Analogical Thinking

There’s been lots of chatter “out there” about analogies. One meme talks about analogies in business and their value when sizing up markets.

The rest of the chatter has to do with the elimination of analogies from the new SAT (which I took yesterday). In Today’s NYTimes, Adam Cohen opines that “An SAT Without Analoges Is Like (a) A Confused Citizenry.” He makes several good arguments about the power of analogies for persuasion. Analogies, he says, are more prevalent than ever in daily discourse. People draw comparisons to prove a point – and more often than not completely butcher the analogy. (His example is someone comparing the Estate Tax to the Holocaust.)

Cohen, unfortunately, falls into his trap of irony. He draws an analogy between the SAT and an Educated Citizenry; that is, if analogies are eliminated from the SAT then we are churning out young people ill-equipped in the skill. Although Cohen cites a handy-dandy example of an SAT-style analogy:

Poverty:Money::

(A)Wealth: gold; (B) Hunger: food; (C) Car: Driver; (D) Cook: Stove.

The vast majority of standardized test analogies are far more confusing, far more tricky, far more stupid.

Kudos to Cohen for an astute observation of a trend in rhetoric, but shame on him for drawing an analogy to the SAT.

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