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

Melissa Freeman, Sandra Mathison, Kristen Wilcox


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.


Hegemony; Accountability; Critical Thinking; High-Stakes Testing; Standardized Testing; Education Policy; Hegemony; Gramsci; Marxism

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ISSN 1920-4175 Critical Education