Letters to the editor

Extra time on the SAT? You're not only cheating yourself Plus: A minivan is not a sexy accessory, but you can't transport the kids in a pair of motorcycle boots; death penalty foe hurts his own cause

Published February 11, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

Buying time


Having worked as an academic advisor at a small, liberal arts college I've perused literally thousands of applicant files and I don't recall a single instance when SAT scores "with a bullet" (un-timed scores are designated by an asterisk) worked to a student's advantage. Generally the scores still correlated rather well to the student's high school performance: high achievers who pursued rigorous courses of study got high scores and vice versa. And occasionally nonstandard scores constituted a distinct disadvantage because they drew closer attention to educational assessments performed by paid testers. Oftentimes we would determine that such students were not learning disabled despite the un-timed tests and thus deserved no special consideration above and beyond other applicants.

The fact is that an extra hour or two with a #2 pencil in hand won't mean a hill of beans to a student who's not likely to guess the correct answer anyway.

-- Robert Wade Bess

We should really be worrying about whether it is proper for a test to place a premium on time. Most educational psychologists will tell you that it is a poor test that does so. As a college professor of 27 years standing I can tell you that whenever time is a factor on one of my tests I consider that I have failed in my test design.

Educational psychologists tell us that learning disabilities occur with considerable frequency. The low levels reported for test takers in poor areas is probably more indicative of our public school system's failure to fully serve the poor than it is of anything else. Their learning problems are most likely not addressed with the same seriousness as are those who are well off.

-- William J. Turnier

Professor of Law

University of North Carolina

It's even worse. Almost all the supposedly "learning disabled" are fakers: the genuinely disabled are several years behind their age level, and don't take the SAT or go to college. It's nothing but a scam: work for psychologists, careers for people in the disabilities business, and dishonest grades for the lucky students.

Can anyone be surprised that if you offer the possibility of an extra advantage, lots of ambitious students will take it?

A test is supposed to measure how much a student has learned. Of course, if a student isn't very good at learning (learning disordered, or, in severe cases, learning disabled) he won't do well. To try to hide this by giving extra time is not accommodating a disability; it is cheating.

Would you like to be treated by a doctor who could not keep up with the medical literature, but only got into medical school by receiving extra time on exams? Or to hire a lawyer who took twice as long to do everything, billing by the hour?

-- Jonathan Katz

I am one of the many diagnosed with ADD. Before I took myself off the medication, I was on more than could choke a horse while being the smallest kid in the class. Yes, I have trouble paying attention sometimes, but I have never requested extra consideration, and have refused it when offered.

Unlike dyslexia, which impairs a basic necessary skill, ADD only makes one more easily distracted. Students (and anyone, for that matter) merely need to suck it up and focus themselves. And no whining about "I can't do it, I've got ADD". I've got ADD too and I did it.

-- John Armstrong



I've joked around work that should I ever get a minivan, that means I'll have to cut my hair short and let my ass grow large. There have been guffaws from the men, and polite titters from the women who have short hair, fat asses, and drive minivans. Many thanks to the author for stating with such clarity why I'll never get a minivan -- it means I've given up.

-- Pamela Tucker

Geez, Laurie, buy the boots.

-- Adam Kuban

OK, Boomers, let's think about our own parents. Did our parents -- who survived the Depression and World War II -- spend much time worrying about preserving their "sex appeal?" Nope. They were worried about paying the mortgage and saving money to send us to college. There is a word for such concerns: "Adult."

A minivan would be a practical, sensible purchase for a growing family -- and it is that concession to practicality which chafes Wagner. As for the "gritty ordeal" of motherhood, isn't this ordeal a bit less gritty than it was for our own mothers, who did not have Pampers and microwave dinners and juiceboxes to aid them?

Like the 40-something divorced guys with their hairweaves and red convertibles, Laurie Wagner is unable to let go of her cherished adolescence.

-- R.S. McCain

I'm a single woman with a minivan ... one with removable seats and Velcro-fasten curtains I sewed myself so I can, within a few minutes, turn it into a four-wheel tent.

Where have I gone in it? Shasta. Lassen. The Canadian Rockies. The Four Corners. Many excursions to dark skies for watching meteor showers.

Proving once again that it's not the machine, it's the motion.

-- Beth Elliott

Executioner's swan song?


Michael Kroll makes significant errors of fact and logic in his essay
"Executioner's swan song?"

Kroll states that "In all, 84 people have been freed from death row since
capital punishment was restored." Well, no. About 2,000 have been released.
What Kroll is implying is that 84 are factually innocent. If one reviews
those cases on the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) website, one finds
that only about 25 of those cases claim to be factual innocent with evidence
to support that claim.

Kroll bows: "Pope John Paul (II) unequivocally called for the end of
capital punishment." So what? Is there any other government or social policy
whereby journalists, such as Kroll, would call on religious leaders to affect
government policy? And the Pope's position on abortion, birth control, etc.,

Kroll proclaims that even Russia has ended the death penalty. He failed to
mention that the decision was strictly economic. In order to receive the
financial benefits of joining the European Union, countries must end the
death penalty. The majority of Russians, and many other countries'
populations who are members of the E.U., favor the death penalty.

Kroll grossly misinterprets the U.S. Supreme Court, by finding that the court
established that "even actual innocence is not necessarily grounds for
relief." Well, let's see what Justice O'Connor said in that court decision: "The execution of a legally and factually innocent person would be a
constitutionally intolerable event."

Kroll invokes Sister Helen Prejean's popular book "Dead Man Walking" -- made
into a movie -- "The Green Mile" and "The Hurricane," saying that they "cannot
fail to have a profound impact." Possibly true, but what sophomoric swooning.
"Dead Man Walking" established that a death row inmate was an absolute liar until the moment
just before he was to be executed and that it was such moment of truth that
caused him to fess up and, thereby, claim redemption. "The Green Mile" is
absolute fiction. And "The Hurricane" is being blasted by journalists,
prosecutors and the murder victim's families as no less than an absolute

In viewing the totality of Kroll's essay, it is surprising that he doesn't
invoke another book/movie, "Alice in Wonderland," as his life story.


-- Dudley Sharp

Justice For All

(JFA is a Texas based criminal justice reform organization)

Michael Kroll makes the statement that George W. Bush's loss is correlated with his record as being the governor with the most executions occurring under his tenure. Even though I am opposed to the death penalty, Kroll's logic is flawed. The cause of George W.'s loss had little to do with his record on the death penalty, but rather being a poor candidate in comparison to John McCain. Kroll makes the common mistake of seeing correlation as causation. George W.'s loss was not caused or even related to his views or actions on the death penalty, but rather due to other unrelated political factors.

-- Frank Giancola

We have our problems in the U.K. too. But I am very glad that we left the death penalty in the dark ages where it belongs. The United States is regarded as a savage and retarded country by Europeans, because it still retains and rejoices in judicial murder. It is time the U.S. came out of the dark ages.

-- Mick Humphreys

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