But what if the national standards are wrong?

by Steve Wyckoff on March 23, 2010

There is a growing conversation about the need for national standards. But do we need national standards? And what if they pick the wrong standards? I just finished Howard Gardner’s new book, Five Minds For The Future, and as always Dr. Gardner did a wonderful job. But, everything Dr. Gardner talked about, in terms of preparing high school kids, was aimed at preparing them for college. And the vast majority of our kids will not attend a four-year college and complete a degree.

In fact, only about 25% of our population ever finishes a bachelors degree. And, as I’ve stated before, more than 75% of our population will engage in work as adults that does not require a college degree. Less than a third of recent graduates at the University of Kansas obtained employment that required the degree they earned while at the University of Kansas.

So when we talk about national standards I can guarantee you that they will be designed to prepare every student to be admitted to a four-year liberal arts college. That’s problem number one. Problem number two is our students, in the 21st century, see those standards as boring and irrelevant.

Ask anyone, “If you ask high school kids to describe school in one word, what word would they choose?” The answer is almost universal, boring.

But we continue down this path as if establishing national standards that everyone has to follow will magically transform our students into highly engaged, well-educated, productive 21st-century citizens. It’s not going to happen.

We should be running 50 different experiments, one in each state, to see how best to prepare our students for the 21st century. How much evidence do we have to compile that centrally controlled bureaucracies are inefficient and ineffective before we unshackle schools to do its best for kids? –  Steve Wyckoff

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