There was a time a couple of generations ago that students didn't buy an expensive kit, purchase time with a tutor or otherwise prepare other than a good dose of nerves for taking the Scholastic Aptitude Test.
The reason for the nerves was that it was once the standard used by college entrance screeners. A good score would mean a wider choice of colleges and universities.
But in recent generations, all that's changed, including the test itself. The College Board says the recently announced changes for the SAT are reflective of what students coming into college know. We hope that's not true.
We'll start with the removal of the penalty for wrong answers. That means kids can literally just guess.
The availability of the test online only at selected locations makes sense, given the number of online educational options available from elementary school through doctoral programs, but we worry about the true knowledge of high-school hackers.
And, while the test-redesigners have wrapped themselves in the flag by noting every test taker will run into passages from the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence - we wonder why that wasn't always the case - the changes to drop the essay requirement surely will set back the language. Professors already face a generation that writes college papers in text-speak.
This move cannot help eliminate that.
We're afraid that the test is becoming one more reflection of an educational system that cannot agree upon certain, basic items of knowledge every American should possess when they graduate from high school or college. Instead of focusing on knowledge and accountability, we've stood education on its head by focusing on teaching to answer questions on a test.
If the SAT is changing as a reflection to that, we're not climbing the ladder of knowledge but descending the slide to darkness.