I believe there is another component to dropping standardized test scores. The Supreme Court will likely end race-based affirmative action politics next year.

Back in the old days, elite college campuses began to be dominated by working-class Jews. The administrators of those colleges were alarmed. They knew the purpose of those schools for many wealthy people was to produce a very certain type of person: a “Harvard Man”, “Yale Man”, “Princeton Man”, etc. Basically allowing them into the WASP elite. The idea of a campus of hardworking Jewish students that didn’t have the right pedigree scared the college administrators.

Same now with Asian students. Colleges don’t want a 50% Asian campus. They think it will destroy their elite reputation to have their campus full of Asian strivers from poor families.

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I was a poor Native American kid who grew up on my tribe's reservation. Nobody in my family had ever gone to college. The reservation school was inadequate then. I commuted off the reservation to attend the much better public school on the rez border. I was a smart kid with good grades but I was smart in two towns—reservation Indian and farm town white—where there was no way of measuring my intelligence on a country-wide basis. I took the PSAT and SAT and did very well. And then the recruitment letters and brochures started pouring in. The reservation postal worker couldn't fit them into our mailbox so she'd put them into shopping bags. So every few days, I'd walk home with a shopping bag filled with possibilities. My world view expanded—it felt like it had exponentially expanded. And this all happened because of the SAT.

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“The ability to effortlessly produce buzzwords and gibberish and euphemisms has become a precondition for advancement in our institutions of higher learning.”

Institutions (academic, corporate, government, etc.) love few things more than burying messages in hollow, buzzword-draped communications.

That was under the radar and my favorite part of this piece.

As usual, Rob’s writing does a great job explaining what all this “really” means.

We can debate the intent, but ultimately this is the rich and powerful doing what they can to remain rich and powerful.

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Just another step of the general trend of destroying all standards. Standards are potentially mean to some people who can't/don't meet their requirements. Can't have that.

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This post is lovely. I used to think dropping SATs would be good since I’m the socio-economically mixed but gentrifying neighborhood I grew up in, I saw how richer parents would send their kids to multiple, very expensive SAT preps to prop up their scores. It worked. But up to an extent as I can see now.

I have two degrees in Economic policy, specifically quantitative impact analysis, and everything you said aligns with what I learned. The more distinct and clear cut the requirements, for an application, job, or promotion, the more accessible it is for the less privileged. This includes income, gender, and racial disparities.

I am a Data Scientist now who works in Tech, and it’s shocking but not shocking how much advancement is still subjective. This of course keeps only a certain type of person in power in tech vs those who code products.

Another example: taking away the gender category in the Oscars. I think it’s so dumb ( as a Feminist) since it’s just going to go down the road that best Director now does...

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I was in a stepfamily that disliked me, found many teachers irritating, was poorly disciplined, and graduated at about the 60th percentile of my highschool class. I really needed that 1500+ SAT when I was 16 to get into William and Mary early decision in 1971. My freshman dorm laughed that I would never graduate, but I did, and most who laughed at me didn't. Yeah, I take it personally when they talk about eliminating the SAT as a criterion, because I know the type of kid they would be taking instead.

I am not Jewish, but I always had them in my classes and favored them as friends because of this imbalance. (Particularly NYC Jews, who talk and interrupt as much as I do. Love that culture.)

I psted about this at my Assistant Village Idiot site if any are interested. I've been referring back to Rob a lot the last six months.

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People like to be and to be seen as elite. This is not a particularly controversial comment. In order for people to be elite by definition means others must not be elite. The Wailing and moaning about poverty and homelessness and dozens of others of our social ills is simply virtue signaling whether the people doing it know it or not. Otherwise they would sell their Elite status and alleviate the suffering of others. The most obvious and recent example was during covid where the elites hunkered down in their houses and had poor and middle class work in the factories and Fields and drive the trucks that brought them everything they needed while they stayed safe in their homes. Most people would speak out against slavery while at the same time enjoying the fruits of slave labor in the form of rechargeable batteries from the Cobalt that's mined by children in the phones that are put together by people that work 7 days a week and have to be kept from jumping off buildings because of despair. We are all Hypocrites in the West and it's important not to forget that some of the elites create systems of behavior that make it worse. I believe that's what Rob is talking about when he discusses luxury beliefs.

