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Banaji, Mahzarin R. References to this work on external resources.

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Original publication date. This purpose is especially important today, as low-income students are now enrolling in college at a higher rate than are students from the middle class NCES In addition, the enrollment gap between more affluent students and low-income students continues to narrow NCES Is the U. This question is even more important given continued inequality in the childhoods and education of children in the United States.

We do not live in a society where everyone encounters and is exposed to the same level of education and college preparatory programs within the K system. Lareau found that working-class and poor youths aspire to attend and graduate from college but do so at lower rates than their middle-class peers. She examines a public high school where half the student body comes from low-income backgrounds.

The school offers no AP, mandatory college prep, or SAT prep classes and employs one guidance counselor for students. In a society that favors merit and academic achievement, the odds are stacked against a large proportion of U. Democratic merit views higher education as a public good. Guinier writes that democractic merit does what testocratic merit fails to do by creating an incentive system that emphasizes the development of more individuals who contribute to and serve the goals of a democracy not only for their own good but also for the collective good of society.

She argues that it is important that we grant these individuals access to our higher education system, regardless of any perceived talent in a testocratic society, in order to promote the development of higher-level problem solving. The Problem Early in the book, Guinier presents an argument for her central idea and theme—that we need to challenge and change our understanding of merit.

In addition, merit is recognized and rewarded financially at most institutions as the top-performing academic students receive the highest amounts of institutional aid in the form of grants and scholarships. In Chapter 1, Guinier reminds the reader of the affirmative action case Fischer v. University of Texas at Austin.

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Justice Clarence Thomas agreed with the majority in the case but argued that affirmative action and any consideration of race in the admissions process is generally unconstitutional. Thomas argues that affirmative action policies mismatch students, with the result that many black and Hispanic students who may have excelled at less selective schools are placed at more selective schools where underperformance is all but inevitable Guinier So why does Guinier focus on Fischer v. The focus instead has shifted to the moment of admission. Have institutions developed into little more than sorting factories in an admissions-driven higher education system?

Are colleges and universities only accepting and valuing through institutional aid disbursements those students who already possess the skills and attributes they need to be successful? How does the SAT factor into all of this? Guinier provides the history of how the SAT came into existence and common use. Readers should spend some time on this section of Chapter 2 as it provides the context of how the SAT came to be the powerful gateway exam it is today.

Tyranny of the Meritocracy invites readers to consider whether the College Board should control the K—12 curriculum by prioritizing the SAT as the sorting test that it is.


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Guinier acknowledges that nearly institutions have moved away from or have devalued the SAT and standardized testing in their admissions and sorting practices. Yet doing so has compromised another important attribution of colleges and universities: their institutional ranking.

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Schools that forgo the submission of SAT scores as part of their admissions process risk having their ranking negatively impacted. In Tyranny of the Meritocracy , Guinier describes how U. This action was explained to Sarah Lawrence College as follows: schools that do not accept the SAT must be admitting less capable students and should lose points on their selectivity index Guinier The Solutions Guinier argues that the solutions to dismantling our testocratic society are already occurring and highlights a number of different ways this is happening.

The book provides a number of examples, two of which stand out. The school is operated through a joint partnership between Clark University and Worcester Public Schools.