“It isn’t ability that matters, it’s where you rank on the privilege hierarchy.”
Tucker Carlson on Thursday slammed a plan to add an “adversity score” to the SAT so that colleges will know exactly how underprivileged students are.
The Fox News host reacted on air to the The Wall Street Journal’s report about the new score earlier in the day. Carlson said the College Board, which oversees the SAT, was explicitly rejecting the “most basic promise of America.”
“Everyone deserves to have the same rights. Everyone should have the same standards and be held to them in the same way. That’s the most basic promise of America,” he said. “The College Board is explicitly rejecting this.”
He continued: “On the new SAT, it isn’t ability that matters, it’s where you rank on the privilege hierarchy, and it’s not hard to imagine the perverse effects of this. Under the new standards, if you worked hard and stayed marriage for the sake of your children, your kids will be punished for that.”
As Carlson noted, the 1-100 adversity score is calculated based on 15 social and economic factors, including the crime rate and poverty level of the student’s high school and neighborhood. The College Board, a New York-based nonprofit, would not say exactly how it is calculated.
Fifty colleges already used the score last year as part of a trial. The College Board reportedly intends to expand to 150 institutions this fall, and even more the following year. Most colleges and universities rely on the SAT for admissions.
Colleges will see the score on something called the Environmental Context Dashboard, which compares applications across a number of indices in addition to SAT score, including poverty, wealth and opportunity.
David Coleman, the CEO of the College Board, told the Journal that his organization has long been worried that wealthy students outperform their classmates.
“There are a number of amazing students who may have scored less [on the SAT] but have accomplished more” he said. “We can’t sit on our hands and ignore the disparities of wealth reflected in the SAT.”
However, a former College Board staffer said the real goal was to address racial disparities.
“The purpose is to get to race without using race,” said Anthony Carnevale, the director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.
In 2018, white students scored an average of 177 points higher than black students and 133 points higher than Hispanic students. Asian students scored 100 points higher than white students.
While at the College Board, Carnevale oversaw a failed 1999 effort to implement a similar program called Strivers, which explicitly took race into account. Colleges pushed back and scuttled the program at the time.
But that was then. In recent years, campus identity politics have become a central issue in the U.S. culture wars. Many colleges have insisted that promoting diversity is central to their educational mission. Several college admissions officers told the Journal that if the Supreme Court disallows race-based affirmative action, the College Board’s adversity score would be even more valuable.
Yale University, one of the schools who used the score last year, said it had helped the school’s recent efforts to boost socioeconomic diversity.
“This [adversity score] is literally affecting every application we look at,” Jeremiah Quinlan, the dean of undergraduate admissions, told the Journal. “It has been a part of the success story to help diversity our freshman class.”
Meanwhile, Carlson echoed critics of affirmative action, who see it as reverse discrimination. Harvard was sued for allegedly discriminating against Asian-American applications, and similar lawsuits have been filed against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of California system.
Speaking on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” the populist pundit warned that the adversity score would create victims, too.
“It doesn’t take a perfect SAT score to guess who’s going to loose under the system. It’s who always loses: the middle class,” he said. “They’ve been told that America is a meritocracy. Work hard, sacrifice from your kids, and you will rewarded. But people like David Coleman know that’s not true.”
Carlson went on to criticize elites for gaming the system, and said the new SAT would give them more opportunities than ever to do so.
“Wouldn’t it just be easier to reward the kids who know the most about English and math?” he said. That’s what you would do if you cared about fairness or the future of your country, you would emphasize achievement over victimhood. Our decadent elites don’t care, so they do the opposite.”
The SAT has taken a public relations hit since federal prosecutors revealed this spring that students cheated on the test for years as part of a widespread college admissions fraud. According to the Journal, the adversity score and the associated dashboard could help the test compete with the ACT college admissions exam, which was also caught up in the federal probe.
A spokesman for the ACT said it is “investing significant resources” in a similar product, which is expected to be announced later this year.