The (black) market for brain and body

Or “Sell your kid to the College Board”


Owen Egger, Special Events Editor

Hi. I’m with the College Board and I’m here to talk to you about an exciting investment in your child’s future. For a low low low and entirely necessary nominal fee of fifty-four dollars and fjfty cents ($54.50) you can:

-Reduce your child to a set of arbitrary numbers

-Support a categorical ranking of children that (maybe) won’t damage their educational opportunities in the near future

-Make your child feel like trash in the process

So what are you waiting for?

The SAT is exploitative. The vicious capitalism of the College Board is one that necessitates its product in order to achieve one’s potential. It’s like being forced to pay for the opportunity-to-apply-to-breathe.

The monetary issue isn’t the SAT’s biggest. The way it skews the college admissions process (one that exists on an infinitely-sided seesaw) for high school seniors is. It turns students into a product.

Here’s why the College Board’s model is a sick one.

  1. It creates a fulltobursting surplus of “qualified” students.
  2. At the same time it creates a shortage of positions, opportunities, and placements at universities that would otherwise not be in shortage if students were not categorized based on their SAT scores.
  3. The SAT is wielded as a product, but intrinsically does not follow the basic economic laws of supply and demand.

Σ(1,2,3) = A market that cannot self-equilibrate.

Let’s approach these.

  1. A surplus of “qualified” students

About a million and a half students took the SAT in the class of 2006. Just drop that sheer number and high schoolers will get squeamish about theircompetition. But let’s look at a table charting ONLY the 99th percentile for that class.

There are 150,000ish students represented in this table. Onehundredandfiftythousand students scored ≥ 2200 on a 2400 scale. That number is ridiculous. Ignore for a moment the factors that got those students there (raw intelligence, preparation, ability to pay for tutoring, etc) and think about the reality of existence for each individual in that figure.

Each one of those numbers is a person. An individual. They went through four years of high school. They had breakups. They had days when they forgot to bring a lunch to school.

To the College Board they are not people. They are numbers to be ranked, filed, and rejected for the sake of aptitude. This is their mark on the educational system.

This sheer number of students that the SAT determines as qualified makes being qualified mean nothing. it desensitizes us.

In short, the market is grossly oversaturated.

2. A shortage of positions

More numbers: there are some 4,140 colleges and universities in the US. This figure includes both 2-year and 4-year institutions. But not everyone goes to college. And even then not everyone goes to the college they want.

The top three schools in the nation combined enroll just over 40,000 students. While there is merit in elite-schools-only-admitting-elite-students, SAT scores — and the pressures they put on both admissions counselors and students — exacerbate a sort of prestige creep in the recruiting and matriculation of college freshman. There are only so many colleges and so many spots.

The system of SAT ranking creates an unfair advantage for those who test well once as opposed to consistent learners and hard workers who buckle under the single-day pressures of the test.

3. Flawed economics

As anyone who’s taken introductory economics knows, capitalist markets self-regulate through the laws of supply and demand. But a student’s individual SAT scores are a product that doesn’t exist in any sort of regular market. And they are a product.

A product cannot exist in a productive market if it exists in multiple hundred permutations that all carry the same price. It’s damaging. The market stagnates. It sags under a mockery of selective pressure that too heavily favors the high end the without the year-to-year, day-to-day self-realignment that both evolution and economics intrinsically have. There is no normal distribution.

This system damages. It forces students to crumble under the pressures and expectations put on them by an educational force that’s willing to eke as much money out of them as possible before crucifying them on a textbook of gold.

The nature of this market is one that doesn’t provide any easy means for change. Students refusing to take it won’t work — they’ll just be the ones passed over in favor of those who did. Because as long as there are students taking the SAT, there will be colleges that will use it as a tool.

There is hope though. This list tracks the American colleges and universities that no longer require the SAT for admission. Their numbers are growing.

Using the SAT as placement, or even as an evaluation of aptitude, makes sense. It was the original intention. It doesn’t necessarily harm.

Exploiting children’s desires for a career and making money off of damaging potential in sometimes irreversible ways does.

Children are not products, intelligence is not quantifiable through a single figure, and people need to be treated as people. The College Board’s business model goes against all of these tenets that educators and leaders need to hold themselves to. Education can’t be a corporation. Children can’t be a product.