The Educational Testing Service is making some big changes to that traditional toll gate on the road to college – the SAT, according to this article from the LA Times (by way of the Baltimore Sun which doesn’t require registration). Among other alterations, the ETS is dropping the analogies questions from the verbal section. You remember analogies – those questions that ask you to determine the relationship between two words and then apply it to two other words.

…the National Center for Fair & Open Testing … contends the SAT is biased against lower-income students and those for whom English is a second language. As evidence, Robert Schaeffer, center public education director, cited several analogy questions, including this one, since deleted:

RUNNER: MARATHON

A) envoy: embassy
B) martyr: massacre
C) oarsman: regatta
D) referee: tournament
E) horse: stable

The answer was C.

"That’s incredibly culturally centered," Schaeffer said. "You don’t see a regatta in center-city L.A., you don’t see it in Appalachia, you don’t see it in New Mexico." Among the other analogy words Schaeffer slammed were "pirouette" and "hack," as in writer. "Is `pirouette’ a word most high schoolers would use?" he said. "And `hack’ used to be associated with cabs."

I’d venture the vast majority of high school students in this country have never seen a regatta or use the word pirouette. But isn’t that the whole point of getting an education? You learn about things that are outside of the narrow sphere that is your current life. I’m certainly not defending the SAT but the kind of thinking coming from this "national center" represents one more way that we are dumbing down a high school degree yet again.