"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, May 18, 2012

Yogi Berra reveals a problem with standards

Submitted to Florida Today, May 18, 2012

US Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged Florida to adopt new textbooks, because
“content is changing not annually but weekly if not daily.” (“Florida's education secretary questions state's textbook plans,” May 18).

In other words, Secretary Duncan agrees with Yogi Berra: "It's hard to predict, especially about the future." If this is true, why is the Secretary insisting on common standards that lock a curriculum in place for years?

Stephen Krashen

original article: http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20120518/NEWS13/305180023/Florida-s-education-secretary-questions-state-s-textbook-plans

I kept this one short but of course it doesn’t present the full extent of the problem. Arne et al will respond by saying that content will be updated constantly thanks to our brave new computerized system that deliver tests and instruction on line. But even so: what sixth graders study today will be obsolete by the time they are in college or even high school. So the only solution is to promote flexibility, “generic skills that allow students to adapt” (Martin, 2009) and encourage students to “pursue their strengths":
" … it is … difficult to predict what new businesses will emerge and what will become obsolete. Thus, what becomes highly valuable are unique talents, knowledge, and skills, the ability to adapt to changes, and creativity, all of which calls for a school culture that respects and cultivates expertise in a diversity of talents and skills and a curriculum that enables individuals to pursue their strengths" (Yong Zhao, 2009, p. 156).

Martin, M. 2009. Eggs or eggheads: Which does the U.S. economy really need? Arizona School Boards Journal, Winter. Available at: http://www.susanohanian.org/show_commentary.php?id=688
Zhao, Y. 2009. Catching Up or Leading the Way? American Education in the Age of Globalization. ASCD: Alexandria, VA.


  1. This is such an important point. By the time the Common Core and all its assessments are operational, they will be irrelevant.

  2. Good point, but you overlook the fact that Duncan and his ilk think that they can, not so much predict the future as create it. Like George Bush's neocons with their contempt for those in what they denigrated as the "reality-based community", Duncan and Coleman and crew think they are leading us into a brave new world that they themselves can define. I touched on this a bit in a recent post ("David Coleman and Reading"), in which I consider Coleman's continuing ascendancy in the light of what it means for how much students will actually read.
    Thanks again for everything you do, Professor Krashen.