The Arne Duncan Era Is Over — but His Noxious Policies Mean Childhood in America Is Still Under Threat
So what’s an example of kids — and, almost as importantly, their parents — being socialized to see themselves as on their own in a really competitive market?
I write in the book about the $10 million industry [for luxury early childhood products] that has arisen seemingly out of nowhere. All of a sudden, people see the Bugaboo stroller on “Sex and the City” and they’re putting down one thousand dollars for a stroller. That search to give your child an identity with the Stuart Weitzman shoes for babies, to have them communicate class at such a young age; I think it reflects the larger pressure toward survival in capitalist society.
We all know, for example, about the whole “helicopter-parenting” culture. My question was, is it something that happens just among upper-class families? Or is it a real trend that more people are spending more on privately funded after-school activities for their kids? Studies have found that it is true. Spending on those types of things has increased dramatically.
And then, of course, kids ultimately do end up in school and competing, which for a lot of people is symbolized most immediately by standardized tests. Why do you think standardized testing has become the lightning rod of the education debate?
Testing is sort of like metonymy: a symbol for an ideology of education. It’s a very specific way of looking at education that goes back to the turn of the century. What we have are classrooms designed on an industrial model of production, where knowledge is the product and the “human capital” is the students. You start school as a child, but you come out as a fully-formed adult who is socialized and ready to succeed in the workplace. So the teacher’s directing everything, and the student is the passive recipient of knowledge.