Andrew Postman: The Death Star

Last Tuesday, Barbara Madeloni was the visiting lecturer at our forum’s speaker series. She said that she had a doctorate in clinical psychology and a successful career but was unsatisfied with her life. She entered education in the 1990s when she realized that “something wrong with democracy.” She didn’t think she was contributing to the greater good of the world in clinical psychology so she got her masters of education. Eventually, she became high school English teacher. She eventually became a faculty member at the University of Massachusetts, at Amherst who taught secondary school education. After openly protesting Pearson’s testing influence on her students, she almost lost her job. Now, she’s speaking out against the corporatization of education and, what she calls, “audit culture.”

What I found most interesting about Dr. Madeloni’s presentation was when she compared taking down the industrial complex of corporate testing in the same way that one would take down the Death Star. She said we all need to get close enough to it at once and then affect real change to it for a real revolution.  However, she expressed how frustrating it is to get close enough to the Death Star to inflict real damage and find yourself soul-less, and numb to your own complicity in its existence. When I heard her say this, I thought about my mom, who is a principal of a kindergarten center.  She is currently dealing with New York State’s version of standardized testing, and all of the pedagogical headaches associated with it. No matter how much she feels as though its important to speak out against them, she knows she has a responsibility to the kids to not disrupt their education by quitting her job or supporting potentially tumultuous forms of protest. I think it’s a shame that in order to get close enough to the Death Star to stop it, one must be along for the ride.

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