ppe on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 05:45:26 PM EST

...how it's possible for a non-native English speaker (ok, I've been attending an English school for 1 years now, but still) to score 600 (79th percentile) on the English.

"Democracy is three wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner."
It's possible (3.00 / 1) (#37)
by mami on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 06:13:10 PM EST

Depends on what your mother language is and how you learned English in your middle and highschool years of your native country's school system. If you train yourself on the format of the SAT, which is an idiotic format to anyone non native to the U.S., train your vocabulary (mostly not necessary if you had French and Latin in school, if you are German) it's achievable. The real draw back is only the time limit and wealth of vocabulary. But you can train both.

[ Parent ]
S.A.T.'s format (none / 0) (#40)
by linca on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 08:02:42 PM EST

Why is it so idiotic? Can't American kids do better than check little ovals?

I really wonder ; there is such difference between the Sat's format and the standard in most other countries...

[ Parent ]
idiotic only to the ones not used to it (4.00 / 1) (#48)
by mami on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 11:45:22 PM EST

That's what I wanted to express. Sorry.

I am not sure I understand your question. I saw a multiple choice test the first time in my life in the U.S., when I was way over thirty years old. The format forces you into a specific type of thinking and learning. I was used to answer all questions in longhand, in sciences, math aw well as in literature, history etc.

You had to write out your problem solving steps, equations and formulas. I don't know if that is better, but it's different. You have more freedom to answer to a problem in your own way. May be that's what I prefer about it.

Answering multiple choice tests make me frustrated, because I feel I train like a robot to beat a machine. So, I call that idiotic, because I am not a robot. :-) It's just a personal dislike, nothing more. And it's absolutely boring to learn for it too.

I have taken some tough multiple choice tests once in undergraduate and graduate physiology, biochemistry and biostatistic classes in the U.S. They were actually quite good. The questions reveal often for the first time things you haven't understood. So, learning with older multiple test material in such specific specialty areas was a very positive experience. I just wouldn't have wanted my kids going through boring "fill out the blanks" tests for every subject area they run in during their school life.

Hope that answers your question.

[ Parent ]
I'm rephrasing the question (none / 0) (#57)
by p0ppe on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 08:07:40 AM EST

How is it possible that I'm able to score better than 79% of the people taking the test (mostly Americans presumably)?

"Democracy is three wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner."
[ Parent ]
Because you learned formal English (none / 0) (#75)
by Devil Jeff on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 04:53:14 PM EST

I'd guess it's because you were taught formal English, while native English speakers speak whatever local dialect they were raised in. You've actually thought about the official rules of the English language, which I know I haven't.

In my experience, nobody speaks formal English except non-native speakers who learned it formally.


"When the sun goes out, all deeds, significant or not, will be forgotten together." -- Jack Vance
[ Parent ]
Exactly (none / 0) (#82)
by bunsen on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 10:30:53 PM EST

I know I learned more about grammar in 1 semester of Spanish than I did in 4 years of English. My local school system doesn't even *try* to teach grammar anymore. In 4th grade or so, they tell you the difference between a sentence and a sentence fragment. In 9th, they're still explaining it. By 10th grade, they've completely given up on the language, and the remainder of the curriculum is a bunch of bullshit about writing essays according to a specific (and amazingly stupid) algorithm. But you'd better pay attention to it, because you get something like $3000 for college if pass a test built around that algorithm. Of course, the people who were subjected to the test for the first few years didn't get a penny. But I'm not bitter.

I done good on them English tests cuz my parents learnt me hows to talk gooder then the schools did (790 SAT verbal, 35 ACT English IIRC, entirely in spite of my formal education). Yer English teechers get kinda pissed off when ya keeps showin em the stuff wrong in there own writin.

Do you want your possessions identified? [ynq] (n)
[ Parent ]

-1 (3.00 / 1) (#41)
by skim123 on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 08:36:15 PM EST

I view your supposition, that silly things such as SAT scores "determines the entire rest of your life," to be so off base and incorrect that I had to vote -1. If you are a teenager who's experiencing undue pressure from parents and teachers to do well on the SAT or face the consequences, I can understand how you might have such beliefs. But if you are out of college and working, you'll quickly realize that this is a bunch of bunk.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

So what? (4.00 / 2) (#42)
by rebelcool on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 10:46:18 PM EST

I wasn't an NMS. Hell I wasnt even in the top quarter of my class. I got a 1260 on my SAT and a 30 on my ACT, but other than that, I wasnt exactly an exceptional student.

