State Standards Aren’t Evil
March 29, 2008 in Personal Reflection
Tags: aren't, bad, checklist, coaches, creativity, evil, frustrating, gulag, help, history, impose, lucky, oligarchy, standards, stars, state, stifle, stop, student, student teacher, teachers
Hang out in the staff lounge in some California school. Eventually, you’ll hear something like this:
Standards stifle teacher creativity. Standards are unachievable. Standards impose an oligarch’s curriculum on all of us. Standards must be stopped.
I used to accept that out of hand. Who was I to argue? I had never planned a lesson or directed a classroom before. For all I know, my teachers were right to say that.
Once I started planning lessons, I found that standards were far from the lumbering, cumbersome beast all those other teachers made them out to be. They were actually pretty helpful.
For instance, I was having trouble deciding on Supreme Court cases for one of my jigsaws. Instead of racking my brain and worrying, I looked at the standards. Standard 12.5.3 requests that we cover Marbury v. Madison; McCulloch v. Maryland; United States v. Nixon.
Done and done. See how easy that was?
I never taught in that golden age that was apparently “teach whatever the hell you feel like.” Maybe there never was that golden age. Either way, I’ve resolved to stop trying to live in that past and ignore curmudgeonly teachers who insist that these standards amount to nothing but bureaucratic garbage.
Sure, maybe one of my advisers insists that historians were involved in no part of designing the history standards. I’m no actual historian, either. Therefore, I don’t mind compounding the error. If this makes me sound incompetent, don’t worry — I passed a test.
Even an actual history major just starting out on this teaching thing should welcome the standards as the conscious, if incomplete, checklist that they are.
Thank your lucky stars that these standards, even if forced, keep us non-history majors from just making things up.
Moral of the story? If some teachers seem like they’re a pension plan away from yelling at kids on their lawn, respect them as such.
Every day, we experience a thousand moments, each of those moments setting in motion a thousand slightly different possibilities in the future. When we make these choices, we are thrust toward another day's crossroads, where we have another thousand choices.
Given the infinite number of choices we make in a lifetime, why do we choose so many of the same routes and make just as many of the same mistakes as our parents and grandparents?
I plan to learn from their mistakes. Let's see how far I get.
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