No Child Left Behind and the Spectacle of Failing Schools: The Mythology of Contemporary School Reform

David A. Granger
2008 Educational Studies  
This article discusses what David Berliner (2005) has called the perverse "spectacle of fear" (208) surrounding issues of teacher quality and accountability in contemporary school reform. Drawing principally on the critical semiotics of Roland Barthes' essay, "The World of Wrestling" (1957), it examines the way that this spectacle works to undermine public education and explicates the powerful mythology behind it. The article then concludes with some suggestions on how this destructive
more » ... e of.fear" might potentially be disrupted using the agencies of Deweyan "strong democracy". In the summer of 2005, the Journal of Teacher Education included a brief but incisive article by David Berliner entitled, "The Near Impossibility of Testing for Teacher Quality:" As signaled by the article title, Berliner's main thesis was that existing tests of teacher quality are conceptually flawed and deeply deficient for licensure and accountability purposes. Worse yet, he argued, the simplistic curriculum-delivery models of teaching underlying many of these tests ultimately serve to demean and cheapen the teaching profession. As a result, they tend to work against more broad-minded efforts to foster greater understanding and appreciation for the demands and complexities of teaching, as well as the myriad ways in which teachers effectively enhance the lives of students, their families, and the society as a whole. Berliner's (2005) starting point in introducing his thesis, and the immediate provocation for the article, was the provision of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB, 2002) mandating that there be a highly qualified teacher in every U.S.
doi:10.1080/00131940802117654 fatcat:eai2tclswzcwpemygp6sjetp5a