Tom Friedman has a new column abut education in today’s New York Times, in which he almost makes an important point about the state of K-12 schooling in America and what we can do to improve it.
The thing Friedman gets right is the easy part — the fact that despite the willingness of American politicians to keep beating the xenophobic drums and lead the chant for everything to be “made in America,” American businesses are already operating in the flat world of globalization and cost efficiency. Consequently, Friedman writes, “the trend is that for more and more jobs, average is over.”
Today, a Washington Post story reported that the push for common national standards in reading and math is gaining ground. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have now agreed to adopt the standards as their own.
This is notable progress when one considers how all prior efforts to promote a common set of academic standards in the United States have failed. But as the Post’s Nick Anderson reports, the Obama administration, working in concert with the National Governors Association, has been effective where others have failed by “encouraging the movement and dangling potential financial incentives for states to join.” The administration has also opted not to fund the actual work of the groups that drafted the standards, relying instead on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private donors.
As with many other major issues, the question of standards has become a polarizing issue with starkly divided camps. On one side are advocates like Massachusetts state education commissioner Mitch Chester, who believe the proposed standards would provide “clearer signals to K-12 students about their readiness for success at the next level, including readiness for college or careers.” On the other side are folks like the Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey, who worry that the push for common standards “is opening the door to federal control. It is the most alarming centralization of power in education you can come up with.”