Against the Current, No. 92, May/June 2001
"This Changes Everything . . ."
— The Editors
Quebec City: Gas Against Democracy
— Betsy Esch
Cincinnati After the Uprising
— Dan La Botz
Responding to David Horowitz
— Douglas Taylor
A System of Criminal Injustice
— Ahmad Rahman
Actions for Mumia May 11-13
— Steve Bloom
Palestine Up Against the Empire
— an interview with Noam Chomsky
Vieques and U.S. "Democracy"
— César Ayala
Colombia: Options from the Grassroots
— Joanne Rappaport
Indonesia: Confronting Military Violence
— Kurt Biddle
Mexico's New Political Era Begins
— Dan La Botz
Stop the Murders!
— SOS Initiative
The Struggle for Genuine Unions in Mexico
— David Bacon, Joan Axthelm, and Daisy Pitkin
Global Justice, What We Eat, Who We Are
— Sara Abraham interviews Harriet Friedmann
Leaving Most Children Behind
— Henry A. Giroux
— Ellen Meiksins Wood
The Rebel Girl: Salute OUR Final Four!
— Catherine Sameh
Random Shots: Tender Loving Care
— R.F. Kampfer
Radical Rhythms: On Ken Burns' "Jazz"
— Kim D. Hunter
Letters to the Editors, on C.L.R. James
— Marty Glaberman; Alex LoCascio
20th Century Black Nationalism
— Clarence Lang
The Politics of Islam, Indonesia's Ruling Elite and Democracy
— Malik Miah
PUBLIC SCHOOLING IS now under siege and confronting a crisis of unparalleled proportions. As the obligations of public life are increasingly defined through the narrow imperatives of consumption, privatization and the dynamics of the market place, commercial space replaces non-commodified public spheres. The first casualty is a language of social and political responsibility capable of defending those vital institutions that expand the rights, public goods, and services central to a meaningful democracy.
This is especially true with respect to the issue of public schooling and the ensuing debate over the purpose of education, the role of teachers as critical intellectuals, the politics of the curriculum, and the centrality of pedagogy as a moral and political practice. Certain elements of the religious right, corporate culture, the Democratic Party and Republican right wing now argue that public education represents either a massive failure or they simply hold it in contempt. According to the educational historian David Labaree, public schools are attacked “not just because they are deemed ineffective but because they are public.”(1)
With the appointment of George W. Bush to the presidency, education has become an object of intense political, cultural and social debate, and educational reform a top governmental priority. As one of the few remaining spheres that has withstood the full force of assault against all public spheres, public education has become a battleground and litmus test for conservatives in their attempt to expand the ideology of the market and the control of capital over all aspects of society.
But the assault on education differs from the strategies waged by Republicans and the religious/radical right that has dominated the debate since the 1980s. Unlike the Republican Party agenda of the past, which called for the abolishment of the U.S. Department of Education and a diminished federal presence in shaping educational policy, George W. Bush has called for an expanded federal role in education along with increased funding.(2)
Using the rhetoric of “compassionate conservatism,” Bush claims that his educational reform package is aimed at addressing the needs of disadvantaged chil<->dren, designed to close the gap between rich and poor kids, improve accountability, and offer schools more financial resources to improve their performance. What might be viewed as a plagiarism of a slogan similar to the one used by the progressive Children’s Defense Fund (“Leave No Child Behind”), Bush has dubbed his proposal “No Child Left Behind.”
Before the ink was dry on Bush’s “compassionate” educational reform proposal, however, he instituted executive orders abolishing aid to international organizations that supported abortions, reaffirmed his opposition to affirmative action, and has proposed cuts in his budget to programs that provide child care, prevent child abuse, and train doctors at children’s hospitals.
Furthermore, Bush has eliminated in his proposed educational budget all federal funds targeted for class size reduction, provided meager funds for school construction (primarily for schools for Native Americans and military personnel), and no tax relief or credits for the millions of families in the nation with the poorest children. Similarly, Bush has been silent about providing any increases for federal education programs such as Title I, which specifically aid poor and disadvantaged students.(3) In addition, his suggestion to move Head Start from Health and Human Services to U.S. Department of Education has important implications for how the program is assessed and funded.
