Saturday, May 3, 2014

Not One Size Fits All

I often criticize the core (and other standards-- while I know some decent, intelligent people like the idea of some sort of national standards, I do not) by calling it a "one size fits all" solution.But I'm wrong.

It's a handy shorthand phrase-- just four words and everybody knows what you mean. But it's not precisely correct.

"One size fits all" imagines a world where tailors make suits in just one size. People come put on the suit-- the suit is too small or too large or not correctly shaped for them. So the tailor says, "Oh well, you'll just have to make do," and we have a world of people walking around in misshapen ill-fitting suits.

But that's not what's going on.

Imagine instead a world where the tailors only make suits in one size. One tall man comes in to try on the suit, and it's too short for him. "We will fix that," says the tailor, who pulls out a saw and cuts six inches out of the middle of the man's legs. Another man comes in who is, well, fluffy. The suit is tight. "You," says the tailor sternly, "you must go sit in the basement. You may not have a job or go out into the world until you fit in that suit." Another man comes in and he's too short. The tailor calls up the police, gives the man's address, and sends the police to arrest his mother for giving birth to a too-short man.

Education under a CCSS regime is not "one size fits all." It's "all must fit one size." It's not "We'll ty this on for size and if it doesn't fit, it sucks to be you." It's "You must fit this, or there will be consequences. You will be punished for not fitting what we made for you."

What is sold as "individualization" is not an offer to re-tailor the suit to fit, but a series of protocol for teaching tall customers how to slouch and fluffy customers to suck in their gut. Personalized education programs are not about adjusting the one size at all.

The CCSS is the worst kind of regime, the kind that views individual strengths and weaknesses and interests and skills as a problem to be fixed. We are not centered on the needs of the students; we are supposed to make the students serve the system, the standards, the test. We will not measure the success of education by how well it meets the students' needs; we'll now measure education by how well it makes the students adjust to the needs of the system.

"One size fits all" would actually be an improvement. What the CCSS regime offers is far worse.


  1. Standards as envisioned by Procrustes?

  2. Are there not things you believe all "educated" people should know and be able to do?

    1. That's really a two-part question.

      First, is there a list of things that I think every single welder, housewife, surgeon, telephone lineman, dancer, lion tamer, soldier, etc should know? Maybe, but it would be a very short list.

      Second, do I believe the list is so important that every single citizen of the country should be compelled by force of law to learn that thing, or otherwise be denied the benefits of a high school diploma. Annnnnd now the list is down to almost nothing.

    2. Part of the problem is "what is educated?" One problem is ELA, particularly in areas with a higher concentration of English as a second language. CCSS forces those students to be at the same grade level in English at the same time as native speakers. Wouldn't it be more "educated" to develop a program that develops those students' native language skills in tandem with their English skills rather then force them to "test to a certain standard" in English? Foreign language is an area that we lag far behind in the world. Think about it, would we lose all the call center jobs to India if the students in India were not taught to speak English through out their education?

      One of the problems with math in this country currently, is that the education reformers keep coming out with "new ways" to teach math. Chicago math, everyday math, Singapore math, and that is just in my son's educational career.

      Plus, in NYS, there have always been standards to graduate with either a local or regents diploma. So many years of math, science, English, social studies, gym, health, art and music, foreign language. Do you really believe there was that much variation between states prior to CCSS? And, at a certain point, the students start customizing their education towards their interests.

      Darren Draper, do you believe that there have been no "standards" at all for all this time?

  3. ^^^An education should give people the tools to think for themselves. What is important in their lives should not be Pearson's decision. No parents, no communities, no professionals were consulted about what is important for children to know.

    1. I'm afraid your comment contains more myth than fact. See here:

    2. Darren, now you're just being silly. Advertising copy does not qualify as proof.

    3. Thought I would add some independent research. The powers behind CCSS have much deeper pockets then those who find fault.

  4. Thank you so much for stating so clearly what I have struggled to articulate to colleagues and friends. It is the tale of Harrison Bergeron come to life.