Nicholas Lemann: The Big Test

"When I published the book it was like 'this is crazy' and now there's a lot of stuff around this, so I think this system is going to get shaken up."

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It's been more than twenty years since the publication of Nicholas Lemann's classic book The Big Test, which exploded the myth of meritocracy in a system blind to the inequalities it fostered. While systemic discrimination is widely discussed now, that's a fairly new phenomenon. In this episode, author Nicholas Lemann and Amanda explore how a creation with noble intentions--standardized testing--designed to mitigate social discrimination ended up being tainted by the very same bias it hoped to end. 

Nicholas Lemann is Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor and dean emeritus at Columbia Journalism School and a staff writer for The New Yorker. His previous books include The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy and The Promised Land: The Great Migration and How It Changed America.

About the Host

Amanda Stern is Bookable’s host. Founder of the popular literary event series Happy Ending at Joe’s Pub in New York City, Stern is also a writer. Happy Ending ran for more than a decade and was selected as New York’s best book-related series by New York Magazine, The Village Voice and NY Press. The New York Times Magazine singled out Happy Ending as a force keeping “downtown New York alive.”


This episode was produced by Andrew Dunn, Beau Friedlander and Amanda Stern. It was edited, mixed and sound-designed by Andrew Dunn who also created Bookable's chill vibe.  Our host is Amanda Stern. Beau Friedlander is Bookable's executive producer and editor in chief of Loud Tree Media.


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