Monday, November 22, 2010

Faking It

I stumbled across this memoir, Lost in the Meritocracy, while looking for other titles on scholastic aptitude testing.  Walter Kirn retells how he managed to cheat the system,

... the young Walter Kirn quickly learned that achievement could be precisely quantified, but also that the system for arriving at that quantification could be gamed. “I was the system’s pure product,” he writes, “sly and flexible, not so much educated as wised up.” He figured out how to turn a teacher’s question inside out and parrot it back in a simulation of thoughtfulness. If asked, “How does racial prejudice contribute to inner-city hopelessness?” he’d reply, “Is our conception of ‘inner-city hopelessness’ perhaps in itself a form of prejudice?” A maestro of multiple choice, he managed to ace his SATs despite having cracked only three “serious novels” by the age of 16: “Frankenstein,” “Moby-Dick” and “The Great Gatsby.”


  1. I had a friend in college who was a lot like Kirn. School was simply a game. He had made straight A's throughout, but in his last semester of the undergraduate English program, he decided not to attend any classes of a perfunctory course in Grammar, nor make any effort to study, and see if he could pass the final. He got a B+. He was more proud of being able to drink a beer without a single gulp than he was his grades.

  2. This is a perfect example, because Walter Kirn is not as smart as he thinks he is. And he is the opposite of what most might consider well read.