It gets worse. Bush’s call to collapse a number of important targeted, federally funded programs into a general pool of money that states could then use at their own discretion, means that the such funds could not only be used largely for promoting testing and accountability schemes, but that the access schools have to such monies would depend primarily on how well they performed in the high-stakes accountability game.
What we are witnessing here is more than the hypocrisy that underlies the contradiction between Bush’s humanistic rhetoric and the retrograde policies he is trying to enact. The more telling consequences of Bush’s educational reforms are that children in poor rural and urban schools will be systematically deprived of much needed institutional resources, smaller classes and a challenging curriculum.
In the end, these children will pay in the hard currency of human suffering as money is diverted from public schools to pay for initiatives such as massive testing schemes, vouchers, charter schools, character education, and a lock-down school safety program. Such proposals primarily drain money from underfunded districts, undermine social services, professional development, drug education programs, and divert attention from reforms that would improve teacher education, reduce class size and invest in more innovative curricula.
It should come as no surprise that Bush educational reforms have the pivotal support of right-wing organizations such as the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation as well as many other conservative foundations and groups.(4) In what follows, I analyze some of the main proponents of the Bush education agenda, such as parental choice, vouchers, and standardized testing by examining the broader issues that are at stake — including the implications of such reforms for redefining the purpose of schooling, the role that teachers might play within such a policy, the nature of learning, the issue of school safety, and the politics of literacy.
The Meaning and Purpose of Schooling
What becomes increasingly clear in the Bush educational proposal, with its emphasis on annual testing, parental choice, and drill and skill teaching is that schools are seen less as a public than a private good. Accordingly they are to be concerned less with demands of equity, justice, and social citizenship than with the imperatives of the marketplace and the needs of the individual consumer.
It is worth noting that the words “democracy” and “citizenship” are absent from Bush’s 28-page educational plan, No Child Left Behind. Whatever conception of agency, citizenship, and democracy does exist becomes synonymous with market-based notions of choice, hyper-competitiveness, and individual student mobility. Achievement in Bush’s proposal is structured through a narrow notion of individual success rather than an appeal to critical learning linked to improving the collective good. Turning schools into test-prep centers becomes the ultimate measure of quality teaching. Bush’s plan also serves up a mixture of assessments, testing, and financial rewards and punishments that would allow parents to take their children out of so called failing schools and, in effect, to abandon such schools.
Of course, such a course of action does not promote collective action, debate, and organizational struggles about how to improve failing schools. In fact, Bush’s system of rewards and punishment is built on the premise that in the final analysis it is better for parents to seek reform by leaving such schools behind; that is, better to disengage from broad-based civic participation than fight to improve struggling schools.(5)
The crucial problem of how the public might provide a better education for all children is narrowly transformed, in this case, to the issue of how dissatisfied parents can get a better education for their own children by simply taking them elsewhere.(6)
Bush’s education agenda cannot escape the consequences of schools made dysfunctional because of insufficient funding, decrepit buildings, overworked teachers and impoverished students by mandating state exams or encouraging parents to withdraw their children. Within this discourse of privatization, test-taking and choice it becomes clear that the President’s plan for educational reform lacks a vocabulary for discussing schooling and the future that would accentuate rather than diminish the importance of equity and collective struggle as crucial components of democratic politics.
In fact, George W. Bush’s proposed educational policies represent an unconscionable withdrawal from what John Dewey called the creation of an articulate public and its attendant concerns with those issues, institutions and public spheres that are attentive to human suffering, pain and oppression. At the heart of the Bush Administration reform initiative is an attempt to remove educational policy from its legacy of public service, and to preserve the notion of “the public” merely as a source of funding for reprivatizing the sphere of public education.(7)
Educational policy in this case can be understood as part of a wider attempt by conservatives to expand the power of capital, individual competitiveness, and corporate control and regulation. In effect, Bush’s plan puts forward a set of initiatives and principles the aim of which is to not simply restructure schools, but construct and secure a particular view of public authority, social morality, and the future of democratic life. At the heart of Bush’s vision of schooling is a corporatized model of education that cancels out the democratic impulses and practices of civil society, either devaluing or absorbing them within the logic of the market.
