Thursday, October 06, 2005

THE LSAT--

I took my LSAT on Saturday. I think I did reasonably well on it--by my standards at any rate. I hadn't had all that much time over the previous period of time to actually study for it as much as I should have, though that doesn't bother me as much as one would expect--after all, I only took because a friend encouraged me to, and I'm not really more than halfway committed to going to law school as it is. None of this in and of itself, however, is what upsets me about my experience. What upsets me is that tests like this create such a huge division between the haves and have-nots.

I was at the gym doing my regularly scheduled Thai kickboxing lesson a couple of days before my test, and I told my master that I wouldn't be coming in the rest of the week so I could get some hours of uninterrupted study in for my test. Someone else in the gym overhead and asked me what courses I was taking to study for it. I was a bit taken aback by that statement. Now, my gym has a lot of aspiring actors, actresses and other film personalities that train there, including the daughter of a very famous director, and it's a relatively high socio-economic demographic. But still, I was surprised that someone would expect by default that I would be taking classes to study for the LSAT. I don't have the time or money--upwards of $1000--to spend on special prep courses for a test. It already costs $115 to register for the damn test as it is.

Combine this with two other facts: 1) the fact that your LSAT score is a prime determining factor of what law schools you get into, and 2) certain parts of the LSAT don't test anything having do with the skills you'll need for law schools as it is, and you've got all the indicators of a money-making racket that should be indictable under the RICO act. It's borderline criminal.

First of all, why do the applicants have to pay to be tested? One would think that the law schools themselves would fund LSAC for providing, developing and honing a standardized method of testing applicants. Second, one can't govern the amount of time one can take to prepare for a test, or prevent someone from publishing a book to help people with the test. But...come on. Over a thousand bucks to take specialty courses to prepare you for and improve your score on a test for which you have to pay, and whose relevance to your actual activities at law school is marginal at best? That should be illegal in and of itself. But tack onto that the fact that it enables those who can afford it to get into better law schools than those who can't, when said classes, between two test-takers who otherwise would have had similar scores, can make the final scores sent to law schools look dramatically different. It's a plutocratic education access protection racket that is a large factor in denying students of lesser means equal opportunity.

Being able to buy a nicer car is one thing, but being able to buy a better score is quite another. If it were up to me, it would be illegal to profit from offering classes to improve scores on standardized tests. If foundations want to offer free classes to improve their constituents' educational opportunities, so be it--and I'm sure that concerned people would figure out how to get around that restriction anyway. I'm not resentful in any way, honestly. I don't believe in taking those classes, because it would me feel dirty--and I believe I can outperform the majority of those who do anyway. I can compete with them regardless. What irks me is knowing that plenty of other people who would have been able to compete are having their curve raised on them by people who would have been exactly at their level--except for the fact that they--or their families--had the money to buy a better score.