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Sticking It To the Man

Sticking It To the Man

Movie: The Perfect Score

According to Kyle, the protagonist of the Paramount/MTV release The Perfect Score , SAT actually stands for "Suck-Ass Test." To be sure, this is mainstream Hollywood schlock through and through, but in the midst of mediocre writing, acting, directing, and cinematography, The Perfect Score manages to provide a series of surprisingly biting critiques of the SAT, the Educational Testing Service (ETS), and the College Board.

The Perfect Score is worth seeing for at least two scenes. In the movie's opening, Kyle makes some searing observations. While he narrates that the SAT "Sees us all the same," the screen cycles through images of a pregnant teenager sitting down to take the exam, a typical prep-school student going to a well-funded classroom, and a student who has to go through metal detectors to get into school, highlighting just how different all students are. The scene ends on an even more serious note when Kyle solemnly observes that the SAT is "not about who you are. It's about who you'll be."

Later, as Kyle is deciding whether or not to take part in the college exam caper, he comes home to his mom, who is a teacher. Mom jokingly asks Kyle if he wants to help her grade and adds with a wry smile, "We're teaching the first graders to bubble." Kyle responds, "Mom, first graders can't read." To which mom solemnly replies, "I hate to say it. There's more money in filling in bubbles than reading these days." Kyle concludes, "Standardized testing is taking over."

There are other more specific critiques of the SAT peppered throughout The Perfect Score . At varying points the test is labeled as "anti-girl" for underscoring women on the math sections, having a bias toward National Merit Scholars, and being racist. The script writers even managed to squeeze in the term "stereotype vulnerability," which refers to the theory that students are vulnerable to stereotypes regarding achievement: meaning, for instance, that African-American students will perform more poorly on the SAT because they know that African-American students traditionally score lower than white students on the test. Fortunately, when another student raises this issue with The Perfect Score 's only African-American student, Desmond, he says he couldn't care less about the stereotype since he needs to take care of business and go to college. Later it comes out that Desmond breaks the stereotype of being a dumb, black jock because, much to the surprise of his movie-mates, he is a whiz in math.

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