What you've described appears to be pretty normal for your average college-going high school senior. I got a million college pamphlets in my mail that year.. in fact, when I go back home every once inawhile theres usually a few sitting in the pile of mail to me and I'm in my second year of college.

When I toured colleges they did all that show-off stuff. They wine and dine you because they want your money. Not because you're special or smart. Hate to burst your bubble, but you're not special at all.

I pity the people who were at the top of their class in HS..they have the hardest time their first year. They expect to be at the top in college, but the top in HS are only mediocre in college.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

This system irritates me (2.50 / 2) (#45)
by suntzu on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 11:17:29 PM EST

I've had to deal with this too, and it's really irritating at times. The worst part now seems to be that schools are pushing a much harder sink or swim type of agenda. Not that they'll fail you, but if you're not learning, they just sort of brush you off and smile, while they put all their effort into the kids that are doing well. I was lucky, I was always had pretty big slacker tendencies when I was in high school (still do, college doesn't help that), but I was lucky, I got what I needed to get done to get into a good school.

My little brother's having a lot of trouble now though. It seems that schools are being run more openly like corporations now. Just when he's learning to enjoy reading, the vapid psuedo-rigor of the school systems are killing him. He's in 6th grade and he's doing hours of homework every night. It's sick, kids should be able to fuck around consequence free (I don't mean they shouldn't learn responsibility, I mean they shouldn't be molded into little adults as early as possible) for a while. All of this is an effort by the economy to turn out perfect little corporate monkeys. "Education," as it is, is just crushing individuality, and if it keeps going as such, I think will destroy the great enjoyment that learning can hold. If you've got kids, don't just help them get by, openly rail against the PTA for pushing them so goddamned hard, for trying to make people into efficient employees before they're old enough to drive. If you're a kid in high school, take every opportunity to argue against being co-opted into this. Stop getting your life advice from CEOs and start listening to people like George Carlin (his diatribe on the bizarre idea that is the play date is amazing). For god's sake though, stop thinking that achievement, personal enjoyment, and being a good person are all automatically synonymous. There's less crossover between the three than most people think. Like Public Enemy said, don't believe the hype.

Well it failed me.. (3.00 / 2) (#50)
by G hoti on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 01:25:20 AM EST

Im sitting here, I have 2 terms (each 9,10 weeks) left until I leave. I go to school for 6 hours a day to get bored out of my mind, All the teachers resent me. I learn nothing. They seem completly obliovious to the fact that not *everyone* learns the same. I go well in 3 of my 6 subjects. Software Design is like the joke of the century, Geography is like BS artist training and physics cause its so daim logical that its obvious.

I teach myself or have taught myself everything I know. (The physics I do now i taught myself 5 years ago)

I just pass chemistry, english and maths I think it's just luck though..

I sound depresed?? no im frustrated. I would love to do electonic engineering (its my passion) but my final mark will never get me into uni doing EE, All my teachers tell me that I have no hope unless I do 4 unit maths (ext ext maths) and get good marks??


Eep (2.00 / 1) (#56)
by sincere on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 06:54:59 AM EST

My advice : Get out of the system as soon as possible Education as I see it is a total crock :) Endeavour that your own children (should you ever produce any) don't suffer the same wasted years. I suppose home-schooling is an option.. but are there any others ?
I looked up and saw.. stars against a white background.
Yes, get out quick! (none / 0) (#80)
by emtel on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 07:48:02 PM EST

Hurry, before you learn the importance of punctuating properly and supporting your arguments with quantifiable evidence.

[ Parent ]
I got a 1410 on the SAT's (4.33 / 3) (#58)
by Eight Star on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 08:24:38 AM EST

And I droppped out,


National Hispanic (4.25 / 4) (#60)
by m3000 on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 09:22:51 AM EST

I did even better than National Merit, I recieved National Hispanic. So now I'm one of those smart minorities that colleges crave so they can say they have smart minorities. Course, I'm only half Hispanic to begin with, and I have absolutly no Hispanic culture in me at all (neither of my parents speak Spanish, don't celebrate Hispanic holidays, etc) but you gotta love Affirmative Action where I'm automatically deemed dumb because I'm a minority. And you thought racism was dead.....

