Peter Schrag

Peter Schrag, a longtime education writer and editor, is the co-author of When Europe Was a Prison Camp: Father and Son Memoirs, 1940-41 (Indiana University Press, 2015) and author of Paradise Lost: California's Experience, America's Future, and California: America's High-Stakes Experiment. He is a former editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee.

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Nicholas Lemann's The Big Test 12.02.99 | reviewed by Peter Schrag The late Albert Shanker, longtime president of the American Federation of Teachers, sometimes made the facetious suggestion that if children were all awarded college diplomas at birth, knowledge would be pursued for its own sake and a great many of the problems of American education would be eliminated. In The Big Test, Nicholas Lemann contends that the grandly conceived SAT, which 1.3 million test-obsessed American high school students now take every year to gain admission to the nation's most selective colleges, has become a flawed instrument in the creation and maintenance of a not-very-admirable, self-serving American meritocracy. Perhaps inadvertently, he seems to be making Shanker's point. Although there is a crush at elite university gates because people believe that admission can confer lifelong prestige, he says, "[T]he idea of having a general-purpose meritocratic elite generated through university admissions...