Saturday, September 17, 2011

Standardized Testing Versus Jobs, an Oblique Perspective

Though all of Alfie Kohn's writings to date are well worth examining, and though he has contributed more logical and thoughtful arguments against homework, standardized testing, and the generally wrong-headed habits our schools have stacked one upon the other for generations--to the point that it seems overwhelmingly improbable they will ever be upended--his post yesterday in HuffPost Education, "Whoever Said There's No Such Thing As a Stupid Question Never Looked Carefully at a Standardized Test," is maybe the most concise and inarguable "elevator speech" on the topic to date, at least in the battle against the bane of progressive educational change, Standardized Testing.

As I read it, some concepts formed in my mind, chief among them the role that employment plays in all of this. Since I haven't really noticed much discussion of this element, I thought it right and good to toss it out there. It goes something like this:

Education is a thriving industry, and the more jobs that are mandated by the structures created to monitor it, even if the structures themselves are clearly offensive and ineffective, even harmful, the less likely we are ever going to see rational changes implemented. Yes, friends, it's that old love hate relationship, and its name is Capitalism. "It's the economy, dummy." Entrenched ways of doing things are self sustaining practices, and survival is keyed to self-preservation. In order to effect progressive change, we must negatively impact jobs.

Here are a couple questions I'd like to ask, in no particular order.

1) How many jobs are fueled by the commercial agencies that sell ACT and SAT prep? ACT and SAT delivery and evaluation? Other like entities for other standardized testing? See this list of Standardized Tests in the United States for a whiff of an answer. You don't even really need the number do you (though it would be interesting to ascertain)? Lots.

2) How many jobs are filled by those in and around the textbook industry (largely vestigial in the 21st century, though the industry does everything it can to deny that fact, for self-preservation, duh) whose INCREDIBLE prices are necessitated to support it? Well, hmmmmm, according to this blog (linger there a while), ~182,200,000 textbooks are sold every year and "between 1986 and 2004 textbook prices rose 186% in the US." How about college bookstores, around half of which are "private, for profit companies." Anybody look at textbook publisher CEO salaries lately?

3) Old models sustain employment by thousands, and changing them in any meaningful way stands to threaten jobs in major quantities. How that that ever be made right?

That's all I'm going to toss out this morning, but consider it tossed.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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