By All Measures: Other Voices:

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John Taylor Gatto, author and former New York City and New York State Teacher of the Year.

The beneficiaries of a national system would be the interests that make a living from monopoly prerogatives to sell things to captive children. The commercial nature of our very radical form of schooling has been masked by dreamlike debates throughout its existence about what constitutes good mass schooling and bad. Now the imminent diaspora of the factory school threatens a wonderful money-mill concealed from the public: bulk-buying of controlled text materials, the lucrative monopoly by colleges over teacher licensing, our bizarre standardized-testing industry with its tutoring satrapies; these and many other forms of enterprise depend upon a more or less uniform regulation of children's educational lives. National "standards'' and national "assessment'' represent the only way to hold this empire together during a period of deconstruction of factory schooling.

The first 200 years of U.S. history reveal the true public consensus on schooling--the more kinds the better for all of us.

Gordon Cawelti, executive director, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

The shift toward nationalizing our country's educational system could make an important contribution to strengthening the curriculum if policymakers are responsive to the compelling need for helping schools develop a more integrated approach to teaching and learning.

Policymakers must recognize that the curriculum is already overcrowded with the many vital topics people want their schools to address. Topics such as multicultural education, environmental education, and civics education are topics important to our future, but there are seldom "courses'' on them in most schools. To ensure entry to the curriculum, they must be integrated with more traditional subjects in an interdisciplinary curriculum. This integrated approach is necessary to ensure such topics are taught, and helps students recognize the connections between concepts in different disciplines.

Perhaps the most crucial need for this integrated curriculum resides in the area of character and values education. My experience in helping schools plan for the future has been that when parents, teachers, and school-board members look at societal trends and persistent flaws in the human condition, they inevitably articulate new learner outcomes that stress the need for more attention to developing ethical behavior, civic responsibility, and understanding such concepts as justice and the public good. Some schools are also beginning to develop both assessment systems and standards of performance tied to these outcomes. Students will be required to demonstrate they have mastered these more interdisciplinary outcomes before graduating.

Any national assessment system that denies the importance of such interdisciplinary outcomes as character education will be largely ignored by progressive schools that have worked hard at helping students see the connections among various subjects. It would be equally naive to believe that a measurement-driven strategy will be sufficient to ensure broad attention to curriculum standards. The threat of a test as the primary basis for assuring attention to particular outcomes will not be compelling to many schools.

We need, of course, a curriculum with powerful learning experiences that both help students reach much higher levels of performance in traditional academic areas and help accomplish these more integrative outcomes. The greatest potential drawback to the current work on national standards will be underestimating the importance of those outcomes important to the future lives of students and the nation that require interdisciplinary instruction. Traditional curriculum design won't do the job, and national standards and tests must not perpetuate an outdated curriculum.

Kenneth S. Goodman, professor of reading and culture, University of Arizona at Tucson.

We've built a system of comprehensive, community-based schools to serve our pluralistic society. Our schools are where we can learn to live together. Our standards need to vary as much as our people do. Imposing a single set of arbitrary "standards'' for a narrowed curriculum eliminates the set for diversity and can only serve to force the poor, the linguistically and culturally divergent, and the creative nonconformists out of schools. The Bush Administration wants to combine imposition of narrow curricular standards with "choice.'' If that happens then we will create alternate school systems segregated by means and power.

Our schools now test far more often than any other schools in the world. If there is one thing that pupils, teachers, and parents could agree upon, it is that we don't need any more tests. So why is there the insistence on national tests? It's because the tests are needed to demonstrate the self-fulfilling prophesy. The tests are guaranteed to favor mainstream, middle-class, and monied groups. We will then use the tests to justify the standards. And we will use the achievement or non-achievement of the standards to justify abandoning the schools trying hardest to serve the have-nots.

No pupils will profit from this. The poor will be left in schools with diminished resources; and middle-class parents will wind up paying to transport their children to schools which will have to charge them tuition to serve them.

Only two groups of Americans will gain. First are the commercial interests seeking to decrease their tax burden. The second are those who have always opposed universal public education and who have never given up their battle to privatize and "commoditize'' education. They have never accepted the principle that society as a whole must pay for the education of every child. They oppose public education not because it has failed but because it has succeeded too well.

If our politicians are sincere in their desire to improve education, let them give teachers the resources to do better what we already know needs to be done.

Vol. 11, Issue 39, Pages s14, s15

Published in Print: June 17, 1992, as By All Measures: Other Voices:
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