Most of my writing on the cult of compliance focuses on police violence. It’s where the deification of compliance is most visible and most dangerous. Schools, however, are another site for such practices, especially as they turn into bunkers. Sometimes such moments turn violent, but there are more subtle forms, such as this story out of Georgia.
MARIETTA — The parents of two West Side Elementary students say they do not want their children taking the CRCT, a standardized test given in Georgia, but the city’s school system told them their children would be trespassing if they came to school and didn’t take the exam.
The context for this story is the right-wing myth that standardized tests “collect data” on the kids to be used in nefarious government plots. Myths aside, the problems with the testing regime abound: For example – Teaching to the test erodes critical thinking skills, many tests are designed with inherent biases, they take away lots and lots of time from actual teaching.
What interests me in this case, though, is this part of the response from the school (emphasis mine):
The Finneys worked out a meeting with school administrators early Wednesday morning to talk things over. But when they arrived, they were confronted by a police officer instead of the principal.
According to Tracey Finney, the officer was extremely nice and professional, but told them being on school property while actively opposed to the test was “kind of a trespassing thing” and that their kids weren’t allowed on the property either if they weren’t going to take the test. The officer’s report confirms the parents were told they and their students would be trespassing if they stayed on the property.
Now there’s a whole context of missing emails, canceled meetings, and a reasonable question as to whether the parents were being deliberately provocative. I don’t especially care. What’s important to me here is the quick recourse to the language of criminalization and criminal penalties.
I expect it’s complicated for a school to have all of their staff involved in testing and to know what to do with kids who opt out. Schools will have to sort that out. It’s got to be complicated when angry parents show up for a meeting that was canceled and demand to see the principal (if I am sorting out what happened here).
And yet, to start saying the kids who aren’t testing are trespassing, with the legal ramifications, is a perfect example of the softer side of the cult of compliance (as opposed to having one’s face smashed in, being tased, shot, etc.). It’s insidious and it’s spreading.