‘Critical Thinking’ And State Mandated Testing: The Collision Of State Rhetoric And Teacher Beliefs

  • Melissa Freeman University of Georgia
  • Sandra Mathison University of British Columbia
  • Kristen Wilcox University at Albany, SUNY
Keywords: Hegemony, Accountability, Critical Thinking, High-Stakes Testing, Standardized Testing, Education Policy, Gramsci, Marxism


Based on case studies of two school districts in New York State, the authors analyze the contradictory and hegemonic discourse of critical thinking proffered in State curriculum standards and as manifest in state mandated student assessments. Using Gramsci’s (1971) notion of hegemony, the analysis illustrates that dominant groups (such as state administrators or federal policy makers) gain and maintain dominance by projecting their own way of seeing the world so that those who are subordinated by it (such as teachers) accept it as ‘common sense’ and ‘natural.’ The ways in which this hegemonic relationship is created and sustained, and it’s consequences, are illustrated in the way teachers make sense of fundamentally contradictory rhetoric and lived practice.

Author Biographies

Melissa Freeman, University of Georgia
Associate Professor and Coordinator
Qualitative Research Program
Department of Lifelong Education, Administration, and Policy
Sandra Mathison, University of British Columbia


Faculty of Education

Kristen Wilcox, University at Albany, SUNY
Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Theory and Practice.