Testing and the New Morality

Those hoping to receive unemployment benefits in Florida must now pass a 45 minute reading and math test. (And, lest you comfort yourself with the illusion that these kinds of laws are limited to Florida, be sure to read about the article here.)

I can’t get over this.

This requirement reduces a person’s worthiness to their ability to pass a test.

It conflates people’s whole being, their basic humanity- which by itself should make them (and their dependents) deserving of the right to eat, to pay for heat and shelter- with their ability to pass a test. Unemployment benefits are simply a stop-gap measure that allow people to feed themselves and their family members when they don’t have a job that allows them to do so. Not so in Florida. If you can’t pass a test, no food for you. Because food and shelter are necessary in order for most people to continue breathing in the long run, I don’t think I exaggerate in pointing out that the function of this logic is to say that, if you can’t pass these tests then you don’t deserve to live.

These policy makers have made a moral decision- the judgement of who is of value– and obscured it by framing it as an economic decision- the judgement of who has earned the right to live. They have equated intellectual ability with human worth and used the hobgoblin of ‘economic efficiency’ as an excuse to do so.


Educators, does this sound familiar?

It seems to be the logical extension of a testing movement (which is in itself a symptom of “no excuses” approach to reform and poverty) that objectifies and values students (and their teachers) in accordance with their test scores.

What’s next?

Read more about the right wing framing of poverty here.

One response to “Testing and the New Morality

  1. I am wondering whether the purpose is to get basic education (like GED classes) for those who might need them to be more employable. Not that it’s the right time/place for that,but i hope it has a positive reason.

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