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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Character assassination....

Despite being grounded, I am attempting to complete my self-imposed reading assignment of the Sennett trilogy on the culture of the new (political/social) economy. I am two-thirds through The Corrosion of Character, Sennett's 1998 opening shot at linking the transformations of the flexible, debureaucractized economy to the crisis of social identity and "character" we are now facing. It is difficult not to apply his logic and argument to just about any one of a dozen stories one read or hears in the media.

Consider, for example, the No Child Left Behind Act and its impact on our education system and the lives -- the very character -- of students and teachers. I have been thinking and writing about the "accountability" aspects of NCLB for a little over a year and each news story brings increasing evidence that we have made (and continue to make) a major mistake with this program. My own point is that NCLB is based on a false promise and premise of accountability -- that holding folks to account will in fact improve performance of teachers or students
(see here for more elaborate argument). There is nothing to support that argument other than wishful thinking and blind belief. And yet we roll on with the policy and the state and local programs it has spawned.

But this is more than a waste of money and programmatic energy and resources -- it is actually proving harmful in the ways that the new economy is proving harmful according to Sennett. This is brought home in one recent Weekend America segment focused on the testing regime at one middle school in Austin, Texas. Give a listen...

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