Sonia Sotamayor, the first Hispanic justice in the courts history, acknowledges there is cultural bias in standardized test, “With my academic achievement in high school, I was accepted rather readily at Princeton and equally as fast at Yale, but my test scores were not comparable to that of my classmates. And that’s been shown by statistics, there are reasons for that. There are cultural biases built into testing, and that was one of the motivations for the concept of affirmative action to try to balance out those effects.” (Savage, 2009). Imagine if someone was taking an extremely important test like the SAT and them not being able to understand some of the questions because their culture or language differed from the test. When they are answering the questions they think they’re doing great, and getting them all right, but truth of the matter is they’re getting them all wrong. The horrible part though is, they’re not getting them wrong because they’re unintelligent, but they are answering the questions incorrect because the questions themselves are culturally biased. Culturally bias in standardized test can emotionally harm a person, determine someone’s future, and it will never disappear.
Cultural bias in testing refers to a situation in which a given test is inappropriate for a certain audience. When a test does not test the student's actual knowledge of a taught subject or includes details tied to a culture that the student is unfamiliar with, it can be identified as a culturally biased test (Sosa, 2011).
Cultural bias in standardized testing is not a new thing; there has been all sorts of bias in testing since it was first invented. In 1905 a French psychologist Alfred Binet began developing a standardized test of intelligence, which would eventually be incorporated into a version of the modern IQ test (Harlow, 2011). By World War I, standardized testing was standard practice. Aptitude tests called, Army Mental Tests, were conducted to assign U.S. servicemen jobs during the war effort (Harlow, 2011). For some of the questions an Army recruit would have to fill in missing parts of an object. The first ones were pretty easy, like filling in a missing nose or mouth on a persons face. Just like any other test the questions become more difficult. Some of the questions though weren’t just difficult though, they were very culturally biased (Harlow, 2011). The next set of questions asked the test takers to fill in the missing parts of a gun, a rabbit, and even a gramophone. These were culturally biased questions because in the 1900’s immigrants were coming to America from all over and in some countries there might not have been rabbits; so how could that person answer that question correctly? Mostly only wealthy, elite people had a gramophone in their homes; most poor and middle class people hadn’t ever seen one in their life (Harlow, 2011). So once again how could they fill in the missing parts of an object they have never seen? The standardized test given back in the day were culturally bias, and sadly today’s current standardized test still struggle with the same issue of eliminating culturally biased questions, on the test. Eliminating culturally biased questions on a test is a very serious issue because it can emotionally hurt the test taker.