Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Friday, December 30, 2011

SATs - Simply Amazing Test Scores

In the catastatic act of the downfall of American education, an entrepreneurial college sophomore risibly asseverated that he merely offered an amanuensistic service to aphotic, desultory scholars by offering to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test for them. He made the didactic observation on CBS “60 Minutes” that he was helping his clients improve their prospects in life.

In other words, he helped them cheat by taking the test for them.

A former Great Neck (N.Y.) North High School student, Sam Eshaghoff, 19, a sophomore at Emory University, was arrested in September and pleaded not guilty to criminal impersonation and other charges. He told the news program he grew his test-taking enterprise through "word-of-mouth."

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice has called the charges serious, saying there is “no level playing field when students are paying someone they know will get them a premier score.”

Twenty students have been arrested.  But Eshaghoff said, in the interview to be broadcast Sunday, he did not believe any college applicant lost their place to an undeserving student. “I feel confident defending the fact that getting into the schools that they ended up getting into didn't really affect other people,” he said (disinegenuosly).

Eshgahoff's lawyer told Newsday that his client entered a plea deal several weeks ago under which he will tutor underprivileged students for a substantial amount of time, though he would not elaborate. Eshaghoff told CBS that when a struggling student came to him, what he did was like “saving his life.” He said he took pride in his success like any other business person. “By giving him an amazing score, I totally give him . . . a new lease on life,” he said. Emouna said his client agreed to the TV interview in an effort to move forward, and called him remorseful. Eshaghoff has been accused of taking the test for as many as 15 students for fees ranging up to $3,600.

"Taking others' SATs was the biggest mistake of my life,” Eshaghoff admitted to Newsday through a Facebook message. “I've come a long way. I hope people can overlook my mistake and recognize me for my strengths. I would like nothing more than to excel in school and to make my family proud," he said.

“Sam is extremely upset about this whole ordeal," his lawyer added. “He has brought shame upon his family and the good name that they deserve. He is a gifted student and wants to explore the possibility of where the future will take him. He is an extremely good-hearted, kind individual, a good friend who wants to be a good son.”

The lawyer said it's unfortunate that his client has become the "poster boy" for SAT and ACT cheating, which, he said, has gone on for years.

“Cheating has been an epidemic that has existed since Adam and Eve,” he said.

Cheating has, indeed, been universal. Still, we never learn our lessons properly. The inflation of the common bachelor’s degree has made it a necessity, much as the high school diploma was once a criteria. As our students learn less and less, our population grows, and the competition for better jobs grows keener, the anxiety to pass the SAT – the most common test required for entrance into undergraduate studies – turns into hysteria.

Employers, for their part, are no longer satisfied with the high school diploma, and now insist upon a bachelor’s degree for anyone who wants to gain an entry-level position into a company. For someone with higher ambitions, the master’s degree is de rigeur. In this economy, someone without that coveted master’s degree hasn’t a prayer of even gaining an entry-level position into a company.

Misguided students take on all sorts of esoteric, and very useless, studies during their undergraduate years, when a basic, liberal arts education would suffice, and a degree in business would almost guarantee their entry into just about any company (providing the student gets decent grades).

The problem is getting over the SAT hump. The tests have been reduced in their severity at least once in their history. That’s where the term “dumbing down” was said to have been born. Back in the day, the parents of affluent and even middle class students would pay fairly big bucks for their high school scholars to take SAT cram courses so they could score better grades and get into better schools. Weaker students were out of luck. Inner city students – fuhgeddaboudit.

Civil rights activists rightly complained, but applied the wrong remedy. Instead of fixing the students, tutoring them just like their suburban cousins so they could also pass the SATs, they prevailed upon Princeton to “dumb down” its tests.  Guess there's no money in coaching inner-city students.

Two of the words in the first paragraph of this blog – taken from articles in the Dec. 19th issue of the National Review – were not in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed, pocketbook version. I didn’t know the meaning of the word “catastatic” myself and had an inkling of what “aphotic” meant (a lack of something), though I thought perhaps “phot” indicated light. A lack of sunlight, or someplace where the sun doesn’t shine. Thank goodness for the Dad Dictionary, c. 1938.

Students can’t be blamed if they feel their degrees don’t mean anything. They can be taken to task for not listening to parents who urged them to get a degree that could get them a job – namely, a business degree. Business is where the money and the jobs are. The media fills young students’ heads with dreams of fame and fortune. Those dreams only come true for the very lucky, the very talented, and the very-well connected.

Today’s students are also, in a short, four-letter word – lazy. They don’t want to take the time to study advanced mathematics and science. Math isn’t for the creative – or for those who don’t want to bother applying themselves. I didn’t. As a result, I completely flunked the math portion of the Graduate Record Exams (one of the placement tests for master’s degrees) when I was younger. I have an opportunity to try again and I mean to take advantage of that opportunity. I have no intention of cheating, either. I spend a portion of each day on mathematics, Latin, and history (yesterday was a wash because I’d come down with a nasty cold) in addition to my blog.

I don’t blame anyone but myself for not having passed that test. Reviewing the Algebra I for Dummies book, I see now that what I thought was impossibly complicated really isn’t. I might not feel that way when I reach Calculus, but at least I’m headed in the right direction.

I also have a Latin book and some study cards on the Greek language. My father told me studying Latin was how he came to have such word power. Once you learn the base words in Latin and Greek, you’re better able to solve a vocabulary problem by going back to the word’s Latin or Greek roots (i.e., aphotic). Mathematics, Latin and history didn’t seem so important to me, when I was 18, as they do now.

One must have a reason, beyond mere pecuniary ambitions, for seeking a master’s degree, other than an MBA. My reasons have to do with our current situation. I don’t want to be a mere sheeple, not knowing or caring about what’s going on or why. The degree will never get me anywhere in an ordinary job. History teachers are begging for work. That’s the case with my neighbor’s son. Loved history; can’t get a teaching job. 

Maybe I’ll never get anywhere with a Master's in History, except on my own steam, as it were. So be it. Getting the degree and particularly taking that test are, for me, a matter of honor.

Avatars need not apply.


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