I apologize for the lapse of time between my last post and now. I'm deep in the weeds on book writing at the moment, which is always fun. It is the experience that feels most like "flow" for me -- the word that references being completely engrossed in one's work and unaware of time. I start in the morning, look at the clock and it is 4pm. Good stuff.
But anyway, I am emerging a bit tonight! I just read an interesting essay by Ronald Wolk in Education Week arguing that the pursuit of common, high standards is a waste of time. You can read the essay by following this link. Instead, education needs to be more personalized. On one level this is a very appealing idea, especially as we completely leave the factory era. Once, standardization was a virtue, everyone focused on the same thing. Now, every major employer seems to be searching for people who "think outside the box." Personalized education also recognizes that all children learn differently, and at different paces. In the context of this blog, personalized education recognizes that some children learn a lot faster than others, and that age has no more to do with what work you're ready for than height.
On the other hand... after reading Wendy Kopp's A Chance To Make History, I'm a little wary (as she is) of silver bullets in education in general. Personalized education is good, and so is some amount of testing. It's really hard to solve a problem if you can't even diagnose it, and Wolk's complete aversion to testing is a good way to create a world of no standards. Also, does he think that top-down teaching is even the norm anymore? Education schools everywhere are gripped by a "child-centered" approach to learning where we all discover the Pythagorean theorem on our own. That's one idea, or you can recognize that children don't know much, and need information crammed into their little brains. That's a big reason I read books -- to learn things I don't know. It's also why I attend speeches, which is roughly the equivalent of teacher lectures.
So my general thought is... all things in moderation. Yes, we need more personalization. We also need high standards, and probably some assessments too. All of this can work together to create a better education system than we have now.