The DeHavilland Blog

Friday, March 09, 2007

National standards: skipping the hard part

Some big names in education - Rudy Crew, Paul Valles, and Michael Casserly - got together to write a commentary in Education Week titled "The Case for National Standards in American Education." They push hard for the idea, and there are certainly some real advantages, such as having a single set of academic expectations that transcend state lines. But then they punt on the most important questions in this debate with the following:

But right now it is more important to make national standards a national priority than to debate how they might be achieved.

The questions they skip over, of course, are these: Who sets the standards? and To what end?

As I've argued previously, there's no point in building lists of what can be learned until we decide what should be learned. While there are logistical advantages to having a single set of standards, we're really just replacing 50 groups of experts with one group, and they'll give us the same thing the others gave us: a list of all that can be taught, with no judgements as to what's important and why.

We as a national need to answer the fundamental question of why we educate - only then can we decide what should be taught. Once that happens, national standards will make eminent sense,and I'll support them - but until we take that step, moving to national standards will be a pointless exercise akin to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.


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