Can Reality TV Help Your Kid Do Well on the SAT?

young woman essay writing notebookSo from day one, you raised your kids to be scholars? Read to them every night since they were in the womb, signed them up for science camp in second grade, and introduced them to Latin in middle school. And never, not even once, did you risk letting them lose focus or brain cells watching television. Nope, no TV allowed.

So I bet you're assuming the SAT will be a breeze for them then, right?

Well, some students raised in this kind of academic-preparatory childhood recently came out feeling a little ill-prepared when they took the SAT -- because the timed essay prompt was centered around reality TV. Gulp! That's right. They study their whole lives only to, in the end, be faced with an essay question about The Situation. How lame is that?


According to the NY Times, anxious test takers went nuts after this SAT test prompt was used. Via the website College Confidential, student responses included:

I don’t watch tv at all so it was hard for me. I have no interest in reality tv shows... :(

And ...

This is one of those moments when I wish I actually watched TV. I ended up talking about Jacob Riis and how any form of media cannot capture reality objectively. I kinda want to cry right now.

Did you just say Jacob who? Exactly the point (btw, he's a 19th-century social reformer). These kids are preparing for the SAT and a college education outside the pop culture realm, and here's a time when the focus on more traditional academic studies worked against them. Or did it?

Angela Garcia, executive director of the SAT program, stands behind the prompt and says the timed essay prompts are always designed to give students an opportunity to demonstrate their writing skills. The pop culture reference is just a point of reference about which anyone, TV watchers or not, can have an opinion.

I'd like to think the test makers are weeding out that kind of out-of-touch intellectualism in favor of a well-balanced educational point of view -- just because I tend to believe it's a little more practical to have both book smarts and real-world smarts, especially in terms of interacting socially, which proves quite critical in many professions. However, I'd guess this prompt was selected to make the test feel more accessible to more mainstream students, most of whom ARE watching reality TV, and providing them a relatable prompt to make the scary test less horrifying while at the same time challenging the intellects to flex their writing talents.

What do you think about this reality TV SAT prompt -- unfairly dumbed down or perfectly accessible for the masses?


Image via redcargurl/Flickr

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