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The test that will spark a counterrevolution in education


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The Woke Revolution is in retreat across the country. This year, Florida adopted the Classic Learning Test (CLT) as an alternative to the SAT and ACT. This move is further evidence that the tide is turning in education, and the CLT is the remedy we need to redeem our failing education system

The CLT sets students up for success in work and life because it orients educators to teach cultural literacy and critical thinking skills – two main pillars of knowledge that teenagers need to thrive in adulthood. 

Contrast this approach with the SAT exam, which primarily assesses students’ test-taking abilities and thereby erodes rigorous education. The SAT’s format requires educators to teach to the test, which dulls even the best learning experiences. 

SAT exam

A student looks at questions during a college test preparation class at Holton Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland, on Jan. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The SAT is a barometer for an education system that has lost its way. American education needs a counterrevolution and counterrevolutions are not about going backward or being stagnant. They succeed when groups restore traditional values with new tools or systems. The CLT is fit for this purpose.

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Young students thrive in structured environments that acknowledge excellence. Classical education, which informs the CLT’s format and content, provides that needed discipline. 

Classical education is a traditional approach to teaching the liberal arts that makes Western civilization’s history and intellectual triumphs accessible to young minds. Students acquire cultural literacy from this educational approach. The more culturally literate students are – the more they are familiar with the widest range of social and political phenomena – the more social mobility and resources they can expect to have in life.   

The CLT exam has verbal and grammar questions based on Western civilization’s greatest thinkers, testing students on their Western cultural literacy, not their ability to take a standardized test. 

By contrast, the SAT is the test for yesterday’s higher education system. The 2016 sample SAT, which includes reading, writing and math sections, contains wildly divergent texts whose disconnected content serves to block accusations of cultural bias from a pro-equity education system that no longer wants standardized testing.

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The SAT misses the mark because it overcompensates for diversity and inclusion concerns with verbal reasoning questions that touch on non-Western culture, capitalist consumerism and climate change. The result is an overly broad examination of information and factoids, not an assessment of knowledge. This misapplication is particularly bad because public education is falling apart and hurting families without the resources for private schools or SAT tutoring.

As an adjunct professor, I support required standardized testing for college admissions, but I also recognize a sinking ship when I see one. Around 2,000 colleges – roughly 50% of degree-granting institutions – will not require standardized tests for fall 2024 admissions. To stay relevant, the SAT will make its questions DEI-palatable, and subsequently more unhelpful as an assessment tool for college preparedness. 

I want applicants to take standardized tests because the exams set a baseline for college readiness. That is why I am optimistic about the CLT as a new test that can reinvigorate liberal education in this country.

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The CLT is not just a test. As the culminating exercise of classical education, the CLT is the consummation of a superior K-12 experience that elevates students’ capacities for success in higher education and as members of society. Those outcomes triumph over the documented failures of K-12 schools or colleges to instill critical thinking skills. America’s children deserve better than what they’re getting now from our education system. 

Proponents of traditional liberal arts education are the vanguard of the counterrevolution that must take place in our schools. We need to rebuild secondary and higher education with new policies and practices that restore schools and colleges to their original missions to cultivate students’ intellectual growth and virtue.

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