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Standardized testing and the construction of governable persons

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Abstract:

While debates over standardized testing are ubiquitous, there has been relatively little consideration of how today's standardized testing practices have arisen. The current study provides a chronology of standardized testing within Alberta, Canada. Starting from prior work by Foucault and others on 'governmentality', we propose that the movement to standardized testing be viewed as part of a larger societal movement toward techniques of government that operate indirectly and at a distance. These techniques of government seek to 'manage' populations through the use of measurement tools and numerical calculations. We suggest that, although these techniques are directed toward populations, they also have specific effects on individual students, parents, teachers, and other participants in the education system. In particular, we contend that standardized testing programmes, by rendering the participants visible and subjecting them to public scrutiny, contribute to the construction of governable persons.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/0022027032000167080

Publication date: 2004-05-01

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