High Standards for Nurturing Human Diversity

I try to keep up with the conversations at Education for Human Greatness. Here’s a recent post by Lynn Stoddard, a veteran public school teacher/administrator/author, who is always worth reading.

Those who are trying to destroy public education are very clever with words. “No Child Left Behind” was a powerful slogan for the Bush administration. Now we are getting hit with the word, “standards.” Who can be against “high standards” in anything? “National standards” sounds like a good thing, but it is just as insidious as NCLB has been. If you are against “national standards” you are unpatriotic. This is the implication.

Now, it seems to me that we have an opportunity to turn this phrase to the great benefit of students. We can ask the question, “Which is better — to have high standards for nurturing student uniformity? — or high standards for nurturing human diversity?” Shall we continue asking teachers to make students alike in knowledge and skills or shall we ask them to nurture individuality? What’s wrong with helping students develop in the things they are inherently good at doing? If people are so obsessed with high scores on standardized achievement tests we can show that it can best be attained by helping students grow in their talents than by trying to make them all alike, thusly ignoring the potential of high performers.

This brings me to the main thesis of our work — to change the main goal and purpose of public education — mediocre student achievement in a narrow curriculum versus high student accomplishment in one’s unique gifts and talents with unlimited subject matter content. Our Educating for Human Greatness model addresses this distinction, but can we use the “high standards” phrase to show it?

I’m sending a copy of these thoughts to Dixie Allen of the Utah State Board of Education, who has shown an interest in our work. For this reason I’m also attaching the latest one-pager for her to read.

Finally, I end with these questions, “Shall we endorse high standards for student uniformity — or high standards for student individuality (diversity)? How can we use this phrase to more clearly show a better reform plan?

The Obama speech makes it imperative that we hurry faster to let state boards of education know that there is a genuine re-form plan available, one that doesn’t demoralize students and teachers — and that involves parents in a meaningful way.

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