Tony L. Talbert, a professor of social/cultural studies education and qualitative research in the Baylor University School of Education, writes in the Waco News that we as a nation have failed to recognize “the reality that our students, our teachers and our entire system of pre-K-12 public school education has been significantly and negatively impacted by the very tests we allowed to be enacted over the past 30 years through a combination of hyperbolic fear-mongering and subsequent public detachment from deliberative discourse in matters of public education.”

In short, we–as citizens–dropped out from our responsibility to maintain a public school system that aimed for values more important and valuable than our current test-based system.

Ivy started with President Reagan’s “A Nation at Risk,” which “set off a chain of subsequent predictions, monographs and reports of dire consequences for our nation’s future that could only be resolved by imposing a system of high-stakes testing, narrowly defined curriculum content (i.e., reading and mathematics) and ultimately adoption of a punitive accountability system that had the effect of stymying resistance and silencing critical questioning by educators, parents and even students on the legitimacy of such a radical shift in public education philosophy and practices.”

“As a result, for the next 30 years the American public increasingly “opted out” of direct dialogue and engagement in local, state and national public education philosophy, policy and practice debates. The impact of “opting out” of informed engagement in public education debates has been the radical shift in the quality and value-orientation of public school curriculum from a Transformation-Based Education System to an Information-Based Education System.

“In a Transformation-Based Education System the core value is the education of the whole student through a broad and inclusive humanities, mathematics, science, technology, performing arts and physical education curriculum as measured by the quality outcomes of the improvement of the student’s individual mind and life for the betterment of the collective community. In contrast, an Information-Based Education System embraces the core value of information acquisition, consumption and regurgitation of a basic curriculum by all students as measured by the quality of outcomes on standardized test performance and school ranking.”

Can we change the vicious cycle in which we are now trapped?

Yes, he insists:

“Can we recover what we’ve lost in our education system as a result of “opting out” of our responsibility as guardians of our most valuable democratic institution of pre-K-12 public education? Absolutely! We can restore the fundamental values and quality of a Transformation-Based Education System by choosing to “opt in” to public discourse and democratic action. An obvious way an informed citizenry can express intent to change the high-stakes testing education philosophies, policies and practices is by holding local, state and national elected officials accountable for education legislation at the ballot box.”

In short, my friends, become politically active. Throw out the narrow-minded technocrats that see our children as data points. Elect only those who treasure education as human development, a process of becoming in which we all take part.

Do your part. Get engaged. Be the change.