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Nicholas Lemann

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Nicholas LemannTHE BIG TEST

The Secret History of the American Meritocracy

Nicholas Lemann

“A lively narrative based on first-time access to the archives of the Educational Testing Service.”
—Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times

“ . . . a swaggering good tale peopled with colorful characters, from the testmakers who created the SAT in the 1920’s to the students who used it 40 years later to launch themselves as Lemann’s Mandarins.”
—Gerald W. Bragey, The Washington Post Book World

“An absorbing narrative carries Lemann’s story.”
—Susan McCarthy, The San Francisco Chronicle

“ . . . as fascinating a book as will appear this year. It does what the best political books do: restores the aura of mystery to a taken-for-granted social institution, namely American higher education.”
—Walter Kirn, New York Magazine

“ . . . a dazzling writer . . . Mr. Lemann makes this tale immensely readable, and THE BIG TEST is at all points populated by vivid characters.”
—Dan Seligman, The Wall Street Journal

“Lemann has explored an apparently familiar subject and then shown that its impact on American history is much greater than anyone previously realized. Lemann knows he is telling a much larger story about the conscious creation of a new American elite. He also knows how to tell a story, one of those intangible talents that no SAT verbal score can ever measure. The result is a book that is intellectually serious and highly readable. THE BIG TEST deserves to make the best-seller list.”
—Joseph Ellis, Chicago Tribune

“A high achievement. It provides a rich account of the people and the institutions involved in the rise of educational testing and the turn toward meritocracy in major universities, as well as the later struggle over affirmative action.”
—Paul Starr, The New Republic

Born in New Orleans in 1954, Nicholas Lemann graduated from Harvard College in 1976 with a degree in American history and literature. Now a staff writer with The New Yorker, Lemann is the former national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly. Before that, Lemann was both a writer and editor at The Washington Monthly, Texas Monthly, and The Washington Post. He is the author of the award-winning THE PROMISED LAND: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America (1991).

THE BIG TEST: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy (ISBN 0-374-52751-2, $15.00) by Nicholas Lemann will be published in paperback by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on December 6, 2000. For more information, please contact the Publicity Department at 212-206-5326.

Meetings Attended:

Commission Meeting -- June 4-5, 2001