I first took the SAT in 7th grade as part of the Duke Talent Search program. It's a nationwide thing, so some of yall might be familar with it. Scored a 960 on it, which at the time was above the national average for graduating seniors. That fact really scared me. My brother took it last year (in 7th grade) and got a 1230 on it.

For some background, the PSAT and SAT are very si miliar, except that the PSAT has an additional writing section which is pretty much just grammar.

Anyways, getting back on topic, I took the PSAT my sophmore year, and then also my junior year (the year that counts toward National Merit). I scored a 200 on it, which is below the level needed for National Merit, but high enough for National Hispanic. However colleges and scholarships treat them the exact same way, so I got all the benifits of National Merit, and more!

Once you're deemed National Merit/National Hispanic/National Achievement(for blacks) then a whole new door to college admissions opens up to you. At college fairs, normally indifferent recruiters would get all orgasmic when you told them you were National Hispanic. It was an instant way to get a college's attention. My mailbox was FULL of brocures from colleges, from all the major ones to the ones you never heard of, or like the orignal author mentioned, teh cowboy college where they stick you 45 miles from anything with 17 other guys. I literaly have 3 drawers full of brocures, and that doesnt' include the ones I eventually just threw away without opening after I decided where I was going. I got offered all kinds of incentives, from special housing, laptops, and of course money. This is also when I found out Ivy Leagues don't give anything for academic achievement, it's all need based. And since I don't have very much "need", but yet $30,000 year is a LOT of money to subtract each year from my dad's pay, I was pretty much stuck going to a state school. Oh yeah, I had a 4.0 unweighted, 1450 SAT, and 4's and 5's on my 7 AP tests, so colleges loved that as well.

On the note of college brochures/letters, Harvey Mudd has the best IMHO.

Cornell also payed for a trip and weekend to visit their campus. They payed for all the airfare, meals, everything. All because I was a minority National Hispanic engineering student which they wanted more of. Almost felt like a sports star where I was being recruited by the top colleges. It was definitly nice to have an academic institution pay attention to academics, unlike high school where the math team gets zero support. Other colleges I visited did the same thing, where I would get paid special attention because I was National Hispanic. Instead of the standard "group tour", I had personal ones. It was nice.

Anyways, I ended up going to the 4th ranked National Merit school in the number of National Merits going there. (Freshman computer engineering major) And I can tell you right off the bat it's because of the scholarships. In-state students get $5,500 a year, with a $2,000 research stipend. Add that to Bright Futures (high GPA/SAT gets Florida residents full tuition and $300 in books each semester at any state school in Florida) and I have a free ride for college. Other in-state schools offered me similiar packages, but UF is the best academically, so I picked them. Out of state kids get even more money, so that they also have a free ride, and some (like my roommate for next year) even have enough extra cash to buy a DVD burner.

Now that I've given my story, here's my opinion on the thing. I don't like it. I don't like that SO much is decided on one little 3 hour test you take one morning your Junior year of high school. That one test literaly gave me $5,500 a year, a hell of a lot money for a single test. It's scary to think that if I was feeling "off" that day, and scored 5 points lower, I wouldn't be getting any of this. However I must admit I do love the attention and money it's given me, I just think it should be more based on grades than on a single test.

Small question... (3.00 / 1) (#61)
by PMDBoi on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 12:37:39 PM EST

This is my first comment here, since I've for the first time read something that pertained to a rather large part of my life right now. I earned the National Merit Semifinalist status through my PSAT scores, and got to go to an "Honors breakfast" (with quiche!) with all the other semifinalists there. And you know what? Including myself, there were five, and one of them had just moved in from New York. The size of our senior class is right around 580 students.

So, with what kind of frequency do members of the student bodies of your respective schools earn the National Merit Semifinalist status? Finalist? Actual scholarship? Because at my school, it seems like a rare honor, but reading these threads is making me doubt that.

