Form without content is void.

The same “EdLife” section of the New York Times that I referred to in my last post contained a sad-but-true article on SAT scoring, in which a test-prep professional writes an essay receiving a near-perfect score extolling the Nazis’ intellectual courage and integrity. As the article notes, SAT essays are not graded on the basis of the position taken by the essays, only on whether or not they’re properly structured.

This reminded me of an anecdote that Matthew Crawford included in his book Shop Class as Soulcraft, in which he recounts his time writing article abstracts for a database company. The articles Crawford extracted were scientific and technical in nature, and he admits to not having understood the bulk of the articles he was tasked with. Nonetheless, he was expected to abstract the content of the pieces for the database, almost as though it was a mechanical act that could be captured in a brief set of rules—rules not unlike those for grading SAT essays.

As the scholar said, form without content is void.