Standards, Shmandards

From the “topics I always mean to touch on but never do” file…

This and this from Eduwonk have had me thinking a lot lately about the whole national standards debate. I don’t think the good folks at Eduwonk are wrong when they say that:

One of the problems with standards now is that they’re often vague, vacuous, and/or voluminous and impossible for a teacher to possibly cover.

I think we’d all agree that that’s true. The flip side, though, is that teachers like us- Critical Skills teachers who see the linkages between content and process and who manage to teach holistically rather than from a discipline-based perspective- really manage to teach a lot more than our more traditional peers. While the national standards debate (which seems to be emerging as less “debate” than “railroading on the part of the folks with the power”) will continue, I think there must be some comfort on the part of CS teachers. The model was created with an awareness that some sort of externally imposed, required curriculum would always exist and have to be adhered to. Now, I wasn’t at the table in 1985 when the matter was being discussed, but I am flabbergasted by the foresight of those who were. By not hitching our pedagogical wagon to any one curricular star, they created a model that can teach the Maryland State Standards as well as the Vermont Frameworks- and the same can be said for every district, state and national curriculum out there (as we’ve seen in the UK and Lebanon lately). It works in Los Angeles, it works in Sanborn- not because it’s so universal, but because it’s so flexible. I guess Critical Skills is really the Little Black Dress of pedagogy- it goes with everything because it’s classic and timeless and well- designed.

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