Here is an interesting vido, where Michigan State University Professor of Education Yong Zhau talks about finding a balance between the push for standardization and pluralism/individualism in American education. (The video takes a few minutes to load and is a bit less than 10 minutes.)
A professor of mine at the University of Delaware, Amanda Jansen, pointed me towards this link after following my discussion with author James Bach (who seems to favor a form of self-education where students are the prime movers of their own education). I, on the other hand, am a strong supporter of a voucher system of the type I think is hinted at in Zhau’s video.
It seems that the issue – like many issues – is often framed in a very extreme binary way: either we allow students 100% control to study what they want when they want, or we push for a highly standardized, NCLB style education where a student’s educational trajectory is quite inflexibly decided for them. As a supporter of a voucher-style approach (whether by voucher, tax-credit, or wholly private but subsidized), I think there is a third way, whereby states could mandate certain minimal curricular objectives while leaving parents and students (not just students, mind you) free to choose what kind of education they, or their children, should have.
As Zhau notes in the video, the largest benefit of such a system is that while certain standards do exist in order to ensure that students acquire the basic skills (reading, writing, math) that would need to be employed to acquire more specialized skills, parents and students can choose the type of school that they think would best suit their child. Not only can they choose the type of school by approach (Montesorri, disciplinarian, online, etc) but they might choose the academic focus they want for their child (arts, humanities, technology, etc.) As it stands now, unless parents want to pay above and beyond the taxes taken to support public schools, parents and students have no choice of where to attend school and very little choice of what to study. (more…)