June 5, 1996

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Vol. 15, Issue 37
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Five CEOs received high honors in Washington last month.
Lawmakers in Ohio last week defeated a bill instructing science teachers to discuss the pros and cons of the theory of evolution, punctuating a year in which debate over man's origins returned to the floor of state legislatures.
The business of setting academic standards is getting complicated. While virtually everyone now agrees that schoolchildren need to work toward cohesive, world-class standards, parents, educators, and policymakers disagree on who should implement and enforce them.
We have four years to lead the world. By 2000, according to presidents, governors, legislators, and other prognosticators, America's students will lead the world in mathematics and science achievements. All students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter. And to what purposes? In 1994, the Goals 2000: Educate America Act defined the purposes as preparing students for "responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment in our nation's modern economy."
I am one of five governors still in office who attended the national education summit convened by President Bush in 1989. That summit, in Charlottesville, Va., launched a nationwide effort to focus schools on results. Two of the national education goals we wrote then dealt with student performance and higher levels of achievement. The recent education summit in Palisades, N.Y., attended by governors and business leaders, reaffirmed this agenda.
As a nation, we have grudgingly conceded to the well-documented reality that, in general, American students are the beneficiaries of a mediocre to substandard education. We have exhausted the seemingly unquenchable desire to study "the problem" one more time to assure ourselves that the diagnosis is, indeed, dire.
Conservative opponents of national education standards generally cite three reasons for our opposition: We think it will lead to a further "dumbing down" of academic achievement; we think it will give more power to remote and unresponsive bureaucracies; and we think it will undermine parents' authority by giving the states the power to standardize the education of our children, a power specifically denied them by the U.S. Supreme Court in Pierce v. Society of Sisters.
The new conventional wisdom about education standards includes two related propositions: National standards are dead, and every state will develop its own standards. This approach is endorsed by the nation's governors, and even President Clinton apparently agrees. The president recently said that the history standards and English standards had been "less than successful," which undermined support for any future national standards.
We continue living in fear of exposing children to written or depicted violence even though our panic has been largely intuitive rather than the result of study, analysis, and informed discussion. A 1993 report in The Public Interest, however, by University of Washington epidemiologist Brandon S. Centerwall, statistically links aggressive behavior specifically to television violence. His article offers many numbers, but it expresses typical feelings: "[By] the age of 18, the average American young person has witnessed 200,000 acts of violence on television, including 40,000 murders. ... [If], hypothetically, television technology had never been developed, there would be 10,000 fewer homicides each year in the United States, 70,000 fewer rapes, and 700,000 fewer injurious assaults. Violent crime would be half what it is."
The charter school movement, started as a means of escape for small numbers of dissidents, is evolving into an engine of broader reform for public education.
FOUNDATION SUPPORT: Coverage of specific topics in Education Week is supported in part by grants from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the CME Group Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the NoVo Foundation, the Noyce Foundation, the Raikes Foundation, the Wallace Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation. The newspaper retains sole editorial control over the content of the articles that are underwritten by the foundations. Additional grants in support of Editorial Projects in Education’s data journalism and video capacity come from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Schott Foundation for Public Education. (Updated 1/1/2017)

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