The Corner


Let’s Not Replace the SAT with THIS

Despite a lot of griping from the usual bunch of leftists, the SAT does a pretty good job of evaluating students’ college preparation — same for the ACT. But one Rebecca Kantar has them in her sights. She has developed a new test called Imbellus. In today’s Martin Center article, Professor Mark Bauerlein takes a look at Imbellus and concludes, “Be wary of this test.”

What is Imbellus all about? Bauerlein writes:

The Imbellus Web site states the thinking-skills premise succinctly: ‘Unlike traditional standardized tests, Imbellus Assessments measure how people think, not just what they know.’ Imbellus drops multiple-choice formats and instead devises simulations that call for ‘situational judgement.’ Assessors, then, evaluate ‘a user’s cognitive process.’ Game design and 3D technology make the test ‘relevant to 21st century work and modern life.’

Sounds gimmicky to me. Bauerlein, however, spots a deeper flaw:

I have listened to the interviews and talks, and pored over the Imbellus web site, and I haven’t found anything that affirms the value of humanistic study. The staff and researchers don’t praise beauty and sublimity; they invoke the workplace and automation. They don’t mention judgment and taste; they spotlight ‘decision-making.’ They don’t show great paintings and architecture; they display simulations of the natural world.

In short, knowledge about our culture counts for nothing here. If Imbellus catches on, there will be less reason than at present to teach students anything about the humanities.

Bauerlein concludes:

This is Silicon Valley culture at work, which levels human endeavor to productivity and innovation. Parents and humanities teachers should resist the Imbellus project and all others that reduce learning to functional behavior, tradition to irrelevance.

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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