The more a national college exam imposes a uniform framework for competitive ranking, the more is at stake for those at the very top of the socioeconomic pyramid—who often demand, above all, access to political power. In a regime like ours, where elite education is the gatekeeper, competition for that access is, at the upper levels, as finely graded as the Olympic games. The less qualitative that exams like the SAT become, and the more tethered to national standards, the harder children of elites will be compelled to work to best the test, and the more elites will pay to ensure that they do exactly that.
The result? Elites will increasingly feel disgraced if they fall into the “normal” belt of humanity “below” them. Elites will increasingly feel entitled to perpetual political power if they are the select few who have aced out so many of their fellow elites for America’s top power positions (and the world’s). And non-elites with the capacity to draw us fruitfully into the beauty, productivity, and enjoyment of the world will have a harder and harder time “lucking” into leadership.