No longer a space for relating the self to the obligations of public life, social responsibility to the demands of critical and engaged citizenship, schools are viewed as an all-encompassing horizon for producing market identities, values, and those privatizing pedagogies that inflate the importance of individualized competition. With the package come institutionalized class and race based forms of tracking, and a culture of failure for those who don’t have the cultural and academic resources to mediate successfully between a dreary test-based curriculum and the high-stakes sorting mechanisms of a state-and corporate-regulated testing machine.
But the excessive celebration of the sovereign interests of the individual does more than remove the dynamics of student performance from broader social and political considerations. It also feeds a value system in which compassion, solidarity, cooperation, and social responsibility — attributes of education as a social good — get displaced by defining education exclusively as a private asset. If education is about, in part, the creating of particular identities, what is privileged in Bush’s model of education is a notion of the student as an individual consumer and teachers as either deskilled technicians or multinational operatives.(8)
David Labaree rightly argues that such a model undermines the traditional notion that education is a public good, benefitting all children and central to the health of a democratic society. But when viewed as a private good, whose organizing principle is simply to mimic the market, education as the experience of democracy is transformed into a discourse and ideology of privilege driven by narrow individual interests. Labaree is quite clear on this issue:
“In an educational system where the consumer is king …. Education . . . is a private good that only benefits the owner, an investment in my future, not yours, in my children, not other people’s children. For such an educational system to work effectively, it needs to focus a lot of attention on grading, sorting, and selecting students. It needs to provide a variety of ways for individuals to distinguish themselves from others — such as by placing themselves in a more prestigious college, a higher curriculum track, the top reading group, or the gifted program.”(9)
Education in this framework becomes a vehicle for social mobility for those privileged to have the resources and power to make their choices matter, and a form of social constraint for those who lack such resources and for whom choice and accountability betray a legacy of broken promises and an ideology of bad faith.
Bush’s educational policy represents an attempt on the part of right wing conservatives, corporate interests, and the religious right to privatize social services formally provided by the state, to consolidate wealth among affluent groups, and to construct a market-based value system which enshrines individualism, self-help, management, and consumerism at the expense of those values which reflect the primacy of the ethical, social, and civic in public life.(10) Educational reform is couched in the language of business competition, privatized choice becomes the source of individual initiative, schools sell their curriculum and space to the highest bidder, and corporate culture becomes the model of intellectual leadership and moral authority.(11)
Many of the major proposals in Bush’s reform package, including the emphasis on choice, standards, testing, reading and school security, are informed by ideological interests designed to both liquidate the gains of the welfare state, disempower working-class children, and actively pursue the ongoing quest to privatize health, education, and other public goods – extending an agenda that has dominated American political life since the emergence of the Reagan era in 1980.
The notion of parental choice, in its various versions of the Bush educational proposal, is a thinly veiled attempt to cater to the religious right by undermining the separation between church and state by allowing public funds to be used to support religious schools. It is also designed to further the ongoing privatization of education, removing such schools from viable forms of public accountability, including the need for open meetings, public oversight, implementations of civil rights legislation, and adherence to the widely acclaimed Americans with Disability Act — none of which would have any bearing on the functioning of private schools.
At issue here, as Jeffrey Henig points out, is not simply that public money would support private schools or that some students would be given the option to attend privately run schools at the public’s expense, but that Bush’s market-based proposals “will erode the public forums in which decisions with societal consequences can be democratically resolved.”(12)
The most fundamental element of school reform is improving educational opportunities for all children who attend public schools. But this would demand more than simply tougher accountability schemes, expanded choice programs, more testing, and increased security. Rather it would mean embarking on what Amy Gutman calls systemic reforms which include: “decreasing class size, expanding pre-school programs, setting high standards for all students, engaging students in cooperative learning exercises, empowering principals and teachers to innovate, increasing social services offered to students and their families, and providing incentives to the ablest college students to enter the teaching profession and, in particular, to teach in inner city schools.”(13)
Such a task would not be exclusionary or punitive, as in the Bush model, but would demand a democratic vision made concrete through political, economic and social reforms that hold society accountable to the very meaning and promise of a substantive democracy.
