Coulson on Educational Standards

From the Washington Post Online: "Cementing the coalition, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) have recently proposed a bill to create a national curriculum in reading and math. The bill's supporters rightly tell us that by the end of high school, American students have fallen behind their international peers. Dodd and Ehlers use that observation to conclude that we need such a curriculum "to compete in the global economy." "But how exactly would homogenizing our curriculum and testing make us more competitive? "National standards would help propel U.S. economic competitiveness, because they would allow the country to set expectations higher than those of our international competitors," write Rudy Crew and Paul Vallas, the superintendents of the Miami and Philadelphia school districts, in a recent Education Week commentary. ..."But sports and manufacturing are competitive fields, while public schooling currently is not. Standards advocates mistakenly assume that high external standards produce excellence, but in fact it is the competitive pursuit of excellence that produces high standards. "We understand this point implicitly in every field outside of education. We didn't progress from four-inch black-and-white cathode ray tubes to four-foot flat panels because the federal government raised television standards. Apple did not increase the capacity of its iPod from 5 to 80 gigabytes in five years because of some bureaucratic mandate. And the Soviet Union did not collapse because the targets for its five-year plans were insufficiently ambitious."

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