(By the way, on the subject of benefits: Yes, you don't get anything else once you're in college, but it certainly helps with the money. Purdue (of Indiana) has offered to pay my tuition (not full ride, sadly) just to keep me in state, to stave off what Governor O'Bannon calls "the brain drain." I don't blame him; there's nothing here to do. And, yes, I have a rather large stack of now-useless college pamphlets.)

We had few finalists as well (none / 0) (#66)
by jaymagee on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 02:00:28 PM EST

My tiny little farming school has very few of any of the categories. I was the first in about 10 years to be even a semifinalist. A friend of mine was another one. We both advanced to Finalist level, and I am getting a measely 2000 at my school of choice. However, I go to the University of Chicago, which has more finalists than I can count. So, very few of us get more than 2000. It IS a rare honor, we're all just smart on K5. Take a look at the poll to the right. 66% over 1400? Thats unheard of almost anywhere else, unless people are lying. Cheers. j
Making a better humanity, one genetic change at a time.
[ Parent ]
It is fairly rare (2.00 / 1) (#69)
by m3000 on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 03:03:53 PM EST

It is a pretty rare honor. My graduating class had 550 students, and there were 2 National Merits, and 2 National Hispanics. And this is from one of the "smart" schools in the school district. So 4 national merits is pretty average for a school. Some get none or one, and I believe the local IB school in the district had like 9.

I think it just seems like a lot in this story, because everyone who was National Merit is posting to it. So your responses are skewed. Go out into the general public and you'll get a better idea how rare it is.

[ Parent ]
We're a somewhat exceptional school... (none / 0) (#73)
by kescom on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 04:11:55 PM EST

...a third (62 or 63) of our grade were semifinalists. I believe around twenty-five kids make finalist status each year. (I did...whee...how utterly useless, especially since I most likely will not be accepted by the school I asked to be notified of my acceptance status). If you're wondering, the school is Hunter College High School, in New York City. We're a public school, but administered by the City University instead of the Board of Education. More time off and no silly city- and state-wide tests for us. (Actually, the NMSC--National Merit Scholarship Corporation--lost all the applications from our school, and we had to resubmit them in January.)

[ Parent ]
Down with the SAT (3.50 / 2) (#62)
by psicE on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 12:46:00 PM EST

Some friends and I took the SAT last year, in 7th grade, as part of the Johns Hopkins Talent Search program. My friends scored between 1000 and 1200; I scored 1430. Does this mean that I'm that much smarter than my friends? Not by itself. However, because we're all from the same school district, it could mean that if we all apply to Harvard, I'd get in and my friends wouldn't. We could all have equally amazing transcripts, except that I got a 1430 before I was 13 years old, and that would allow one of us in and not the other. I think all colleges and universities should follow the example of Bowdoin: don't use standardized test scores in the admissions process, and you'll get better students for it.

I was a National Merit Scholar (3.66 / 3) (#63)
by pfaffben on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 12:51:23 PM EST

For me, the gauntlet of standardized tests began long before I had even heard of National Merit. When I was in 6th grade (about 13 years old), I took the SAT for the first time. My score was second-highest in the school district at the time, including even the high school seniors. On the strength of this I got into an advanced math program where I took all four years of high school math in the two years of 7th and 8th grade. I continued to take the SAT off and on over the following years. When I took the PSAT as a junior, I got a perfect score, and then I got a perfect score on the SAT, too, when I took it for the last time.

It was amazing how famous that perfect score became. I was interviewed by two local newspapers and made the front page of the smaller of the two with a giant over-the-fold photograph. For weeks afterward, people I had never met before recognized me in public places and congratulated me. Of course, my classmates hated me for it, but that was nothing new. That score also put a lot of pressure on my younger sister, but she stood up for herself a year or two later and matched my perfect score with one of her own.

I used my 1600 SAT along with my high school grades, extracurriculars, and the National Merit scholarship to apply to six different universities, and I spent a good part of the spring semester my senior year traveling to them, on their dime, trying to decide which to attend. In the end, I enrolled at Michigan State University as an electrical engineering major. This was more than a little ironic, because MSU was only about 15 minutes away from my parents' house and certainly not the most prestigious of the six, but they offered the best scholarship and my parents were heavily in favor of it.

