Imprisoning the Public? Dismantling Public Accountability Signals “Civil Death”

In response to recent efforts to promote current fads in school reform as bringing about more “accountability”, Bruce Baker offers this very useful outline of the differences between traditional forms of the public governance of schools and the new privatized forms that are being pushed by federal and state agencies, private associations, think tanks and venture philanthropies.

But the move from traditional public governance to “market” policies represents more than the “dismantling of public accountability”: I believe it broadly signals “civil death”, especially when placed in the context of government attacks on rights in the name of  “fighting terrorism” and “immigration reform,” as well as school “security” and “zero tolerance” policies. That many of the favored reforms (e.g., charters, tuition tax credits, parent triggers) are aimed at those who were the object of civil rights legislation speaks to the significance of this assertion.[1]

Baker’s analysis and the discussion it engenders are also extremely important to consider when examining the CCSSI. As I have argued, the CCSSI and “goal” of being “Career and College Ready” are significant for essentially eliminating the democratic role traditional public schools were founded to serve, and for the objectification of students as products. And, as the CCSSI moves much of the governance over school curriculum and assessment to the “private sector,”  where enormous amounts of individual level data will tracked without public accountability, might this too signify “civil death”?


  1. While his article serves as a very useful template for contrasting public and private forms of governance, I do believe people should not be content with the old, traditional model of public education (e.g., the manner in which it institutionalizes various forms of inequality) in their demand that publicly funded schools be accountable to the public.

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