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From a Future Freshman

Reports of the SAT’s demise had better be greatly exaggerated

By James M. Larkin, None

You don’t understand, Fitz; it’s been a tough month. DFW, first of all. I was going to mention him in my entrance essay; the thinking was that the name-drop might bring some ‘pop’ to an otherwise mundane isle of prose. But it’s so much easier pretending to like Infinite Jest now that its author’s atop the big reading list in the sky. I suffered through half of that thing back in 2005, back when the guy was kicking around Claremont—what a waste of time that was.

Also, I spoke to the coach of the U.S. Olympic handball team on the phone last night. It does not look like that’s going to happen. Apparently, as with all the other Olympic sports, handball requires a combination of natural prowess, unyielding self-discipline and ruthless competitive spirit. I have (Coach informed me) maybe one, probably none of those things.

Now you’re going to ignore the SAT Reasoning Test, maybe? What? My mother is crying—mostly because I berated her (it was unrelated), but at least partly because she spent seven months of her pregnancy with a tape player strapped to her torso, repeating complete analogies. Tenet is to theologian what hypothesis is to biologist—not that that matters, now.

This is a test with almost a hundred years of real-world experience. You’re going to brush off the metric that informed a very many 20th-century college admission decisions to ask what Katie knows about the Hundred Years’ War. I say stay the course. Henry Kissinger, Ted Kaczynski, Sumner Redstone: what’s the matter with those guys?

You see, Fitz, we live in an age bereft of precision: full up with fuzzy numbers and cotton-ball platitudes. There’s a reason I get a feeling of cold comfort just off a plane in Zurich, and it’s not that I once placed second in my high school’s telemark giant slalom at the Snow Bowl. No, it’s because the Swiss lay it all on the table so meticulously, whether the question is “what time is the train coming?,” “how much is that scone?,” or, “how much Nazi gold do you guys have?”

If only you were Swiss, Fitz. This plan would rob me, and my rival No-Child-Left-Behind babies, of the last concrete and objective number we had to work toward in our endless upward crawl toward your door. Now we have to “focus on our subjects in school,” un-enroll from our 2009 Kaplan summer camp, and start Googling “micro-finance.” We aren’t all St. Francis, Fitz; plus that Kaplan deposit’s paid.

You remember how it used to be, in those golden, Unabomber days. If your name was on a building, or if you were poor but knew an oarsman from a coxswain, you were in—as long as you were a white male without a “problem name.” Sure, we’ve been knocking down barriers like it’s going out of style ever since, but this is a slippery SAT II slope you’re skipping down. Know where it ends? Sex weeks, Richard Alpert, and lecturers who grade with “sad faces.” It’d be like the lower school at Milton Academy, or Brown. You’d be laughingstocks without your army of 1600-scoring—excuse me, 2400-scoring—cyborgs.

What would you like from me? Don’t tell me to “be myself,” like you’re not going to accept one out of every 12 people next year. There isn’t a program that guarantees it’ll teach you to be in the top decile of all people, generally. (Is there? Is that what Scientology is?)

I wish the world were a different place. I’d like to go on vacation, go and romp and play—just, do that. But I can’t, because I’m busy, preening my CV or illustrating my libretto. And it’s all for you, Fitz. Give me something to work with here, something substantial—none of this “well-rounded” hogwash. Something as knowable and measurable as the $20 bill taped to the inside of this envelope.


James M. Larkin ’10, a Crimson associate editorial chair, is a social studies concentrator in Quincy house.

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