China is none too pleased with the College Board’s changes to the SAT, which the emerging superpower fears will impose American values on too many of their brightest, young minds. Instead of reading things like The Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung, Chinese students will be putting their noses into the pages of the Bill of Rights in preparation for the upcoming SAT.
Last March, the U.S. College Board decided to revise the SAT by introducing important historical documents in one part of the test, saying “The vital issues central to these documents – freedom, justice, and human dignity among them – have motivated numerous people in the United States and around the globe.”
“I think the founding documents and other similar ones from around the world will ask students to think for themselves, something that US college students are asked to do,” says Jacqui Byrne, Partner, Ivy Ed in Fanwood and Bernardsville, NJ. “The great thing about this new writing prompt is that students will have to learn to analyze a text – any text – in order to do well on the essay portion of the new SAT. Instead of mastering the SAT question patterns on the old SAT, high school students will have to study the material they should be learning in school anyway.”
China, however, disagrees. The official New China News Agency recently said, “Including content from America’s founding documents in a revised U.S. college entry exam has drawn attention in China, with worries the materials may impose the American values system on students.”
Such worries are not new. The Chinese Communist Part has previously deemed these very values as threatening to its rule. Chinese law enforcement has even jailed activists for trying to promote such values. Just last January, Xu Zhiyong, the human rights activist who initiated the New Citizens Movement in order to promote similar humanitarian values, was sentenced to four years in prison.
If only a handful of students chose to attend college in the United States, perhaps the changes might not have invoked such a reaction. However, data from the Institute of International Education shows that the amount of Chinese students choosing to attend U.S. universities has grown by 20% annually for over six years. Over 235,000 Chinese students being enrolled in U.S. higher education institutions last year alone.
“If the new SAT succeeds, it will be the first time America is able to systematically shape the views, beliefs and ideologies of hundreds of thousands of Chinese students every year, not through a popular television show or a politician’s speaking tour, but through what the Chinese care about most – exams,” wrote Kelly Yang, a writer with the South China Morning Post.
According to Yang, the combination of the SAT’s popularity and its new focus on civil liberties could “change the mind-set and world view of an entire generation of Chinese youth.”