|Another addition to your read-me stack|
Tampio considers the arguments for and against any nationals stanrdas at all, and then spends a chapter each considering specific standards (ELA, math, science, history and, yes, even sexuality standards) looking in each case at the specific problems with each set of standards.
Tampio's explanation of the standards is quite good. By connecting ELA standards to David Coleman's anti-classic essay "Cultivating Wonder," showing how Coleman's idea of "thinking" is really a specialized kind of quoting and regurgitation. He breaks down how Coleman-style "close reading" is really about selecting and presenting the "correct" quotes from an excerpt-- not a critical thinking exercise at all. Quoting Dewey:
"Democracy cannot flourish where the chief influences in selecting subject matter of instruction are utilitarian ends narrowly conceived for the masses, and for the higher education of the few, the traditions of a specialized cultivated class. The notion that the 'essentials' of elementary education are the three R's mechanically treated, is based upon ignorance of the essential needed for realization of democratic ideals." We have seen that Common Core curricula and testing require studnets to repeat verbatim passages from a text. Quoting accurately is not thinking; thinking is a more complicated and fluid process that requires experimenting to solve the problem.
Tampio's chapter on math standards shows how Core math is heavily dependent on Core-style reading, and that the requirement to explain does not, in this narrow testing environment, prove that students understand anything:
Beales and Garelick argue that writing explanations sometimes turns routine problems into "unnecessary and tedious" assignments. They observe that many students first solve the problems in their heads and then write a narrative using "verbalism" they have been taught. It is not that the students now understand how their mathematical minds work; it is that they can sufficiently repeat the words that the teacher has told them they need to do if they want a good grade.
Step by step, Tampio leads us through the various standards (some more controversial than others)to a conclusion. National standards fans may argue that we can certainly agree on a minimum set of national standards that all students need to be ready for college and career. Except that, of course, we can't. "Reasonable people disagree over how to teach literacy, numeracy, science, history and sexual health."
What Tampio provides here is the capstone to the argument that many of us make, only when education guys like moi argue against national standards, we end up conclude with sputterings about, "Well, that's just not how education is supposed to work. That's not what it's supposed to be." Which I believe with all my heart and soul, but also recognize as a fuzzy conclusion to the argument. But Tampio brings us back the threat to democracy(ish) that such standards represent.
In our country, we are witnessing powerful people granting themselves the right to decide how nearly all American children are educated. And many parents, teachers, and educators, including those in historically disadvantaged communities, are saying no to top-down, standards-based reform. People want a say in what and how the local schools teach children.
The book is brief, pithy, to-the-point and well-focused, making it a great gift for your civilian friend who wants a quick, accessible explanation of what all the fuss is about. Since it's a fuss, you may disagree with some of it (I'm solidly in the anti-national standards camp, but I know reasonable people who aren't). For those of us who are already familiar with the fuss, it's a good exercise in organizing and explaining what exactly is wrong with the national standards movement and why it's not just a bad way to run an education system, but a bad way to run a democratic(ish) society.