Accountability and Deskilling of Teachers
According to the Bush educational plan, the unfairness of the present system of public schooling resides in the absences of accountability, tougher standards, and the lack of rigorous modes of testing. While Bush wants to spend more money on education, much of that funding would be used to support an accountability scheme largely developed around the push for improved standards measured by the results of new state-developed reading and math tests to be administered to students in grades 3-8 in Title 1 schools on an annual basis.
Schools that failed to close the achievement gap between the races and different socioeconomic levels would lose a portion of the state’s Title 1 allocation. Bush’s emphasis on high standards (as if anyone is for low standards) translates into “a heavy emphasis on standardized tests as the most important way to measure how students learn and determine if high standards [are] being met.”(14)
Bush’s primary emphasis on standardized testing is based on the alleged success of the use of statewide achievement tests to narrow the gap between the scores of minorities and whites in Texas while he was governor. But a number of critical educators such as Walter Haney and Linda McNeil have argued that the “Texas miracle in education” is a myth. They argue that the standardized tests used in Texas are too easy, promoting a curriculum primarily concerned with aggressive test-drilling, and that the system of accountability has not only failed to close the achievement gap, as measured by the NAEP — a test used across the county — but has also undermined educational quality.”(15)
For example, Texas schools have some of the nation’s highest dropout rates, particularly among minorities. Funds are often spent on commercial test-preparation materials rather than on more important resources, and “many schools, especially in working class areas with low pass rates are virtually handed over to ‘test-prep’ from New Year’s through April, when the tests are given.”(16)
In order to secure money for their schools, many principals hold pep rallies, bribe kids with financial incentives, movie tickets, pizza and other consumer items in order to raise test scores. Beyond using the schools to motivate students around crass market appeals and turning teachers into commercial hawkers, such “incentives” not only take up valuable class time, they put excessive pressure on students and teachers alike.
Legitimating self-interest as the only readily acceptable standard of human behavior, framed within the logic of consumer sovereignty and abstracted from the material relations of power that give it meaning, Bush’s emphasis on accountability and testing has nothing to say about poor urban and rural students who are taught by inexperienced teachers, attend overcrowded classrooms, lack adequate school supplies, inhabit decrepit buildings, and live in some cases in districts that receive $39,000 less per pupil than the richest suburbs.(17)
Rigid accountability schemes and high stakes testing models, defined as a central element of Bush’s educational reform package, offer no guidance on matters of justice, equality and freedom and, as such, condemn both poor students and public schools to failure. Moreover, Bush’s emphasis on standardized testing appears utterly unaware of the extensive body of research that questions some of the most basic assumptions behind the use of high-stakes testing and demonstrates how such testing schemes have actually exacerbated the problems they sought to alleviate.(18) In addition, there are the added costs of subjecting 10-year-olds to test drills four months out of a nine-month school year as a solution to drop out rates and failing schools.
To promote testing as a centerpiece of educational reform while saying nothing about how student achievement and learning are linked to the distribution of resources, power, and politics represents more than the rhetoric of insincerity, it also translates the alleged virtues of the marketplace into an object lesson of punitive hypocrisy. But Bush’s accountability program also has devastating consequences for undermining the autonomy of teachers, lowering the quality of the curriculum, and reproducing those tracking and stratification policies that bear down so heavily on minorities of class and color.
It is no secret that test-based reforms called for by Bush are imposed on administrators and teachers by state legislatures and overly empowered school boards. Moreover, attached to high stakes in which schools can either receive extra money or be shut down, such tests create enormous pressure on teachers to teach to the test, abandon their creativity and autonomy in the classroom, ignore the specificities of children’s lives and problems and, in general, be less attentive to the vast differences that students often bring with them.
