Thursday, April 01, 2010

Education Standards

Yesterday I got an email from HSLDA, alerting me to the continued effort of most of the states (48, plus DC and some territories) to join and form Common Core Standards for education.  America has long stood head and shoulders above most of the world in innovation and excellence, and in fact, many of our great men of history were decidedly UN-conventional when it came to how they were educated.

They are taking public comment through tomorrow (not sure why HSLDA just put out the email yesterday?!?), and I took their feedback survey and wrote my thoughts in their comment box...

I will copy and paste it to my state governor as well.  If you have the time, please read up on the standards, research nationalized standards in general, and leave your own thoughts in their feedback form.  A word of caution: they have a 'save and continue later' option, which asks for your email and promises to send a link to you for completion, but when I did that yesterday, no link or email ever came. I began again today and completed it.

I wrote:

I am against any list of "Common Core Standards" for education, whether imposed top-down from the national Department of Education or built between the states. The end result is the same. The New America Foundation recently discussed this as part of it's PreK-3rd paper, entitled "A Next Social Contract for the Primary Years of Education." "As part of a broader move towards common, national educational standards, a Next Social Contract for education must establish clearly articulated standards for what children should know and be able to do by the end of third grade" [emphasis mine]. They seek "to create a seamless PreK-3rd system that starts at age 3...." While the Common Core Standards might not overtly state the same goals, they are, in fact, a huge step towards those goals. Common Core Standards may purport to give freedom of choice as to curricula, it is not unreasonable to think they could be used as a step in the direction of national curriculum as well. Richard Mitchell, in The Gift of Fire, points to differences between "schooling" (vocational skills which are useful in a utilitarian sense) and "education," and he writes: "It is power over the inner world, the ability to know and judge the self and to do something about it. It is not, therefore, the same as whatever it is that gives us power over the outer world, the stubborn public world of Nature and Necessity. The two powers neither preclude each other nor include each other. In any mind, either may exist alone, both may exist, and, of course, in any mind, both may be absent. "The two powers are not exactly equal counterparts, however, for the power over the inner world can make judgment of the power over the outer world. By the latter, we can do something; by the former, we can decide whether we should do what we can do." I think this is important, and impossible to establish via a cookie-cutter approach to schools. Any parent, or teacher, understands that there are unique differences in individual learning styles, abilities, and development between children. Growing the same crop in the same way at the same time would not work in both Montana and Florida, and we should realize that our children are far more complex than vegetables. Lastly, common standards attempt to ensure that an individual be fully educated so America can compete in a global marketplace. This may be a noble, and even appropriate goal for a nation, but it sadly ignores that people are worth far more than what they offer an economy. Government seeks to shape students into good workers and good tax payers; conformity. But conformity to the goals of a government (even 48 agreeing state governments) does not equal education, nor is it always (or even often) in the best interests of the person.

Feel free to use any ideas from my note, and leave your own in the comments as well.

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