Standardized Tests and Reality TV

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Students who took the SATs this month were apparently a little surprised to find a question about reality TV in the essay section. According to an article by Jacques Steinberg in the New York Times:

Few questions on the so-called Big Test appear to have provoked more anxious chatter — at least in this era of texting and online comment streams and discussion threads — than an essay prompt in some versions of the SAT administered last Saturday in which students were asked to opine on reality television.

By Wednesday, comments on the now-infamous prompt — which included the question, “How authentic can these shows be when producers design challenges for the participants and then editors alter filmed scenes?” — had stretched across nearly 40 pages on College Confidential.

Some test-takers wrote on College Confidential that the question seemed to “put them at disadvantage.”

“This is one of those moments when I wish I actually watched TV,” one test-taker wrote on Saturday… under the user name “littlepenguin.”

“I ended up talking about Jacob Riis and how any form of media cannot capture reality objectively,” he wrote, invoking the 19th-century social reformer. “I kinda want to cry right now.”

Whoa, that’s pretentious, buddy.

This is stupid. One need not watch reality TV in order to successfully complete the SAT essay question that vaguely involved reality TV, anymore than an essay prompt based on a quotation by Winston Churchill requires a knowledge of mid-20th century British politics.

Let’s put this in perspective. It’s not like the SAT question required an extensive knowledge of the life and romances of Snooki Polizzi.

The question was just based on the prompt “How authentic can these shows be?” Well the information you need is right there. Just explain yourself. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer