Monday, March 20, 2006

SAT scoring snafu calls eternal salvation into question for students

A small panel of students from St. Polycarp High School of St. Louis debated whether the current crisis over miscalculated SAT scores has caused people to question the Catholic Church's understanding of eternal salvation.

After the College Board admitted mis-scoring thousands of SATs, the most common test used to judge student achievement and aptitude for college work, this panel suggested that many students have moved from anger to reflection on the deeper meaning of achievement and salvation. See corresponding story here.

One student, Bridget Smith, opened the panel with a chart, making correlations between the SATs and the Christian life. "It's pretty amazing when you think about it," she said. "The SATs are like the virtuous life of the Christian. You only get one chance, you do await final judgment, and it does have a bearing on the rest of your existence."

"That's why this scoring situation is so disturbing," chimed in another student, Steven Ford. "I mean, I study like there's no tomorrow, take an SAT course and everything, and I find out that my colleges were sent the wrong score. How do we know that the same thing can't happen with God? Maybe I'm spending all this time avoiding the cool wicked stuff, and it can all be a wash because it happened to rain one day. It's very unsettling, to say the least."

The panel, attended by 50 students and faculty members, evoked atrong reactions. A theology teacher challenged the panel that their understanding of God and salvation was misguided, stating God does not make mistakes, and that God is omniscient. Ms. Smith responded, "I know we've been told that, but when it comes right down to it, how do you know? We invested our whole high school careers on the SAT College Board; we thought they couldn't make mistakes. But they did, and now everything is up for grabs."

Another theology teacher also pushed them, commenting that they had no room for grace in their chart. One panelist, Brian Seaton, cut off that possibility quickly. "Look, you know there is no room for grace in the SAT. You show up, and you're throwing up with a migraine or the flu, and its just too bad for you. You just muddle through in your vomit. That is the reality I know. The SAT is like the world, and there is no forgiveness in this world. I just can't see how any God would want to be different than the American way."

The theology faculty mentioned that they would address this pastoral situation in classes right away, but it may be too late for one student.

"That does it," he muttered leaving the panel. "I'm taking the ACT. Then I'm becoming Buddhist."

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