The Dark Side of Commodification Critiques: Politics and Elitism in Standardized Testing
In Testing as Commodification, Katharine Silbaugh argues that debates within the standardized testing literature represent a split similar to the one witnessed in traditional debates on the commodifying effects of market exchange: those who extol the virtues of a common metric by which to make comparisons and evaluations, on the one hand, versus those who argue that test scores have swallowed other notions of the public good in education, on the other. Though the analogy is imperfect, as Silbaugh acknowledges, I agree that the objections to markets and to standardized testing are sufficiently similar to render the comparison fruitful. However, the analogy shows more than Silabaugh acknowledges. Whereas Silbaugh concludes that her comparison demonstrates the failure of standardized testing, I contend that it primarily demonstrates the politically-driven and elitist nature of much of the standardized testing debate.