B.C. Teachers Not Alone in Opposition to Standardized Testing

by: EJ on 01/31/2009
Posted in: Education

The British Columbia Ministry of Education has been administering Foundation Skills Assessment tests to students in grades 4 and 7 since 2000. Since that time, classroom teachers have become increasingly concerned about the negative effects of these tests on student learning, the waste of time and resources and the controversial use of the results by the Fraser Institute to rank BC Schools.

In December 2008, more than half of the province's teachers voted 85 per cent in favour of not preparing for, supervising or marking the FSA. They are not alone in this opposition.

In the United States, John Taylor Gatto, author of Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling calls standardized testing an "ugly phenomenon" and "a travesty of education". In the final chapter of his book, he invites students and teachers to join him in an open conspiracy which he calls The Bartleby Project, inspired by Herman Melville's short story Bartleby the Scribner published in 1853.

John Gatto explains, "Bartleby is a human photocopy machine in the days before electro-mechanical duplication, a low-paid, low-status position in law offices and businesses. One day, without warning or explanation, Bartleby begins to exercise free will - he decides which orders he will obey and which he will not. If not, he replies, "I would prefer not to. ... The simple exercise of free will, without any hysterics, denunciations, or bombast, throws consternation into social machinery - free will contradicts the management principle. Refusing to allow yourself to be regarded as a "human resource" is more revolutionary than any revolution on record. "

Gatto's call to action is simply this, ‘Let a group of young men and women, one fully aware that these tests add no value to individual lives or the social life of the majority, use the power of the internet to recruit other young people to refuse, quietly, to take these tests. No demonstrations, no mud-slinging, no adversarial politics - to simply write across the face of the tests placed in front of them, "I would prefer not to take this test."

Learn more about John Taylor Gatto's analysis of compulsory schooling in Weapons of Mass Instruction.

Weapons of Mass Instruction


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