The Problem with National Standards.
Duncan wants national curricular standards, to avoid the patchwork of state and local standards schools work on now. Theoretically, I think this is a good idea. Practically, it gets a lot tricker.
Because everyone wants a piece of the pie. Article in HuffPo proposes “national ecological literacy standards.” I don’t particularly oppose this idea, but look: how many different areas of learning can we get into here? Theoretically, I think kids should learn about reading and writing and American history and world history and world religions and anthropology and sociology and technology and math and ecology and biology and…
You see where I’m going with this.
This has always been the problem with focusing on content in the curriculum. Again, I’m not saying the goal of education isn’t partly for kids to learn the content. But a lot of it has to be skills. Because…simply…we can’t cover it all. Humanly impossible.
E.D. Hirsch, proponent of cultural literacy, has long been an advocate of the content-specific curriculum. Skills are learned in the process, but he has laid out, in much of his Core Knowledge curriculum, the content knowledge he thinks is essential for students to learn – the theory behind this being that students and people in general need a certain level of common knowledge to communicate, read, grow. Like a foundation. Which, again, theoretically – I agree with.
But take a look at what he specifies as what should be included. See anything missing? I do. Lots. So how do you decide? How do you determine what’s important and what’s not? (I have thoughts on the answer to that question. But I’ll refrain for now.)