As conception is divorced from implementation, teachers are often stripped of their authority, skills and creative possibilities and reduced to technicians-drill sergeants working under the imperatives of corporate testmakers who rake in millions in profits and play a major role in shaping both the nature of teaching and the shape of the curriculum. This proved to be precisely the effects of such testing, as Linda McNeil recounts in her study of the Texas Accountability System:
(A) very narrow set of numerical indicators (student scores on statewide tests) has become the only language of currency in education policy in the state. Principals report that there can be little discussion of children’s development, of cultural relevance, of children’s contributions to classroom knowledge and interactions or of those engaging sidebar experiences at the margins of curriculum where children often do their best learning. According to urban principals, many have supervisors who tell them quite pointedly, “Don’t talk to me about anything else until the TAAS (Texas Assessment of Academic Skills) scores start to go up.”(19)
“Under such conditions, teachers are excluded from designing their own lessons and the pressure to achieve passing test scores often produces highly scripted and regimented forms of teaching. In this context, work sheets become a substitute for critical teaching and rote memorization takes the place of in-depth thinking.
Behaviorism becomes the preferred model of pedagogy and substitutes a mind-numbing emphasis on methods and techniques over pedagogical practices that are critical, moral and political in substance. Learning facts and skills in reading and math becomes more important than genuine understanding, and academic success is largely a measurement of one’s speed in taking high-stakes standardized tests, rather than the ability of students to engage knowledge with thoughtfulness, critical analysis, and analytic skills.
Pedagogy as a critical practice in which students learn to be attentive and responsible to the memories and narratives of others disappears within a corporate-driven notion of learning. Unfortunately, the reductive transmission approach to pedagogy underscored in Bush reforms cancels out some of the most important aspects of critical teaching: making knowledge relevant to students’ lives; providing supportive environments in which students can learn; and developing a range of teaching approaches and forms of assessment based on the recognition that not every student learns the same way.
But focusing on test scores does more than deskill teachers and squeeze any critical, moral, and intellectual life out of the process of learning. Drill-and-skill teaching also abstracts pedagogy from the operations of power and ideology, even as it results in schools “cutting back or even eliminating programs in the arts, recess for young children, electives for high schoolers, class meetings, discussions about current events, the use of literature in the early grades, and entire subject areas” which are not easy to test.(20)
Clearly, such cuts have the most devastating affects on those schools that barely can afford such programs in the first place, schools already suffering because they are underfunded. Moreover, researchers have found such tests racially biased, condemning students of color to bottom slots within the educational hierarchy where there is bad teaching, worksheet knowledge, and alienating social relations.(21)
Standardized tests have always favored the rich and the powerful,(22) and their origins in the eugenics movement in the early 20th century, as well as the recent rantings of Charles Murray in The Bell Curve, should serve as a forceful reminder of the legitimating connection between such testing and the prevailing racist discourse on IQ as a valid way to identity “superior” from inferior students. Put simply, such tests punish those children not born into the right class locations and acceptably white forms of cultural capital.
Moreover, they often are used to limit the capacities of students, especially students of color. Such dreadful practices make it difficult for them to engage serious issues, link learning to social change and gain access to avenues of political and social action through which to challenge those very forms of economic and political power that are closing down any promise of a multicultural, transnational and radical democracy.
In the first instance, testing has become the code word for training educational leaders in the language of management, measurement and efficiency. Testing has also become the new ideological weapon in developing standardized curricula that define knowledge narrowly in terms of discrete skills and decontextualized bodies of information and ruthlessly expunge the language of ethics from the broader purpose of teaching and schooling. What knowledge is taught, under what conditions, for what purpose, and by whom has become less important than developing precise measuring instruments for tracking students and, increasingly, for disempowering and deskilling teachers.
Accountability in this discourse offers few insights into how schools should prepare students to push against the oppressive boundaries of gender, class and racial domination, and those dealing with sexual preference. Nor does such a language assist students to make visible and interrogate how questions and matters regarding curriculum are in fact closely linked to struggles over identity, culture, power and history.
