To tell the truth about standardized tests is to tell the story of the eugenicists who created and popularized these tests in the United States more than a century ago.
By Ibram X. Kendi Updated October 22, 2020, 6:46 p.m.
Ibram X. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, director of BU’s Center for Antiracist Research, and author of “How to Be an Antiracist.”
Jack Dorsey, Twitter supremo, recently gave Kendi $10 million.
This is an abridged version of a public statement read at the School Committee meeting on Wednesday in support of suspending the test for Boston’s three exam schools.
Boston Latin School is the most famous of Boston’s three exam schools. It is a public exam school for grades 7 to 12. It was founded 385 years ago. Graduates include Samuel Adams, Charles Francis Adams Sr. and Jr., Leonard Bernstein, Charles Eliot, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, John Hancock, Cotton Mather, and George Santayana. Dropouts include Louis Farrakhan and Benjamin Franklin.
Latin remains mandatory at Boston Latin.
Boston Latin’s student body is 46% white compared to 45% of the population of the city of Boston, 29% Asian compared to 10% of the population, 13% Hispanic vs. 20%, and 8% black vs. 25% of the city. Unlike at test-only Stuyvesant and Thomas Jefferson, students are admitted on a combination of grades and test scores, so blacks and Hispanics aren’t as shut out and Asians aren’t as dominant at Boston Latin because it’s pretty easy to get straight A’s at a school with mostly bad students.
What is always best for the community is admission policies that create equal opportunity for all. And we know a policy is creating more equal opportunity — and thereby is antiracist — if it is closing racial and economic inequity. The data is indisputable on the effects of this plan: It will close the racial and economic under-representation at Boston’s three exam schools. And so, I urge you to approve this antiracist proposal.
This is not about me or my child. My wife and I have the resources to one day sign her up for an expensive test-prep course, or hire a test-prep consultant. All the test prep will end up being money well spent: It will have boosted her score to get into an exam school.
All the while, I’ll come here and tell you she worked hard and she’s so smart. I won’t tell you I took advantage of the multibillion-dollar test prep industry. I won’t tell you that across the United States test prep companies and consultants are concentrated in white and Asian neighborhoods. Because we’re not supposed to talk about all this. We’re not supposed to be talking about the fact that all Boston children do not have equal access to high-quality test preparation — and it’s impossible to create equal access. We’re not supposed to talk about all this legal cheating.
It is like allowing certain NFL teams more time to practice in the off-season and, when those teams regularly win the Super Bowl, somehow claiming the rules are fair. And when you try to take away the practice advantage from those winning teams, they are going to resist. They are going to claim their teams are the best; all the while they’ll know privately, they were legally cheating.
This is the elephant in the room that the people claiming the standardized test is fair do not want to discuss. They will claim white and Asian kids on average score higher on tests because they are smarter or work harder. Meaning Black and Latinx kids are not as smart or not as hard-working. Meaning white and Asian kids are superior. And all these racist ideas from people claiming they are not racist. …
And to tell the truth about standardized tests is to tell the story of the eugenicists who created and popularized these tests in the United States more than a century ago. Stanford University psychologist and eugenicist Lewis Terman introduced and defended the viability of the nation’s first popular standardized intelligence test in his 1916 book “The Measurement of Intelligence.”
After all, what has the Terman family ever done for Silicon Valley?
These “experimental” tests will show “enormously significant racial differences in general intelligence, differences which cannot be wiped out by any scheme of mental culture,” Terman maintained.
In truth, racial differences in test scores are highly malleable, as this graph shows:
As you can see, there’s been a radical reshuffling in the top rank of races over the last 40 years, with Asians becoming hugely dominant. Which proves cognitive testing is just a giant White Supremacist conspiracy.
By the 1960s, genetic explanations had largely been discredited. Since then, lower test scores from Black and Latinx students have been explained by their environment: Their supposedly broken cultures, homes, schools, and families have made them intellectually inferior. Standardized tests have become the most effective racist weapon ever devised to objectively degrade Black and brown minds and legally exclude their bodies.
But don’t forget FBI crime statistics.
Why do Black and Latinx children routinely get lower scores on the standardized tests? Either there’s something wrong with the test takers or there’s something wrong with the tests. Why are Black and Latinx children routinely under-represented in the exam schools? Either there’s something wrong with Black and Latinx children or there’s something wrong with Boston’s admissions policies.
There’s something wrong with the test and the admissions policies. And to say there’s something wrong with Black and Latinx children is to espouse racist ideas. And those who say racist ideas, typically deny their ideas are racist. …
As I pointed out in my Taki’s column, Kendi keeps making this argument and keeps winning because nobody respectable dares contradict his argument.