You know the old saying that if you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Many of the reform leaders went to elite colleges where admission was determined by test scores; they are really good at testing, and that is the perspective through which they view education. As they emphasize the importance of testing, they validate their own life story. Testing worked for them, it should work for everyone.
The problem, of course, is that norm-referenced tests are built on normal curves. Only a limited number can be on the top. Which is okay if you are among the best and brightest.
A reader comments:
The key to understanding the best and brightest mentality is to understand what it means to be a technocrat. The technocratic mindset feels at home in governmental, corporate, and foundation bureaucracies. We see it in extreme form wherever there is an unbalanced, half-brained thinking that works only with what it knows and understands already. It recruits the best and brightest, but filters out anyone who would challenge its narrowly defined assumptions. It seeks to dominate or destroy what it cannot control. It therefore sees the lively, eccentric, and unpredictable as a problem to be eliminated. It revels in the general, and is allergic to the concrete. It cares about the abstract and quantitative and regards the qualitative as soft, unmeasurable, and thus irrelevant. It lives within a rigid template of reality, in its own mirror world, and anything that doesn’t fit gets chopped off.
They see themselves as “impatient optimists” who develop elaborate and fundamentally wrongheaded, if not delusional, strategies to change the world for the better by some limited metric of their own contrivance, but too often create even bigger messes than the one they hoped to clean up. This is the mindset that supported, for idealistic reasons, the invasion of Iraq and is also the mindset that makes it impossible for those who have it to see that they were wrong. It’s the mindset of economists who believe in things like perfectly competitive markets and have a hard time understanding why reality won’t conform to their theories. Technocratic thinking starts with an abstraction, and then insists that the world conform to it, and if it won’t do it willingly it will use force.
And technocratic projects are always naively, if not cynically, “data driven”. Naive because technocrats don’t understand the limitations of the impoverished interpretive framework they use to find meaning in the data, and they don’t understand how irrational interests shape their supposedly rational methods. They are cynical when they know their interpretations of the data are arbitrary or manipulated to serve agendas other than to speak truthfully.Technocracies recruit people and who are Hi-IQ, and are very articulate. If they have risen to positions of leadership, they have displayed an aggressiveness and confidence in promoting the technocracy’s mission. They are the best and the brightest, they know better, and they are contemptuous of anyone who disagrees with them, especially if they are “soft” humanistic types who reject their basic assumptions
They have their arguments, and some of them are very clever if you accept their basic assumptions, but how do you talk to someone about an alternative vision that embraces the beauties of red and green and blue when they are colorblind and think that anybody who isn’t is crazy?