Accountability. . . America's New Religion.
Sociologists have claimed that America's religion is Capitalism, our church, the Mall, and our savior, Santa Claus. But I think we are witnessesing the evolution of a new faith in this country, that of Accountability. Accountability is a break-out religion, founded by a partnership of right-wing conservative politicians, a few well known publishers, and the the fast-growing testing industry.
Politicians, like George Bush, have adopted and imposed legislation that demands strict adherenece to this faith's tenets, in the form of achievement that can be measured on tests. The most recent and, perhaps most controversial law is the administration's No Child Left Behind policy, which imposes sanctions on students, teachers and schools who fail to generate high test scores. Rather like money collected during Sunday's church service, this faith builds its wealth on profits generated by the sale of standardized tests.
Failure to follow the new faith's dictum results in sanctions that inlcude public humiliation and loss of federal funding. But, at what cost comes redemption in this religion? In this one, our children are the ones who are paying by occupying classrooms which are becoming increasingly focused on learning how to succeed at taking tests. This not only undermines authentic learning, it commodifies their achievement. High test scores amount to more money, while not-so-high scores become a fingerprint that reflects their potential for academic success. Yes, that's right; test scores, not unlike astrological chart readings, have become the system for determining whether children will be allowed to continue to participate in education. High scores may mean acceptance into top-ranked colleges, while low scores may mean a life of time-card punching and factory work.
As teachers, we need to protect our classrooms from being turned into Churches for Accountability, and stop the spread of legislation to use our children as capital to support the savior of this faith, the Testing Industry. Parents need to take notice of how their children are being commodified and brokered to corporate America in the name of Accountability. This is too great a sacrifice for any god.