The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy / Edition 1

The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy / Edition 1

3.6 9
by Lemann
     
 

ISBN-10: 0374299846

ISBN-13: 9780374299842

Pub. Date: 10/28/1999

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A major work of social history that asks profound moral and political questions about what is right for American society.

This brilliant book shows us for the first time the ideas, the people, and the politics behind a fifty-year-old utopian social experiment that changed modern America.

The experiment-launched by James Bryant Conant, president of Harvard

Overview

A major work of social history that asks profound moral and political questions about what is right for American society.

This brilliant book shows us for the first time the ideas, the people, and the politics behind a fifty-year-old utopian social experiment that changed modern America.

The experiment-launched by James Bryant Conant, president of Harvard University, and Henry Chauncey, head of the brand-new Educational Testing Service (ETS)-was to use the then-young science of intelligence testing to assess and sort American students in order to create a new democratic elite that would lead postwar America to progress, strength, and prosperity. No writer before Nicholas Lemann has gained access to the archives of the all-powerful ETS, and none has understood the significance of this extraordinary drama. But now, in a remarkable synthesis of vibrant storytelling, vivid portraiture, and thematic analysis, he reveals this secret history.

Predictably, the utopian experiment did not turn out as planned. It created a new elite, but it generated conflict and tension, and American society's best-educated, most privileged people are now leaders with no followers.

Lemann shows that this American meritocracy is neither natural nor inevitable, and it does not apportion opportunity equally or fairly. He concludes with his own keen assessment of what the future may hold.

Notes/Index

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374299842
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
10/28/1999
Edition description:
1 ED
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
6.35(w) x 9.32(h) x 1.33(d)

Table of Contents

Foreword to the Paperback Editionvii
Book 1The Moral Equivalent of Religion
1.Henry Chauncey's Idea3
2.The Glass Slipper17
3.Native Intelligence27
4.The Natural Aristocracy42
5.Victory53
6.IQ Joe70
7.The Census of One Ability81
8.The Standard Gauge96
9.In the System109
10.Meritocracy115
Book 2The Master Plan
11.Rah! Rah! Rah!125
12.Chauncey at Yale140
13.The Negro Problem155
14.The Fall of Clark Kerr166
15.The Invention of the Asian-American174
16.Mandarins185
17.The Weak Spot198
18.Working212
19.The Fall of William Turnbull218
Book 3The Guardians
20.Behind the Curtain235
21.Berkeley Squeezed241
22.Molly's Crisis255
23.The Case of Winton Manning268
24.Surprise Attack278
25.No Retreat293
26.The Fundis and the Realos300
27.Changing Sides309
28.Defeat323
Epilogue337
Afterword to the Paperback Edition: A Real Meritocracy342
Notes352
Acknowledgments391
Index395

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Big Test 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The first book of The Big Test went into great depths about the life of Henry Chauncey. The author, Nicholas Lemann, gave us much insight into Henry Chauncey¿s family and the life he led. Knowing this information allowed us to see the influences on Chauncey¿s life that gave him his values and belief system. Chauncey had some big ideas for testing and knew some very powerful people that helped him achieve many of his goals. Many of Chauncey¿s ideas are naïve by today¿s standards. I think he knew how to get what he wanted but I don¿t think he always thought what was best for society. His idea of a social utopia was that through testing, everyone would have their place in society and be happy with whatever that place happened to be. I find it odd that he was not able to see that a lot of people would not be satisfied to be ¿stuck¿ in life according to what a test told them. I found the author to be very thorough in describing all of the character¿s but at the same time, it became difficult to keep up with all the names and personalities. It is amazing when we look at the college prep tests today to think of all the people involved, all the changes made over the years based on what was going on in the world and the politics involved. It is also fascinating to see all the changes our higher education has taken over the years. We take so much for granted now and do not realize all the hard work people have put into legislation. I was surprised to learn that at one time you could go to college for free for the first two years. Even though it seems unfair now, we have to realize that more people are able to go to college now that they were years ago. This book made me think about issues that I had not considered before. One of the biggest is the issue that is debated throughout the book and that is; how do we determine who goes to college and which college? I do believe that everyone deserves an equal education but at the same time I think that those who are willing to really work hard and make good grades should go to a school that will challenge them. Many of the heads of Universities wanted to have only the top percent of graduating high school seniors in their Universities. I think that idea would be ok if there were also schools that the other percentages of students could attend and still get a good education. It would be sad in our country if we didn¿t have some elite crowd that others would aspire to be. I definitely think everyone should be treated equal but at the same time, we are all individuals and have different aspirations. Another big issue that arose several times throughout book one was the importance of IQ testing. Chauncy and Conant were big advocates of IQ testing being the main factor in shpaing our nation. In my opinion, there are too many other aspects to look at in a person¿s life besides their IQ. Testing is important but it should just be a guide and only one small part of looking at the whole person as far as college or job placement is concerned. As I stated before, those with high IQ¿s should be justly rewarded; just like those with other non-academic talents are rewarded. I thought book one covered a lot of history and definitely gave a lot of insight into major benchmarks in our nations climb to providing education for all and the tests that helped us get there. I enjoyed learning more about the important figures in education and the hard work they put into their cause. My overall opinion of this book though, is that it is very difficult to read and to stay focused on what they author is trying to convey. I found myself many times having to go back over paragraphs to try and understand the information. There were so many different people talked about that it was difficult to keep straight their roles. I think if this book was organized into sections within the chapters that titled the main points, it would have been a lot easier to read. B