Do you remember the last time a State Board of Education board director gave you a hug? I do. It was last Thursday during the break after public testimony. I emailed mine in shortly before the public comment period and headed for the meeting. By the time I made it there, the meeting had recessed and the room was bustling with nervous activity.
Assessing the situation, one suited board member came across the room, gave me a hug, nodded and walked away silently smiling. They must have opened the zip file of images from the personalized learning presentation I gave last month. The talk discusses McGraw Hill’s Redbird software at my child’s school, prescriptive analytics and the roots of standardized testing.
How and why is this important? Few people understand the connection between the movement to standardize United States of America citizens and today’s corporate reform education efforts. By focusing on data-driven soft science to improve humanity, reformers are simply repeating the same rationale that gave us standardized testing, forced sterilization and white supremacy-laced eugenics.
Last March, I testified about Oregon’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan and mentioned that the roots of standardized testing lie in the eugenics movement of the early 20th Century.
In April, The Oregon Department of Education responded by dropping SBAC tests for 11th graders.
Seizing the momentum, I dove deep into the historical newspaper digital archive to find compelling images to add to a presentation on personalized learning and found a few good enough to share with the State Board of Education. These newspaper articles chronicled the eugenics movement in Oregon as Portland School Board member and livestock breeder O. M. Plummer became Superintendent of the Oregon Exposition of Eugenics and pushed for “student-centered” education relying on “moving pictures” for “radical changes in educational methods” in 1913.
Naturally, educational leaders got on board with the latest pseudo science based educational fad and “well known Eugenicists” like the presidents of Oregon State University and University of Oregon, religious leaders and progressives from Reed College attended eugenics ceremonies. Even Governor Oswald West got into the picture, awarding cash and trophies (digital badges) to the highest scoring eugenics specimens at the Oregon State Fair in the Eugenics Building in 1913.
As progressive reformers and educational leaders pushed data-driven eugenics policies like standardized testing and forced sterilization in the US, scientists and medical doctors in Germany were borrowing the techniques and refining efficiency. This resulted in the final solution to eugenic’s “rigor” and “grit” – the Holocaust. The shock sent eugenics underground. The US continued the policy of forced sterilization into the 1980’s. Governor Kitzhaber joined other governors to apologize to the tens of thousands of forced sterilization victims in 2005.
With the introduction of social emotional learning assessments (teachers administering psychological testing of kindergartners) and personalized learning, the eugenics movement is growing again due to corporate reform efforts and selective amnesia.
Improving humanity through technology, data-driven efficiencies and homogenization only leads to one place – dilution of human diversity.
Do humanity a favor and share your state’s eugenic history with policy makers. Search for the word “eugenics” in historical newspapers and find articles from newspapers in your state (almost every state had a eugenics department). Not surprisingly, the article titles alone spur action. And you may even get a hug from your state board of ed director!