Similarly, the crisis of schooling is grounded in a refusal to address how particular forms of authority are secured and legitimized. Refusing to analyze the values that frame how authority is constructed, Bush’s educational reforms end up celebrating the rules of management, regulation and control at the expense of substantive democracy, critical citizenship and basic human rights.
Market values encourage a competitive individualism rooted in the need for teachers to outperform their peers in order to receive requisite rewards, while at the same time subjecting students to a competitive ethic that allows them to separate themselves from others, often in terms marked by the discriminatory lens of race, class and gender. Kenneth Wesson, a founding member of the Association of Black Psychologists, has raised a question worth pondering regarding the reduction of assessment in public schools to the use of standardized tests:
“Let’s be honest. If poor, inner-city children consistently outscored children from wealthy suburban homes on standardized tests, is anyone naive enough to believe that we would still insist on using these tests as indicators of success?”(23)
I am not arguing against forms of assessment that enhance the possibility for self and social empowerment among children, forms of assessment that promote critical modes of inquiry and creativity as opposed to those that shut down self-respect and motivation in the name of failure or humiliation. On the contrary, assessments are important to get students to reflect on their work and the work of others not as a test of speed but as a measure of deliberation, critical analysis and dialogue.
But if such assessments are to be useful, they need to be engaged as part of a broader agenda for equity and understood within a notion of schooling that rejects learning simply as the mastery of discrete skills and precise bodies of information. Moreover, any viable notion of assessment needs to be removed from the politics of mandated curricula, a culture of punishment, and those modes of discrimination that currently drive much of the testing craze.
Assessment strategies cannot be used to dictate top-to-down teaching practices — not only because such practices define teaching less as an intellectual activity and more as a standardized, mechanical and utterly passive mode of training, but also because “teachers and communities shorn of the capacity to use their own ideas, judgments, and initiative in matters of importance can’t teach kids to do so.”(24) Such practices have little to do with teaching students to develop critical skills, sociocultural “maps,” and an awareness of the operations of power that would enable them to locate themselves in the world and to effectively intervene in and shape it.(25)
The use of punitive, standardized, high-stakes testing undermines teacher autonomy, imposes harsh restrictions on academic labor, disables critical approaches to teaching, and promotes pedagogical practices that largely function to “measure” student progress while simultaneously reproducing a tracking system that parallels the deep racial and economic inequalities of the larger society.
The first responsibility of public schools is not to test students as if they were empty containers to be measured, stamped and processed, but to provide them with the critical reading, writing, language and technological skills, knowledge forms, social experiences and resources they need — in order to enhance their capacity to understand, comprehend, engage, and when necessary to transform the world in which they live.
[The second half of this essay will appear in our next issue.]
- Cited in Alfie Kohn, “The Real Threat to American Schools,” Tikkun (March-April 2001), 25.
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- Even Bush’s touted call for increased spending for education is duplicitous since his alleged $6 billion increase includes $2.1 billion the previous Congress has appropriated in advance for the current school year. Hence, Bush’s increase for education is a meager $2.5 billion. By comparison, Congress last year increased education spending by $6.5 billion.
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- On this issue, see Bob Herbert’s commentary: Bob Herbert, “Fewer Students, Greater Gains,” New York Times Op. Ed. (March 12, 2001), A19. Also see Paul Wellstone and Jonathan Kozol, “What Tests Can’t Fix,” New York Times Op. Ed. (March 13, 2001), A25.
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- Barbara Miner, “Who’s Vouching for Vouchers?” The Nation (June 5, 2000, 23-24.
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- These ideas are taken from David F. Labaree, “No Exit: You Can Run But You Can’t Hide From Public Education as a Public Good,” Michigan State University, July 2, 2000, Unpublished Manuscript, 11.
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- Carol Ascher, Norm Fruchter and Robert Berne, Hard Lessons: Public Schools and Privatization (New York: The Twentieth Century Fund, 1996).
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- Deborah W. Meier, Choice Can Save Public Education, The Nation (March 4, 1991), 253.