MSU turned out to be a good choice. I spent my four years studying lots of things, not just electrical engineering, including the two languages that I'm most interested in (French and Japanese). I participated in research all four years, and even got free travel out of it, to the Netherlands and to Arizona for conferences. I impressed my professors enough for them to give me glowing recommendations to get into grad school. And here I am, a computer science Ph.D. student at Stanford. Of course, there was a standardized test involved in that, too: the GRE, brought to us by the same people as the SAT. I didn't get a perfect score on that. Maybe my sister will, and then she can have bragging rights in the family as the best test-taker.

A brief NMS story... (3.50 / 2) (#64)
by aaron on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 01:28:41 PM EST

My best friend and I were both selected as NMSes, the only ones from our high school that year. At graduation, the principal (who was a nice enough guy, but not terribly clueful) presented the two of us with specially made plaques which read as follows:

National Merit Scholarship
Award Winner
[name of student]
Congratulations On Your Superfluous Educational Endeavors At
[name of high school]
[name of principal]
May 29, 1997

It took a great deal of willpower to maintain a straight face until I could return to my seat.

Incidentally, on the subject of "test scores determine your future": my friend's SAT score was ten or twenty points higher than mine (though my verbal was higher - 790). He now has a bachelor's degree in electronic music. I dropped out after one year. If test scores determined those futures, it's an awfully sharp curve. :)

Funny (none / 0) (#91)
by BurntHombre on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 10:16:40 AM EST

Only a National Merit Scholar would think he needed to link the word 'superfluous' to its dictionary definition.

[ Parent ]
:P (none / 0) (#100)
by Josh A on Sat Aug 31, 2002 at 09:51:48 PM EST

I just thought it was a neat way of pointing it out. Saved me from actually having to READ the whole thing to get the joke.

Skim, skim, skim...

Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney

[ Parent ]
I was a National Merit Semi-Finalist (2.00 / 2) (#70)
by Erin on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 03:24:10 PM EST

School has always been pretty easy. I was fortunate to never attend schools that had lots of "smart kid" classes, but I got a relatively good education.

I'm horrible at standardized tests. Somehow I managed to pull of a shockingly high score (214, if I remember correctly) on the PSATs, but when National Merit got wind of my 1270 SAT score, I was graced with a letter informing me that due to my unexceptional score, I was removed from the competition.

I attend ASU now, because they're in my backyard, and they paid for my first year of college. The honours college here was given millions of dollars not too long ago, and all they want to do with it is pay good-looking students like National Merit Scholars to attend, so they can point to the statistics and brag.

An honest view of the students in the honours college here would be not much different from fraternity members -- lots of alcohol, some drugs, not much time spent studying. And yes, many of the honours college students agree with this. In fact, many also agree that the really smart students are those like me, who didn't really want extra work for no good reason, and stayed out of the honours college.

And what would you suggest? (3.00 / 1) (#71)
by LeChuck0xA5 on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 03:47:42 PM EST

I'm one of the National Merit people too, did the whole standardized test circuit from 4th through 11th grade, consistently got in the top 1/2 of 1% etc., and like you all I believe that the system in place isn't perfect. However, if you're going to blast something like this, if you don't offer a solution you're not helping. What would you use besides a standardized test? If you say 'high school transcript', you're going to run into problems with home-schooled kids who don't have one, or at least one that's going to mean anything to the admissions office of my school, Stanford. Likewise if you say 'remove the cultural bias' you're going to run into problems - this is the United States, and so naturally a test designed for people from the States will reflect it. And the math portion clearly can't have too many problems associated, apart from the fact that it is far too easy, which makes the scores at the top relatively meaningless as sometimes a 720 means you missed 2 questions because of a stupid mistake like finding the reciprocal instead of the answer. But seriously folks, if we're going to bitch, let's come up with an alternative. Otherwise we have not much right to complain.

college admissions (none / 0) (#77)
by eli867 on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 06:33:57 PM EST

Well, I think the sad truth of it is that nobody really knows how you're going to do at school X until you actually attend school X.

I just hope their answer isn't big-ass college entrance essays!

