June 4, 2006

Accountability jingoists and nihilists

I've been searching for a while for how to explain the Manichean-style debate we've been having on accountability, and I think I have it. Those who advocate for high-stakes testing as currently wrought (or who seek an intensification of it) are accountability jingoists. As with foreign-policy jingoism, accountability jingoism is belligerent in tone and identifies disagreement as either foolish or undermining American values. On the other hand, some of those who disagree with the current moment in high-stakes testing are accountability nihilists, who turn in frustration to a denial of anything associated with the current regime.

You can see this "the other side is full of villains and fools" rhetoric in a recent Eduwonk post and in the song in Kathy Emery and Susan Ohanian's Why Is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools? (on p. 4, singable to "If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands"):

If you cannot find Osama, test the kids.
If the market hurts your Mama, test the kids.
If the CEOs are liars,
putting schools on funeral pyres,
screaming, "Vouchers, we desire!"
test the kids.

I understand the value of snarky comments in blogs and outlandish words in songs, and I have agreed with both Andrew Rotherham and Susan Ohanian about various matters, but these are not isolated examples of Manichean rhetoric. In the long run, I don't think that either jingoism or nihilism helps us get to saner accountability policies. While my sensibilities in many ways are close to the nihilists—I see the current system of accountability as out of balance—I disagree with a broader worldview that fails to acknowledge that there might be something of value or politically rooted (in a positive sense) about accountability politics.

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Posted in Accountability Frankenstein on June 4, 2006 11:18 AM |