The Tyranny of Testing

The Tyranny of Testing

The Tyranny of Testing

The Tyranny of Testing

Excerpt

For the past thirty months magazines and newspapers have carried a running debate on the theory and practice of testing. By far the greater part of the discussion has consisted of attacks on so-called objective tests, in direct consequence of Mr. Banesh Hoffmann articles in Harper's and The American Scholar. Since then academic writers in professional journals have variously said: "I told you so." Doubts and protests long pent up have at last come forth because one man was courageous enough to attack an entrenched position. It is therefore clear that the time is ripe for the full, documented, and reasoned account which Mr. Hoffmann gives in this book of the inadequacies and dangers of mechanical testing.

The vogue of this type of test began after the first world war, during which it had been used by the Army in the hope of rating intelligence and sorting out capacities. Schools and colleges in the 1920's began to give similar tests to their applicants, who, once admitted, were subjected to true-false quizzes instead of the regular essay examinations. Of their own accord, students took whole "batteries" of commercially produced tests to help themselves decide on a career. By the second world war, testing by check-mark was established practice everywhere in American life -- in the school system, in business, in the professions, in the administration of law and in the work of hospitals and institutions for the mentally deranged. The production and administration of tests was an industry employing many hard-working and dedicated people.

Half way through this period, in the forties, it was manifestly useless to raise even a question about the value and effect of these tests. When I devoted a short chapter to doing so in Teacher in America, describing with precision . . .

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