[ Parent ]
oky doky (1.00 / 1) (#86)
by turmeric on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 11:26:50 PM EST

Heres what you do. The 'problem' you are supposedly
trying to 'solve' by having SAT is this:

"who among the 100000 bozos who applied here
do we actually let in?"

well, you do it like this: figure out who
has a good reason for wanting to go to college,
and who doesn't. if they have no reason,
then dont let them in. otherwise, let them in.

[ Parent ]
I, Penciler (3.00 / 5) (#72)
by Robert Hutchinson on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 04:04:24 PM EST

Took the PSAT, and made a 222, I believe. That included a perfect 80 on the section they had purportedly added to boost girls' scores. A heh heh. In short order, I had completed both the SAT (790 Math, 730 Verbal--sounds right) and the ACT (34 English, 33 Math--screwy test).

Became a National Merit Scholar.

Blew the scholarship on a brief lesson in self-sufficiency . . . that is, how lacking I was in that department.

Now involved in cheaper, more local education. Parents still love me. Life continues (hopefully without any more English classes).

Robert Hutchinson
No bomb-throwing required.

Standardized tests are good... (3.00 / 2) (#76)
by eli867 on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 06:29:26 PM EST

..because they help students hone their telling-people-what-they-want-to-hear skills.

Gosh, how can you expect to get ahead in life if you haven't been practicing your bullshitting skills since Jr. High?

I took the SATs twice in a row and there was a ~200 point increase the second time simply due to some random luck and perhaps a different mood.
Personally I suspect that there is only a very weak link between SAT scores and college performance. Anyone have any numbers?

One SAT taker's story (3.00 / 1) (#96)
by /dev/niall on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 04:45:35 PM EST

Personally I suspect that there is only a very weak link between SAT scores and college performance. Anyone have any numbers?

I got a 1500 on my SATs. Didn't go to college though. Where can I claim my prize?
-- ˶Զ
[ Parent ]

SAT as a predictor of college success. (none / 0) (#99)
by Count Zero on Tue Feb 19, 2002 at 04:54:33 PM EST

I don't have the numbers handy, but I've seen them, and it's a terrible one.

Of course, you can blame this on the fact that high SAT scorers tend to take more academically challenging majors at tougher schools, and this helps to even everything out. For example, at MIT, everyone's got a 1400-1600, but people still flunk out.

My own anecdotal story shows they're not much of a predictor. I was Advanced Placement *everything* in school, 99th percentile on every standardized test there was, great SAT scores, national merit semifinalist, and did horrible in college because it was the first time in my life I every actually had to study, and didn't really know how, nor was I mentally prepared for the concept of actually having to work for a grade. I fell in hard for the comparatively absolute freedom I had compared to living at home.

Compare to my sister, who has always been a good studier, never got my scores on tests, lived at home and went to a school in-town, and had little trouble getting her degree.

Sometimes early easy sucess makes one cocky, and when things finally get tough, you are forced to learn the hard way.

[ Parent ]
Not cocky (none / 0) (#101)
by Josh A on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 01:08:37 AM EST

Sometimes early easy sucess makes one cocky, and when things finally get tough, you are forced to learn the hard way.

I think that's an unfair conclusion. I think "Sometimes early easy success skews one's map of reality."

Yes, I breezed through high school and was told I was great for it. That didn't make me cocky... it taught me that my actions were resulting in certain effects... and so I honestly believed that what I was doing was the way to be effective.

When I got to college, I found it nearly impossible to discard my map. Upon encountering a different territory, e.g. actual challenges, I did what I knew with all the more effort... and succeeded in merely digging my hole deeper.

<sigh> Some people still wonder why I support unschooling. Public school taught me plenty of things&#151;most were misleading and detrimental to my future, of course&#151;but it never taught me responsibility or self-discipline, which is what I really lacked.

Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney

[ Parent ]
Any RSI here? (none / 0) (#78)
by Cuchulainn on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 06:54:08 PM EST

So, hands up all the rickoids?
If so don't worry about it, stuff you eat when you're drunk doesn't count, just like stuff you say and people you sleep with. - Little Pest
RSI (4.00 / 1) (#88)
by Hal9001 on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 01:35:53 AM EST

I might have been a Rickoid if I had found out about the RSI program before my senior year in high school. My congratulations to you for having been selected for that very prestigious program. What year did you attend? I know a few Rickoids from 1996, 1997 and 1998.

