Berlin, New York, Baghdad: Assessment as Democracy
Free speech and participatory democracy have come under siege in the post-9/11 world and the aftermath of the U.S. attack on Iraq. To remain active participants in deliberative democracy, we are responsible for protecting our own rights and those of others. Those rights include the right to voice opinions, especially but not exclusively dissenting opinions, in public arenas. In this article, I propose assessment as a form of participatory democracy, both within and beyond the classroom. This view of assessment articulates a foundational understanding of agency and deliberation. Developing the concept of assessment as democracy will help us to practice our practices in ever-widening circles of purposeful civic engagement. The classroom represents a site where teachers have daily responsibilities and immediate impact. Assessment is a way for teachers to discover what their students know--and don't know--and how they learn. Moreover, assessment allows teachers and students to see additional perspectives, to dissent and respond to dissent, to deliberate as a community. Knowing what has value and what doesn't is an essential component of using assessment to write and communicate in a participatory democracy. Soliciting and listening to student voices results in teaching and learning that is truly student-centered. Practicing what we teach, we may find that citizenship, literacy, and agency intersect in the classroom for us as well as for our students, in the necessarily untidy and challenging work of deliberative democracy.