In a Wall Street Journal Opinion piece today, Craig Barrett writes The Case for Common Education Standards. Mr. Barrett’s case seems to rest on two key points:
- “…common education standards are essential for producing the educated work force America needs to remain globally competitive.”
- “Fifty different sets of standards make no sense. It is much more efficient and less costly for states to mutually develop standards and then work together on the tools needed, such as tests and textbooks, to ensure the standards reach classrooms, teachers and students.”
Point 1: Common standards are essential to remain globally competitive?
Does Barrett notice the things in his daily life that help him live at a standard unmatched in history and wonder how many of those things came from a common standard? None.
It all came from trial-and-error experimentation with many standards. Through trial-and-error we learn which of these experiments work well to improve our lives and suit our preferences. Then others adopt those successes and build their own trial-and-error experiment for the next big thing.
I want more of the trial-and-error process that made us the richest country on the planet. I want to unleash the power of such processes on education.
Point 2: Fifty sets of standards are inefficient.
For most products and services we have 300 million sets of standards. That is, each product and service is judged by each of us individually. Yes, companies aggregate these preferences in such ways that they can profitably produce the goods, but that still leaves us with a bunch of options to choose from as evidenced by the bread aisle at any grocery store.
In Barrett’s world we’d be better served with one standard for bread. The problem is it would be his standard and that may not line up with yours and mine. I like my bread just fine. Don’t mess with it. In fact, let’s get some of the processes that brings me so many different variations of bread to choose from in a superbly reliably fashion and bring more of that into education, rather than remove it.
It seems to work well education at the college-level, which does not have one national standard.