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Policy: Technology

Big Ideas: On the SAT, regulation and the Dark Web

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Education,Crime,PennAve,Joseph Lawler,Economy,Think Tanks,Technology,Magazine

Benjamin Landy for the Century Foundation: This year, about 3 million students will graduate from high school. Of the 2 million who go on to attend college, more than 1.5 million will take the SAT. And, as usual, colleges will lean heavily on the results to assemble America's next educational elite. Here are some other things we know about the SAT:

– SAT scores are a better predictor of a student's socioeconomic background than how well they will perform in college.

– SAT scores are a worse predictor of how well students perform in college than high school GPA.

– Colleges’ use of the SAT has a disproportionate adverse impact on black and Hispanic students, as well as low-income students of all races.

These are inconvenient facts for the unregulated, $4 billion-a-year testing industry. Elite colleges and universities are deeply invested in the notion that standardized testing constitutes a fair, practical and even scientific method for determining which applicants rise and fall in America’s increasingly stratified higher education system. It’s nearly impossible to talk about the modern meritocracy without talking about the SAT. ...

The response from higher education has been tepid. A number of competitive colleges have adopted “test-optional” admissions policies, including liberal arts colleges like Bowdoin, Smith and Bates, and national universities like Wake Forest. But, so far, not one top-ranked institution has moved to reduce their reliance on the SAT or ACT. In fact, surveys indicate that increasing competition among the most elite schools — Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, and so on — has resulted in an even higher premium on testing.

Regulation vs. innovation

Scott Blakeman for the Heritage Foundation: Ashton Kutcher, an entrepreneur and popular actor, denounced heavy-handed regulation in a recent interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Kutcher is a managing partner of the investment fund A-Grade Investments. One company his fund has invested in is Uber, the app-based service that connects drivers with passengers. Uber is rapidly expanding to cities across the U.S. and is in over 24 countries worldwide. But Kutcher is experiencing firsthand some of the roadblocks many businesses have endured.

Kutcher noted that “old-school monopolies and incumbents and old-school governments” are interfering with the transportation market, picking the winners and losers, and barring innovation.

For instance, Kutcher mentioned that Uber isn’t allowed to operate in Miami “because of some dumb regulation that says it can’t exist there.”

Miami’s cab industry is heavily regulated, such that “local laws have protected taxi-medallion holders for so long that any attempt to tinker with the rules is met with stiff political resistance.”

No hysteria necessary

Sam Bieler and Debbie Meyer for The Urban Institute: The Deep Web is vast, 400 to 550 times larger than the surface web. Most of it is innocuous -- the contents of email inboxes, company intranets, and searches on websites like eBay or Amazon that exist online, but cannot be accessed via search engines.

However, a subset of the Deep Web consists of sites that are intentionally hidden and may require sophisticated encryption techniques to access. This hidden Internet has gained notoriety as a haven for drugs and illegal pornography and a place for contract killers and drug dealers to ply their trade. It has even acquired a name to match its sinister reputation: the Dark Web. ...

While all criminal justice topics have their share of hyperbole and misunderstanding, the fact that there is so little research and so much misinformation on Dark Web crime makes it difficult to identify the actual law enforcement challenges the Dark Web poses. If we are going to address Dark Web crime effectively, the first step must be a dedicated research effort that provides us with answers in three areas:

Volume: How large is the illegal market operating on the Dark Web? ... Silk Road’s $1.9 million in monthly revenue (about $22 million annually) from a worldwide market sounds like a thriving black market, until you realize that a single Chicago neighborhood might see $10 million to $20 million in cocaine sales alone. So law enforcement may ask if Dark Web drug policing is the best use of resources.

Products: What can you buy on the Dark Web? Drugs are widely available and other Dark Web sites provide access to child pornography, but it’s an open question as to whether more esoteric services like hitmen actually exist. No legitimate evidence has ever been found of many of these services. ...

People: Who’s using the Dark Web? With the Dark Web’s sinister name and reputation, it’s easy to forget that hidden networks can be a vital tool for political dissidents in repressive countries. Tor (a Dark Web network) even receives significant U.S. Department of Defense support. Understanding the user base before launching aggressive enforcement efforts will be important if U.S. foreign and domestic agencies don’t want to become a circular firing line, with one agency disassembling the Dark Web as fast as another supports it.

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Author:

Joseph Lawler

Economics Writer
The Washington Examiner