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It’s not just poor kids who benefit from standardized testing. I’m upper middle class by background but with a crazy mom and chaotic childhood and mostly hated the schools I intermittently attended. But sky high SAT scores got me into a good college in the absence of a diploma and then sky high MCAT scores got me into a top medical school. My life definitely would have been worse if I only had grades to depend on.

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I think it’s old money families trying to regain the upper hand. They are generally doing things which hamper the creation of new fortunes. New fortunes are usually created by disrupting existing businesses. Old money families are invested in existing, income generating businesses. Disruption directly threatens them.

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Lowering admission standards by eliminating standardized testing will undoubtably lower the quality of the graduate (if they graduate) from these so-called elite institutions.

What sort of bearing will an elite degree have if these graduates are unable to perform competently or drive results in a job?

This phenomenon is bleeding into graduate programs as the American Bar Association recommended dropping the LSAT requirement starting in 2025. Most MBA programs still require the GMAT, and most other graduate programs still require the GRE. None of the medical programs have eliminated the MCAT, probably because there is too much liability with medical malpractice to have whatever inequality they’re attempting to eliminate win out.

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Bryan Caplan's The Case Against Education is relevant to this discussion. Caplan argues persuasively, and incorporating a lot of the emprical literature, that the main value of college is signaling intelligence and discipline to complete a four year course of study.

To the extent that college no longer signals intelligence because tests are not used, look for employers to use more of their own tests (pure IQ tests are effectively legally prohibited) and look other evidence of discipline. In this world, how much longer will employers care about a college education?

Colleges will have brought about their own demise, hopefully saving society a whole lot of $ wasted on education that many college students don't really want or need.

One example: my wife works for Amazon and she reports that they are quite explicit about not caring at all about educational background in hiring. They substitute a rigorous standardize interview process that looks at other signals of competency.

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This is a concise and persuasive argument. Your use of military standardized testing was extremely telling.

However, dropping standardized tests may indeed be a "luxury belief," but I do not think that squares with any conscious intent to keep poor students "mired." So I agree with the effect, but not the intent.

No conspiracy here, just poor policy.

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One of your best.

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Question for Rob: In my home field (microeconomics), there is a clean distinction between "values/utility/objectives/tastes" and so-called "beliefs." I'm not sure how to map "luxury beliefs" into this framework.

In micro (and lots of other decision sciences), 1) "beliefs" are estimates of the state of the world ("I believe the49ers will win"). Beliefs could be right or wrong, but they always correspond to something that could (in principal) be verified.

By contrast, 2) values/objectives are subjective goals -- essentially tastes -- it's whatever the focal subject is optimizing for. Tastes don't correspond to anything that can be "verified" -- it's just what someone likes or prefers. When someone makes a decision, they bring their values/tastes (2) and beliefs (1) together to take an action (3).

How do "luxury beliefs" fit into this framework? The second word is "beliefs" -- which sounds like (1). In addition, you say that dropping the SAT is a form of luxury beliefs, even though dropping something is action taken (3) (not a belief or a taste). In a lot of ways, "luxury beliefs" seem like luxury tastes (2). Anyway, I'm trying to better understand this idea (which I like) but am not sure where it fits into this framework.

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The NYT reporter is stupid, but of course very clever, as is their wont. It’s better that way. The whole point of that job is status, not money or correctness. It is a sexy job, so naturally, fashionable ideas, like the facile appeal of eliminating barriers to entry, are both enticing and oh so easy. No thought required; the right side of history; let’s go for a cocktail.

Columbia University on the other hand has no such excuse as an erstwhile bastion of wisdom: shameful! Douchebaggery abounds.

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Napoleon’s Dictum:

“Never ascribe to malice what can be adequately explained by incompetence.“

Also known as Hanlon’s razor.

When did the dominant discourse in the USA switch from positive-sum to negative-sum? We’ve always had some rather noisy people with that attitude. Why does it dominate now?

If there is in fact not enough pie to go around, we should consider baking more, rather than fighting for the scraps of pie crust left in the dish.

Life is a positive sum game, when played over a lifetime.

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