OPINION: Standardized testing needs to include more diverse cultural history

With the CLT incorporating Western culture, standardized testing needs to expand and include other cultures. ORACLE PHOTO/JUSTIN SEECHARAN

The Florida Board of Governors voted to accept the Classical Learning Test (CLT) as another form of standardized testing for college admissions on Sept. 8, according to an article by the State University System of Florida.

This new testing format is centered on classical Western culture, according to the CLT website. With this directive, USF will also be accepting the CLT in its admissions process. 

While this is a great step towards cultural education, standardized tests for college admission should expand to include more aspects of other cultures so students can think more critically about themselves and the world around them – and in turn become better students and citizens.

Standardized tests like the SAT, ACT and CLT assess a student’s level of knowledge and critical thinking skills on subjects they learned in high school. Their scores help universities gauge a student’s eligibility to handle college-level work and affect their acceptance decisions, according to the College Board.

The SAT has sections on reading, writing and math while the ACT has sections on reading, writing, math and science, according to the Princeton Review.

The CLT tests students’ critical thinking, grammar, writing, math and logic skills by basing the test on the classical liberal arts education model that has influenced modern American culture and society, according to the CLT and SAT report

In the ancient Western world, “the goal of education was understood as developing both intellect and character in students,” which is shown in American culture, according to the CLT. The test includes classical Greek, Roman and Christian scholars who influenced literature, rhetoric and logic. 

With the increase of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) across America, having standardized testing centered on various cultures would be very beneficial.

DEI initiatives are used to assess and create structure in schools or businesses that show students and employees how to avoid discrimination, NYU professor Erica Foldy stated in a Feb. 10  article. These initiatives are helpful in ensuring that educational and business environments respect people of various backgrounds.

Understanding other cultures when entering college is important since universities are full of people from diverse backgrounds.

At USF’s Tampa campus, 50.4% of students are white, 22.9% Hispanic, 9.1% African American, 8.6% Asian and 9% “other” races, according to USF’s 2022-23 data.

USF is a university full of students from many different backgrounds. Naturally, incoming USF students will be exposed to people from different cultures. They can gain a better understanding of their peers by growing their knowledge of other cultures prior to admittance, helping cultivate a better university environment. 

Reflecting on past cultural beliefs also compels students to think more critically about themselves and the world around them, according to a study by University of Miami Professor of Clinical Studies Cynthia Foronda. Testing for an understanding of these values is especially beneficial when students move on to college-level work.

Many of USF’s classes and programs are based on the desire to learn about different cultures, like B.A. programs in cultural studies, American studies, African studies, international studies and world languages to name a few.

USF English professor Emily Jones said classical Western culture is important to learn about and teach.

“Plato, Cicero and Epicurus are Greek and Roman writers whose ideas about philosophy, art, and politics have been very influential on centuries’ worth of European and American culture,” Jones said in a Sept. 12 interview with The Oracle. 

“Sometimes these ancient writers hold values that continue to permeate our culture. For instance, Epicurus believed that the ultimate goal of an individual’s existence was to lead a happy, calm life. His emphasis on the well-being of the individual is still central to Western liberal thought,” Jones said. 

Although these ancient writers have been present for hundreds of years, Jones said they are still worth analyzing. 

“But is personal peace and happiness the only meaning life can have? When we ask questions like that, it’s useful to know why we sometimes begin with a certain set of assumptions,” Jones said. 

Yet, when asked about the benefits of a test focused on classical Western education, Jones did not think there were any. 

“The best thing for students in our global world would be to have a nuanced understanding of both Western and non-Western cultures,” she said. “A test that treats only one culture as important and worthy of a student’s knowledge privileges a very limited view of history and of the world today.”

Although the CLT begins to shed light on long-standing culture and history, it is only focused on ancient Western culture. Standardized testing needs to expand to include a variety of cultures and history. 

This can be done by expanding the SAT and ACT to include a history section testing students’ cultural knowledge. Another way to achieve this is by creating a new standardized test centered on critical thinking, math, writing and cultural history. This new updated system would be the role of the Department of Education since they are in charge of all standardized testing.

The history of Western and non-Western cultures should be kept alive since the U.S. is immersed in so many diverse customs. This quality should be valued, not taken for granted. The CLT is a great step for DEI initiatives by educating others on the value of Christianity and Western culture, but standardized testing needs to include more cultures.

By implementing both Western and non-Western cultures into standardized testing, students can enter college, and later society, with a deeper understanding of the value each culture holds.