Every decade or so we have to debate the desirability of adopting national standards for education. People tend to be in favor of them when they imagine that they are the ones writing the standards. But when everyone gets into the sausage-making that characterizes policy formulation, it generally becomes clear that no one is going to get what they want out of national standards. What’s worse is that the resulting mess would be imposed on everyone. There’d be no more laboratory of the states, just uniform banality.What I don't understand is that when you start talking about national standards, you are talking about a national cirriculum. But almost everyone forgets that if you have a fight on local curriculum, can you imagine what it would be like on a national stage? A curriculum is a political document, make no mistake about.
Of course, some people always hope that they’ll somehow manage to sneak their preferred vision into place without having to go through the meat grinder. That’s what is happening now with the National Governor’s Association effort at “voluntary” national standards. In a process completely lacking in transparency and open-debate, some are rushing to announce a national standards fait accompli.
I have to admit that national standards have always appealled to me. However, the federalist in me acknowledges that schools have traditionally been a state and local matter and should remain that way since there is such a diversity of schools and school needs. So I am presented with a conundrum, I want to be able to understand and acknowledge that a high schooler from California has a similar (not exactly the same, but similar) education to a kid from Maine.
So if a national curriculum is probably not likely, what do we do?
Some people say, "national test" but that is not all that different from a national curriculum or national standards.
This has been a puzzle for a long time and I simply don't have an answer. But I want an answer.