Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell the difference.

Once again the Scholastic Aptitude Test has failed the test of relevance, and once again it will be made more applicable to the lives of test takers.

According to the New York Times, high schoolers prepping for college no longer will have to worry about “words such as ‘compendious,’ ‘membranous,’ ‘mendacious,’ ‘pugnacious,’ ‘depreciatory,’ ‘redolent,’ ‘treacly’ and ‘jettison.'”

Instead of such “obscure words,” says the Times, they can expect to encounter “more common words such as ‘synthesis,’ ‘distill,’ and ‘transform.'”

Dr. Howard Bashford, Ph.D., Ed.D., B.F.D., chairman of the bored of the College Board, was a touch defensive when we asked if this meant a further “dumbing down” of the time-honored examination.

“You don’t have to have a big vocabulary to be smart,” he told us. “You only need a big vocabulary to sound smart. For too long the SAT has been biased toward students who know a lot of words – you know, the literate ones.

“Literacy is not a measure of intelligence, and for years illiteracy has kept too many really smart kids from getting into higher education.”

Bashford said the SAT had been evolving since 2005, when the University of California bludgeoned the College Board into eliminating “quantitative comparisons.”

“You remember those questions,” he said, “trigonometry is to  auto mechanics as – correct answer – botany is to logging.”

Bashford said cutting the “is-to” questions was just a start in the push toward relevance.

“Some of the students who took the first revised tests are now have college degrees and are in the workplace. Their input has been important in the relevance effort as we continue to make things better for succeeding generations,” he said. “We expect further progress from the switch to relevant vocabulary words. In fact, in another 20 years I wouldn’t be surprised to see such words on the SAT as ‘welfare,’ ‘food stamps’ and ‘AFDC.'”

When we pointed out that “AFDC” wasn’t a word, Bashford snapped, “It is to millions of students now, and it will be to millions more in the years to come. Besides, what do outdated conventions – like spelling and grammar – have to do with intelligence?

“For that matter, what does achievement have to do with it? There are plenty of bright kids out there who won’t have achieved much in four years of high school. Why should they be denied a college degree?”

“Beyond this,” said Bashford, with waxing passion, “aren’t we demonstrating that ‘intelligence’ itself is just a term the elite uses to maintain control over the ‘meritocracy’?

“If intelligence were such a great predictor of success, how do you explain my ascendance to chairmanship of this great organization?”

We had to admit, he had us there.

Such a coincidence: No sooner had we left Dr. Bashford than we learned eight big school districts in California had been granted waivers from the “No Child Left Behind” law.

There’s a trade-off, however. In exchange for the waiver of the law’s requirement that kids perform at grade level in math and reading, the districts will have to draft improvement plans including “core standards” and institute testing on those standards next year.

Teachers, long disgruntled by having to “teach the test,” were pleased. Said one local teachers’ union representative, “This means we ain’t have to give no tests this year, and a student don’t have to meet no phony standard.”

Van Jones’ name still magic: The San Francisco Chronicle reports the city/county’s Public Utilities Commission will retain its deputy commissioner for external affairs, Juliet Ellis, despite an apparent conflict of interest.

The commission’s chief, Harlan Kelley, has announced Ellis will keep her $195,000-a-year job, despite having helped “steer” a $200,000 no-bid contract to Green for All, which the Chronicle says promotes “job training in energy-related work for disadvantaged minorities.”

Founder of Green for All is former Obama administration green-energy “czar” Van Jones. Ellis earned “between $10,000 and $100,000” as chairwoman of Green for All’s board.

Kelly, said there were mitigating circumstances. For example, Green for All repaid the initial $91,000  it was granted, and Ellis’ economic disclosure statement had “transparently listed her monetary stipend from Green for All” and had voluntarily returned said stipend to the organization.

So, there you have it. Return the conflict cash after you are caught, and all is well – at least in San Francisco.

Unfortunate word choice: A Sacramento newscaster announced that “progress” was being made toward the court-ordered release of 10,000 prisoners from state penitentiaries to ease overcrowding. Perhaps the Blind Partisan’s Dictionary would define “progress” as movement toward any arbitrary goal.

The state actually has made progress in upgrading prison health care (it’s probably better than yours) and easing overcrowding. The federal court responsible for the order to turn the criminals loose is taking an all-or-nothing approach. Apparently, the dignity of the bench is more important than the safety of California citizens.


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