California parents are expressing their concerns about a state-mandated test for public school children. While the California Learning Assessment System (CLAS) test sounds academic, it is reportedly also designed to evaluate attitudes, values, and feelings. Parents are concerned about personal questions regarding family members. In fact, they are so concerned that they are banding together to sue California school districts.

If the CLAS test does attempt to find out about values and attitudes, it fits perfectly with Outcome Based Education (OBE), with its goals centered on values and attitudes (under the supposed umbrella of “critical thinking”) with class time devoted to exploring feelings.

Exploring feelings in the classroom utilizes psychological techniques similar to those in group therapy. William Coulson, who helped Carl Rogers develop an educational approach based on principles of psychotherapy, saw the disastrous results, not only in the drop in academic achievement, but in the personal lives of those involved. Coulson, therefore, encourages parents to oppose the test.1

Those who defend CLAS say, “They give children the opportunity to express their personal values,” and, “They’re very stimulating and encourage expanded thinking.”2 However, the CLAS test is a “secure test,” meaning that the public is not allowed to see it. Thus, the concern about its psychological nature is based on what people have heard about the test.

Psychological tests that measure attitudes and values in contrast to abilities are generally called personality tests. Personality tests “are instruments for the measurement of emotional, motivational, interpersonal, and attitudinal characteristics, as distinguished from abilities.”3

Parents who adamantly oppose CLAS, which they have not seen, may not be concerned about other personality tests, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the Personal Profile System (PPS), the Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis (TJTA), and the LaHaye Temperament Analysis (LTA). In fact, these tests are quite popular among Christians.

Personality tests are used by psychologists and also by those who call themselves “biblical counselors.” They are also extensively used by mission boards and seminaries to decide who is fit for ministry. In addition, personality tests and so-called spiritual gift inventories are given in Sunday School classes.

However, unless such tests meet certain standards of validity, they are worse than useless, because they become lying instruments. Validity is “the most important question to be asked about any psychological test.”4 The validity of a test indicates whether it actually measures what it is supposed to measure and how well it does so. In spite of the faith so many Christians place in such psychological tests, personality and temperament tests and inventories generally have extremely poor validity. In other words they cannot be trusted to do what they are created to do.

We agree that personality tests have no place in the classroom. We also believe that personality tests have no place in churches, seminaries, or missionary societies. Christians have no need of such tests. Christians are to walk according to Truth, not with the help of personality tests, which cannot even reveal the nature of the flesh, let alone the spirit of one who has been born again through faith in Jesus Christ.

(For more information on personality testing and popular typologies which lead Christians astray, see Four Temperaments, Astrology & Personality Testing.)

1William Coulson, quoted by Edith Inta, “Psychologist urges action against test.” Santa Barbara News-Press, April 12, 1994, p. B3.
2Edith Inta, “Goleta lets parents pass on CLAS test.” Santa Barbara News-Press, April 16, 1994, p. A14.
3Anne Anastasi. Psychological Testing, Sixth Edition. New York: MacMillan Publishers, 1988, p. 523.
4Ibid., p. 28.

(PAL V2N3 * May-June 1994)