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Testing Testing: Social Consequences Of The Examined Life
by F. Allan Hanson
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From Publishers Weekly
In this thoughtful and fairly accessible book, anthropologist Hanson argues that tests--of ability, character and achievment--define and dominate Americans more than they realize. First examining "authenticity tests," designed to "identify some qualitative state" about a person, he then canvasses the practice and pitfalls of lie detection and drug testing, suggesting they do more to control people than to fight improper behavior. In the book's second half, he takes on "qualifying tests," which measure "ability or inclination." Citing new theories of "multiple intelligences," Hanson maintains that conventional notions of merit are based on outdated concepts. His argument for protection of employees from polygraph and other integrity tests is convincing, but he has no easy solution for replacing tests of intelligence.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
New York Times Book Review
The author brings to his often impassioned discussion of testing a fine humanism.
From Kirkus Reviews
A well-informed analysis of pervasive testing in America today, with a substantial historical overview, from cultural anthropologist Hanson (University of Kansas). Drawing inspiration and his critical stance largely from the arguments of Michel Foucault, Hanson provides ample evidence that Americans now live in an ``age of infinite examination.'' Testing, the author explains, is divided into two broad categories--either for determining authenticity or measuring qualifications--but in every instance its application takes the form of an agency gathering information from and about an individual. Drawing comparisons between the methods used to identify witches (tie the accused hand-and-foot and put them into a river to see whether they float) and the more technologically advanced polygraph, Hanson contends that these and other tests invariably transform, and often create, the condition that they are intended to measure. Qualifying tests are no less suspect, as evidenced by the persistent correlation between SAT scores and socioeconomic status, and by the fact that IQs have proven completely unreliable as a measure of one's future social success. Such measurements, the author says, serve ultimately to fragment the sense of self, providing under any aegis only a partial, misleading view of the person examined--but their use is undeniable as an extension of the power that agencies of every sort can wield over Americans. Not earth-shattering, but provocative and solid nonetheless: a compelling demonstration that the social consequences of ubiquitous testing are by no means positive. (Illustrations.) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
Times Higher Education Supplement
A sustained critique of the deeply entrenched practices of testing. . . . Most of what Hanson says is familiar to readers of Michel Foucault, but here it is more accessible and applied to the present times.
About the Author
F. Allan Hanson is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of Kansas. His previous books include Meaning in Culture (1980), Studies in Symbolism and Cultural Communication (1982), and, with Louise Hanson, Counterpoint in Maori Culture (1983).
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