Chairman Mao’s SATs

From Frank Dikötter’s The Cultural Revolution:

Mao had always been scathing of intellectuals, but he now began to express doubts about the entire education system. On 13 February 1963, on the occasion of the Spring Festival, when the country welcomed the Chinese New Year, he compared tests in high schools and universities to the old eight- legged essay, a written form of argumentation that candidates for the imperial examinations had been required to master under the Qing dynasty. ‘I do not approve of this. It should be changed completely. I am in favour of publishing the questions in advance and letting the students study them and answer them with the aid of books.’ He struck an even more rebellious note when he suggested that there were benefits to cheating. ‘If your answer is good and I copy it, then mine too should be counted as good.’ He praised students who dozed off when teachers rambled on with their tedious lectures. ‘You don’t have to listen to nonsense, you can rest your brain instead.’ Mao went further, accusing the education system of favouring students from bad class backgrounds– capitalists, landlords– as they were better equipped to succeed in education than the proletariat and the peasants. Worst of all, schools were run by bourgeois intellectuals who were failing in their mission of training ‘revolutionary successors’.

Isn’t it funny how all of this “abolish the SATs” and “don’t force students to turn on the cameras” crap has been tried and tried and tried before? Of course, its proponents seem blissfully unaware of history and always roll out their methods as new and fresh.

5 thoughts on “Chairman Mao’s SATs”

  1. Not only do they fail to learn history, they always fail to learn statistics. Nearly every argument against admissions tests winds up being rooted in bad statistics.

    Yes, yes we all This One Person who didn’t do well on a test but was great. Well, first, I wouldn’t make one test the basis of everything, but that doesn’t mean should get rid of all tests. Also, the plural of anecdote is not data.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Something that I learned about politics from close up is that there are fewer intellectuals than there are idiots. So, if each person has one vote, it pays to convince idiots that they can beat the smart people oppressing them by voting for you. That way, you have an army of idiots who want to do away with capitalism, eat the rich etc.


  3. The SAT should be abolished because it’s a garbage test. The competitive universities and society in general would be better served by requiring that applicants submit scores for three or four of the AP subject tests or something similar. Kids who do well on the AP tests have actually learned something about those subjects in high school and are prepared to learn at the university level. The AP curricular guidelines also empower high school teachers to be rigorous and actually teach something to their students.


    1. It’s great for the kind of schools that get AP students. Mine isn’t one of them. As always, rich people come up with these ideas and modest schools like mine end up suffering.


      1. If I had the power to reform the system, students wouldn’t have to pay to take the tests. I do think AP type tests say more about student’s capabilities and preparation than the SAT.


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