Sunday, September 23, 2012

Leistyna, Winfield and Kohn

In their critique of education reform Leistyna, Winfield and Kohn contextualize some of the social and historical motivations that have influenced the current educational model. Winfield’s chronicle was a striking revelation on how the undertones of eugenics have trickled down into the fields of psychology, and been encompassed into the social structure. The manipulation of rhetoric has created a paradigm in which poverty and disadvantage are subconsciously branded as a type of pathology.  It is particularly disconcerting how the philosophies of Social Darwinism very much permeate our society under the guise of science and psychology. The origins of educational psychology is demonstrative how racial prejudices are shrouded under scientific pretenses and then used to influence social constructs.
Although the more radical voices of the spectrum are more easily dismissed, the field of eugenics has nonetheless managed to leave its mark. In the present day, overtones and assumptions are often made regarding degeneracy of the poor, and their stagnancy within the social sphere. There is a tendency to attribute the shortcomings of this class to inefficiency and mediocrity. Racial discrimination has somehow been disassociated with ethics and morals through the use of empirical language and rhetoric that even further marginalizes those less privileged. The platonic idea that our society is a somehow a true meritocracy has been used to guide the new development of education reform and has created the means by which to stratify the student population based on performance.  Standardized testing is attractive because in theory it should provide means by which to “measure” intellectual caliber.  This type of assessment however, is inherently confounded because it highlights the problems of society while simultaneously dismissing the true roots of the problem.  
The conversation about education reform has been infused with empirical language and has created a situation in which taking a stand against policy puts one at odds with scientific evidence. Privateers have seen the advantage of this and have similarly co-opted the language of social justice to pressure the educational system so that it can be better adapted to fit their needs. Terms that are characteristically used in economic discourse such as efficiency, competition, standardization and percentages are now normal components of educational discourse. As stated by Kohn schools are being transformed into “test prep factories” and the use of standardized testing has created a way for students to be compared like goods in a market based on test scores. Through this type of reductionist perspective a student can be thought of as a product whose “value” is indicated by performance on a test.  Accountability has been exapted by the business sector to help further their goals to privatize the educational system. 

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