Sunday, December 10, 2017

IN: Diminishing Education

Indiana's State Board of Education has voted to diminish the value and purpose of education in the state.

The BOE has adopted a new set of graduation requirements that will begin taking effect with the freshman class of 2019. With these standards, the board aligns themselves with the "college and career ready" crowd and leaves behind notions that education has any purpose other than to train students for future employment.

You can check out some of the specifics here, but this is one of those times when the devil is not really in the details, but is in the broad goals and purposes of the program. Graduates in the class of 2023 will need to meet the following requirements:

* Rack up enough course credits.
* Complete "post-secondary competencies" by doing one of the following: earning an honors diploma, finishing apprenticeship or career-technical courses or meeting college-ready standards for ACT, SAT, ASVAB tests.
* Learn and demonstrate employability skills.

The first is same old, same old. The second is, sadly, not new at this point. Just the status quo obeisance to the Cult of Testing, with the door open, at least, for something other than the usual testing gods.

But that third one.

Please note-- I do think it's a great idea for graduates to be able to find work. Getting a job is not a bad thing.

But to say that you cannot graduate until you prove that you can be a useful meat widget for a future employer-- that idea represents a hollowing out of educational goals. Be a good citizen? Become a fine parent? Lifelong learning? Developing a deeper, better more well-rounded picture of who you can become as a person, while better understanding what it means to be human in the world? Screw that stuff, kid. Your future employer has the only question that matters-- "What can you do for me, kid?"

The suppose Awesome Features of the new requirements don't make it sound any better. It opens the door to personalized learning, which-- well, problems with modern PL aside, saying you will now make everyone go to the same destination, but they can pick how they get there is the silliest version of personalization since Henry Ford offered cars in any color you want, as long as it's black.

But hey-- the new requirements will be locally flexible and workforce-aligned, so that your local business operators can stop by and say, "Whip us up forty good applicants for these jobs we might want to fill." Sure. I offer this deal-- I'll have my school take over vocational training for your plant the same day that you guarantee a job for every single graduate that we train for you. The requirements also make much of how the personalization comes because the students will be selecting their life career path, which leads me to believe that the Board has not actually met any fourteen-year-olds.

The new standards throw in rigor and currency, while tossing skills gap and other concepts that only make sense if you believe that the purpose of the education system is to serve business and corporate interests. If you think public education should serve the interests of students, parents and the community as well, then Indiana's great new idea is a great step backward.

Presumably local districts are free to add to this sorry list and bring their educational goals back in line with something a little more like education, but that can't erase the job training for meat widgets heart of these new requirements. The Board adopted them by a vote of 7-4, from which we can deduce that seven members of the Indiana Board of Education don't really understand their job.

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