For those who don't know what we're talking about (especially if you are a high-school sophomore or younger with exceptional aptitude in math and science), you can find out about the Research Science Institute program here.

[ Parent ]

1995 (none / 0) (#90)
by Cuchulainn on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 04:55:24 AM EST

And was a counsellor in 96.

Have to say, it was all a bit lucky for me that I even heard about it. I'm from Ireland and one of the past pupils of my school happened to be a mentor for the programme one year. He got in touch with the school and suggested they see if they could send anyone.. Definitely a good experience though - I can recommend it to anyone thinking of applying (I'd certainly not experienced anything like it at home..)
If so don't worry about it, stuff you eat when you're drunk doesn't count, just like stuff you say and people you sleep with. - Little Pest
[ Parent ]

RSI (none / 0) (#95)
by Hal9001 on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 04:10:14 PM EST

I heard about RSI probably in 1994 or so (before I had consistent Internet access), but couldn't find any information about it until my senior year of high school (Spring 1997), when I was interviewing for the A.B. Duke scholarship at Duke University in Durham, NC. There were a bunch of people who knew each other from this RSI thing, so when I came back from Duke, I searched the web and discovered the CEE website. Upon browsing the site, I realized that it was the program I had heard about several years earlier but had never been able to find any information about and, unfortunately, that my time to apply had already passed.

BTW, the 1996 Rickoids I know are Michael Colsher, Emmanuel Chang, and Gina LaRossa. I'm sure there were other Rickoids at the A.B. Duke interviews, but it's been a while since then, and I could be remembering people's Rickoid status incorrectly.

[ Parent ]

RSI '01 (none / 0) (#97)
by mr sheel on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 08:13:49 PM EST

Just got done with RSI last summer... it was really amazing. And... I'll most probably be going back as a counselor.

[ Parent ]
Write-in poll option (3.00 / 1) (#81)
by andrewm on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 08:24:50 PM EST

I'm not an American. (SAT isn't universal, though I know vaguely what it is.)

Am I required to flame here? Ah well, I can't say school exams make much more sense over here - it's mostly a matter of memorisation and being able to tell the teachers what they want to hear. (Exam hint: Independant thinking is always the wrong answer. If they ask for your opinion on a piece of writing, make sure you agree with the teacher. And remember that your teacher gave it to you because s/he likes it :)

Entering the process (1.00 / 2) (#93)
by Phyrkrakr on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 03:23:03 PM EST

I found out just the other day that my 1500 SAT score qualifies me as a National Merit Finalist. Does this mean anything to me? Barely. However, since I'm the first semifinalist in 15 years and the first finalist in at least that long, so the whole town is going ape over me. This is inconsequential to me, however. I've already recieved a substantial scholarship from the school of my choice (University Missouri-Rolla), due in part to my 33 on the ACT. So, at most, anything I get will just fill in the gaps that the UMR scholarship left. This also has doubled the amount of college info that I've recieved.

Smith & Wesson: The Original Point and Click
Self-Determination (3.00 / 4) (#94)
by Fon2d2 on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 03:35:56 PM EST

I used to be jealous of people like you. I felt like the whole deal was a misdirected pile of crap and that I'd gotten an unfair shake. But in the grand scheme of things I would say that all this merit scholar and advanced placement stuff counts for about nil in terms of personal happiness. After all, how can students be expected to make all the decisions they are required to make by the time they enter high school. Thinking about post-seconday? Late junior year might be the wrong time to get on the ball. Same thing with advanced placement. What about those magnet programs? Do they really help towards a career goal or just isolate you from friends? And why should you be thinking about things like that as you enter high school? The fact of the matter is none of this crap hardly matters. It's just a bunch of nonsense that implores suckers like you and I to worry about it. I still graduated from college. I still landed a job. And I couldn't care less about any of that crap anymore.

In other words (4.00 / 1) (#98)
by epepke on Tue Feb 19, 2002 at 12:40:28 PM EST

you used to resent them and now you feel contempt for them.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
What is it like to be a national merit scholar? | 101 comments (86 topical, 15 editorial, 0 hidden)
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