Differentiate, Don't Standardize
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. . . We do not need to standardize. We need to differentiateÃ¢€”to offer a greater variety of coursesÃ¢€”and we should work on the quality of these courses. They should not be shabby, dead-end courses for those thought to be incapable of the long-favored academic courses. Rather, they should represent a genuine democratic respect for all the interests and talents required in the contemporary work world. On the practical side, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics informs us that most of the job openings in the next decade will be in occupations that do not require a college education; reasonably, then, we should consider how best to provide for students whose interests are not primarily academic. . . .
If it is untrue that all children should go to college, and if it is true that the establishment of national standards is likely to increase the high school dropout rate, then we should reject the idea of national standards and work energetically to provide a variety of first-class programs for all our students. I think we mustÃ¢€” politely but persistentlyÃ¢€”question the motives behind the push for standardization. Might money be involved? A seemingly uniform academic program is much cheaper than up-to-date vocational programs. Vocational education is expensive, requiring smaller classes, larger spaces, and sophisticated machinery. Can we afford it?
Perhaps we can. If we redirect all the money now wasted on standardization and testing to first-class programs for all our students, we might keep kids in school and give them hope for the future.
Nel Noddings is the Lee L. Jacks Professor of Education Emerita at Stanford University. She is a past president of the National Academy of Education, the Philosophy of Education Society, and the John Dewey Society.
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