Washington’s gerrymandering of job seekers’ test scores to comport with egalitarian fantasy has given us a glimpse of the testing center of the future. On university campuses, the proctors will be apostles of Political Correctness. Armed with a high-tech apparatus that can detect signs of brain activity, they will prowl the test centers and activate a mental scrambler whenever any test taker emits waves indicating he is taking unfair advantage of his brains. The time will have arrived, as leftist Kurt Vonnegut once imagined in the short story “Harrison Bergeron,” when the ideal of absolute human equality has been reached; thanks to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution and the diligence of the United States Handicapper General, nobody will be “smarter than anybody else” (or prettier or stronger or anything). Life, at last, will be fair.

Vonnegut’s fiction was set in the year 2081. The reality of brain-leveling, however, is coming much sooner than that. The U.S. Department of Labor’s system of secretly rigging scores on a widely used job aptitude test according to a racial handicapping scheme—a system that was exposed last summer and then put on hold by DOL—was not just a single quirky experiment destined to be interred with all the other brain-dead progeny of the social engineers. The racenorming of the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB) so as to award blacks and Hispanics hefty bonus points to compensate for the lower test averages of their groups was, it turns out, part of a larger subterranean movement to rig test scoring toward racial parity—thus bringing job quotas in through the back door.

The irony of all this is that the egalitarians behind this scam are implicitly siding with racialists who long have contended that the disparity between white and black test averages is the result of immutable, genetic-based differences in intelligence. The test riggers are throwing in the towel, giving up the liberal faith in perfectibility of the human being. In the process they are besmirching the real achievements of those who have shown they don’t need any hoked-up gradesheets to get ahead, and they are stoking the fires of racial resentment. The equal opportunity promised by the landmark civil rights laws has become the fulcrum for unequal entitlements.

The details of the great testing deception may be revealed only gradually, like the tantalizing lifting of an exotic dancer’s veils. Nearly half a year had passed after then-Secretary of Labor Elizabeth Dole had suspended use of the race-normed GATB when it came to light that the staff of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was dragooning Fortune 500 companies into using other kinds of tests that disguised racial preferences—quotas—in their scoring. EEOC chairman Evan J. Kemp, Jr. promptly disavowed race-norming, but his underling’s scheming showed how deeply embedded in the bureaucracy the nefarious practice is. The EEOC-preferred subterfuge, or something like it, could be attached to GATB—a popular test for blue-collar jobs in wide use since 1947—when DOL trots out its next version of the test in the next year or two. An EEOC official admitted that yet another test favored by the federal bureaucracy is sex-normed: that is, because women tend to score lower than men on mechanical aptitude, the scores of women are padded to eliminate the difference in group averages.

Euphemisms are the stock in trade of test-falsifying egalitarians. The preferred one for the race-norming of GATB was “within-group scoring,” which meant that blacks’ percentiles resulted from being scored against fellow blacks alone, while Hispanics were ranked against other Hispanics, and “others” (mainly whites and Asians) were scored in a separate category. The most fraudulent aspect of this is that the jobs bureaucracy then gave out percentile scores to the unemployed test takers as well as to prospective employers as though they were straightforward merit-based rankings from the total test population. Were a private company to engage in such wholesale misrepresentation, the government and Naderites would sue it into receivership.

The EEOC-preferred alternative is couched in an even more misleading euphemism: “performance-based score adjustment.” Contrary to its meritocratic ring, this method uses a convoluted formula to artificially boost percentiles based on the size of differences in average test scores between designated minorities and “other persons.” Perversely, the worse blacks and Hispanics score as groups, the larger the bonus points they individually receive. This so-called “performance-fair” system gives minorities approximately 90 percent of the advantage they receive from “within-group” scoring. Linda S. Gottfredson of the Department of Educational Studies at the University of Delaware figured that a raw score of 270 that would give a white person a percentile score of 16 under either system would entitle a black test taker to a score of 50 under GATB race-norming and 46 under the performance-fair quota system.

There are two tip-offs that the performance-fair system may become the feds’ preferred substitute for “withingroup” scoring. First, the politicized National Academy of Sciences panel that in 1989 tried to invest GATB race-norming with a mantle of scientific respectability conceded that the performance-fair system might be easier to defend from reverse-discrimination charges. That could be in no small part, as Gottfredson remarks acerbically, because of a “technical impenetrability” that “protects the pseudoscience from easy unmasking.” The second, and most important, tip-off is that Senator Teddy Kennedy’s Labor Committee had quietly written this upside-down definition of “test fairness” into the legislative intent of the 1990 Kennedy-Hawkins civil rights bill that President Bush vetoed. Echoing the EEOC, the committee stated that an employment test, no matter how unbiased and job-related it might be, could no longer be defended on grounds of business necessity if its color-blind use resulted in disproportionate failure rates for minorities. Thus, the stage would have been set for federal courts to determine that Congress intended the use of tests with built-in quotas. And that may yet come to pass in 1991 with President Bush’s ability to sustain a second veto of a civil rights act in grave doubt.

The egalitarians have other options if they are thwarted in the underground rigging of test outcomes. One is to remove much of the cognitive material from tests—a “dumbing-down” process. It is worthy of note that the old Professional and Administrative Career Examination (PACE), an intellectually demanding test for entrance to the federal service, was trashed in 1982 after the lame-duck Garter administration signed a consent decree promising to develop tests that would eliminate “adverse impact” on minorities. Six new tests, given for the first time in June 1990, have less academic content than PACE and draw heavily on subjective “biodata.” And, to be sure, another option is to abolish testing altogether, which may be the direction for a nation that prizes egalitarianism over excellence. A fine Third World nation this is becoming.