In 2010 I wrote a piece about merit pay reinstating child labor, making the point that if an adult’s salary was in any way determined by the labor of a child (e.g. his or her test scores), then the child becomes an unwilling/unknowing laborer for the economic benefit of an adult. Others added to my claim, making the argument that children are required by law to attend school, and therefore are more similar to forced slave laborers for the economic benefit (or liability) of educators, schools, and districts.
But now the state of Tennessee is attempting to take this a step further into the abyss, into the unbelievable hell of education “reform” – or deform – that we have witnessed in the last decade or so. The poorest children in the state, those whose families receive state assistance, could now be under surveillance and held accountable for those very services. Miss school, perform poorly on tests? Your family’s state benefits could be cut.
There are no words for the ignorance and inhumanity behind such an idea. Our country seems to be spiraling out of control into a deep sense of irrational cynicism, blame, punishment, and criminalization of those who have been most violated and exploited among us.
Where else in the world would a government do such harm to their most vulnerable citizens – children and the poor? I am deeply troubled, ashamed, and saddened – and just when I think it can’t get any worse, it does.