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- This is particularly evident as schools engage in market-sponsored contests in which teachers spend valuable teaching time coaching kids how to collect cash receipts, sell goods to their friends and neighbors or learn the rules to bring in profits for companies who then offer prizes to schools. See Alex Molnar, Giving Kids the Business (Boulder: Westview, 1996), especially chapter 3.
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- David Labaree, “Are Students ‘Consumers’?” Education Week (September 17, 1997), 48.
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- Stanley Aronowitz and Henry A. Giroux, Education Still Under Siege (Westport: Bergin and Garvey Press, 1993); Jeffrey R. Henig, Rethinking School Choice: Limits of the Market Metaphor (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994); Karen A. McClafferty, Carlos Alberto Torres and Thodore R. Mitchell, eds. Challenges of Urban Education (Albany: SUNY Press, 2000).
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- I take up this issue in Henry A. Giroux, Stealing Innocence: Corporate Culture’s War on Children (New York: Palgrave, 2001). See also Alex Molnar, Giving Kids the Business.
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- Jeffrey Henig, <169>The Danger of Market Rhetoric, in Rethinking Schools Publication, eds. Selling out Our Schools (Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd., 1996), 11.
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- Amy Gutman, <169>What Does ‘School Choice’ Mean? Dissent (Summer 2000), 23.
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- Barbara Miner, “Making the Grade,” The Progressive (August 2000), 40.
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- See Linda McNeil, Contradictions of School Reform: Educational Costs of Standardized Testing (New York: Routledge, 2000). It is worth noting that the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund reported in 1997 that “although white students have passed the [TAAS] test at a rate of approximately 70%, Mexican Americans and African Americans have passed at rates of around only 40% . . . . and that they represent 85% of the 7,650 students who fail the final administration of the TAAS each year.” Cited in Rebecca Gordon, Libero Della Piana and Terry Keleher, No Exit: Testing, Tracking and Students of Color in U.S. Public Schols (Oakland, CA: Applied Research Center, March 1999), 4.
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- John Mintz, “In Bush’s Texas, An Educational Miracle or Mirage?” Detroit News (Saturday, April 22, 2000) http:detnews.com/2000/politic/0004/politics-41188.htm, 2.
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- The U.S. Department of Education reported that in 1993-94, the difference in per capita public education expenditures ranged from $3,100 to $42,000, depending upon the school district. Cited in Rebecca Gordon, Libero Della Piana and Terry Keleher, No Exit: Testing, Tracking and Students of Color in U.S. Public Schools (Oakland, CA: Applied Research Center, March 1999) 5.
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- Gary Orfield and Johanna Wald, “Testing, Testing,” The Nation (June 5, 2000), 38-40. For representative samples of some of the excellent critiques of standarized testing, see Peter Sacks, Standarized Minds: The High Price of America’s Testing Culture and What We Can Do to Change It (New York: Perseus Press, 2000); Alfie Kohn, The Case Against Standardized Testing: Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools (New Hampshire: Heinemann, 2000); Linda McNeil, Contradictions of School Reform: Educational Costs of Standardized Testing (New York: Routledge, 2000).
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- Linda McNeil, “Creating New Inequalities: Contradictions of Reform,” Phi Delta Kappan (June 2000), 730.
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- Alfie Kohn, “The Real Threat to American Schools,” Tikkun (March-April 2001), 26-27.
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- See for instance, Jean Anyon, Ghetto Schooling (New York: Teachers College Press, 1997).
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- This is well documented in Nicholas Lemann, The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy (New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2000).
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- Cited in Barbara Miner, “Bush’s Plan is Shallow and Ignores Critical Details,” Rethinking Schools On line 51:2 (Winter 2000/2001), www.rethinkingschools.org/SpecPub/bushplan/bush.htm, 2.
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- Deborah W. Meier, “Saving Public Education,” The Nation (February 17, 1997, 24.
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- Alan O’ Shea, “A Special Relationship? Cultural Studies, Academia and Pedagogy,” Cultural Studies 12:4 (1998), 20.
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ATC 92, May-June 2001