March 17, 2010

How Centralized Education Could Turn Ugly

Justin Katz

Right now, public education is such an expensive catastrophe that top-down imposition of standards and reasonable organizational principles is an attractive option. But there's a very dark side to the impulse, hints of which can be found here:

Governors and education leaders on Wednesday proposed sweeping new school standards that could lead to students across the country using the same math and English textbooks and taking the same tests, replacing a patchwork of state and local systems in an attempt to raise student achievement nationwide. ...

The stakes could be high. President Barack Obama told the nation's governors last month that he wants to make money from Title I - the federal government's biggest school aid program - contingent on adoption of college- and career-ready reading and math standards.

We tend to think of textbooks and standards as sort of pure and objective vessels for knowledge, but they do a lot of cultural work. Perhaps you recall the overt political correctness of word problems in math. In English, the studied texts inherently use the tools of language to construct arguments and convey sensibilities. Controlling textbooks, in other words, brings with it an opportunity to define common understanding, to associate political ideology with "clear thinking," or at least "good writing."

And students of history will surely see the probability that standards will not long be left with the single mandate of educating Americans. A review of the book The Science on Women and Science — which is a collection of essays on the application of Title IX equity rules to scientific education — brings home the point. Title IX has wreaked havoc in athletics and transferred to classroom curricula, the movement could leverage standards in pursuit of equal representation, in a field, as opposed to academic excellence.

As with all consolidations of power, the justifications have their appeal, and the people acquiesce with the understanding that there's consensus about the proper focus and scope of that power's usage. Once it's pooled, though, power attracts a different sort of animal (or allows those present to shed their disguises).

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Of course, you read the recent story about conservatives rewriting history and even dissing Jefferson because he was not Christian enough for them?


Those same conservatives are making sure that McCarthyism is now written into history as a GOOD thing!


I heard an NPR interview yesterday about the failure of No Child Left Behind - that it was geared to "teach for testing" as opposed to facilitate actual learning.


I went to some of the best public schools in the country, and frankly did not learn much there. It is almost impossible for schools alone to act as babysitters and educators of our children. Parents must try to give children all the right inputs, from morality to summer camp to love of reading and industry, to make a well rounded person.

Posted by: Stuart at March 17, 2010 9:07 AM

So Stuart, now you're telling us you had crappy parents?

I sure wish I was a psychiatrist. I could make a mint off your issues.

Posted by: Patrick at March 17, 2010 10:02 AM

I think Stuart is saying he didn't learn much in public schools-that he had to learn things elsewhere.
If Stuart is,in fact, 60 years old then he went to public school in the same era I did.I learned a great deal there.Except math,where I have a learning deficiency,almost like dyslexia,except not affecting reading.
The only math I understood was plane geometry.
Of course,Stuart in his leftist arrogance,probably thinks I didn't learn anything either.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 17, 2010 11:23 AM

Considering that NCLB was written by Ted Kennedy's staff, perhaps Stuart is engaging in some Maoist self-criticism.

Posted by: BobN at March 17, 2010 5:13 PM
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