Is Standardization a Virtue?


One of my largest points of disagreement with the champions of reformy stuff is on the value of standardization.

For instance, lots of folks (including some who don’t like the Common Core) will observe as an article of faith that it would be better to have national standards than have different standards from state to state. To them, it seems as obvious as air that this is true. To me, it seems as obvious as dirt that it is not.

I am not in favor of some anarchic Land of Do As You Please, but I also see nothing inherently good about a standardized educational system. I’ve made my case against standardization itself many times before. But I’m going to argue that beyond any inherent value or lack thereof, standardization cannot help but become toxic in any system where it is viewed as the biggest value.

Many reformsters live by the rule, “Anything worth doing is worth doing at scale.” Arne Duncan often discusses measuring the value of an educational program by whether it can be scaled up or not. “If we can’t make it work for everybody,” he seems to suggest, “then it’s not a real success.” Read more>>