Sunday, March 17, 2019

Buy degrees

I remember taking my SAT exams.

It still gives me nightmares.

I mean, I wasn't ever an exceptional student and I never tested well. School, as far back as I can remember, was a social gathering where I accidentally learned a few things, maybe through proximity and osmosis more than anything else.

Some stuff even today escapes me. I was never comfortable with numbers, so anything mathematical was foreign to me, and still is. To this day, I have no clue why they ("They" being the system) tried to teach me algebra, armed for numerical combat as I was with a protractor and slide rule (Wait, that's geometry. Another stumbling block). I guess it was part of being the well-rounded liberal arts college-bound student.

But you still needed to take the SATs (we never heard of ACT in our neighborhood) to get into college.

It's basically impossible to study for the Scholastic Aptitude Tests. I think the exams are more geared toward aptitude than knowledge anyway. I don't know. Maybe that's the point for some schools of higher education.

I still don't know why I had to figure out how a train traveling east at X miles per hour will arrive at a destination at a particular time when a train traveling west at Y miles per hour does something totally inexplicable. So how fast are they going. Huh? (I probably left that one blank, my deductive reasoning being what it is).

I don't remember what my scores were, but they weren't great. I think I took the exams twice, because it was on a chart somewhere (probably in some college) that scores were generally higher when you took the test the second time around. (It also sounds like a scam).

I think my score actually dropped the second time. In theory, if I had taken the exam a third time, I probably could have tested my way out of college.

I mention all of this in light of the recent SAT scandal where well-to-do parents have been criminally charged with gaming the system to get their kids into prestigious schools by bribing coaches and educators. In some cases, they appear to be spending more money to bend the system than it would cost them in tuition.

At the same time, by cheating their kids' way into school, they're most likely knocking out somebody who's actually done the work to qualify for admission. It's been suggested that at least 700 people could be involved in a scam that goes back at least a decade. Stay tuned.

And it's a scandal with implications everywhere: what does it say about parenting? Elitism? Legacy? Affirmative action? Education? Simple morality? Money? No money?

As it turned out, I did go to college, a place called Kutztown State College (it's now a university) in Pennsylvania that focused on producing teachers and, primarily, art teachers. I went with the idea of becoming a secondary ed history teacher, but soon discovered that I didn't want to stand in front of a class of students who probably had higher SATs than I did.

So I switched to liberal arts English with the idea of becoming a sports writer, even though the school did not offer journalism in its curriculum. I learned (and earned) my keep with on the job training.

This was 1969 to 1973. Kutztown, nestled deep in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, was a state school and I was a commuter student. It took me 90 minutes round trip each day to drive back and forth to school, and I did that for all four years. My first semester tuition, because it was a state school and I didn't live on campus, was $50. By my final semester four years later, tuition had skyrocketed to $350.

My parents contributed toward the gas and insurance for my car, which happened to be a red 1965 Volkswagen Beetle. Fahrvergnugen, y'all. I think it was the only parental helicoptering they did as I went off to learn things about life that were not mathematical for myself.

I had a part-time job each summer (and sometimes into the scholastic year) that paid for my books and tuition. Kutztown will never be confused with the Ivy League, and I will never be confused with an actual scholar.

The prestige of going to Kutztown, as it turns out, was that it somehow prepared me to be to be a productive and functioning member of society, and we didn't have to bend the rules to do it.

It also turns out it wasn't that difficult.

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