Sunday, September 26, 2010


This morning I am remaking some parts that I had cut to the wrong size, and it is easier to remake the parts than to adjust the size and fit of everything else. There are some more complicated ways I could address my problem by making changes in design, but for the sake of simplicity, I am re-planing fresh stock and re-cutting joints. It is always easier to redo when I have the materials available, than it was to have made the parts in the first place because the process is fresh in my mind and the tools at hand.

Can you see that all this has to do with standards? Each and every decision we make has to do with standards. In school, standards have been set for levels of knowledge. It is easy to measure what a person knows. From an intellectual framework, you can also measure what a person knows how to do, but that is on softer ground, as it is harder to actually do than to simply know the procedures. You can set and observe standards for behavior, and students are either in compliance with those or are disciplined or expelled. And of course those standards can be all over the map, with things accepted at one school and community being unacceptable in another. So when we talk about uniform school standards, we are really only talking about those things that can be most easily measured on a standardized test. And those things may reflect some commitment to learning and some natural intellectual capacity. But those things that are most easily measured are not the human qualities most predictive of student success. What about creativity and creative problem solving? What about the resilience of character that sustains disciplined follow through? And what about the skills and qualities of character that provide the foundation for real teamwork and leadership? These are the qualities most desirous in new hires according to American corporations, but are the qualities most neglected by standards in American education.

So, as you can see, it is impossible to think about a simple form of Beaufort Scale for educational excellence without first addressing the matter of standards, and the questions, "What are they, how are they to be set and by whom?"

Otto Salomon said that all learning should proceed from the known to the unknown, and as a craftsman, and not an expert in educational assessment and educational standards, I proceed with this from the foundation of what I know and step from there onto less sure ground. Should standards be a issue shared and discussed only by those at the top? Or can the metaphor, "child as craftsman" help us to see that the values instilled by craftsmanship allow a child to become self-assessing and driven by intrinsic qualities toward lifelong learning and success?

You may see that the standards movement is driven by those wanting to extract the most value from our kids, rather than by those who value them the most. Their strategy is to hold teachers accountable for cheap performance, rather than holding schools accountable for fostering and sustaining growth.  I have laid out three particular values, of creative problem solving, resilience of character, and teamwork, as being important components of assessment.  I will not ignore reading and math, but the assessment of those subjects should best be done at the beginning of the school year to help the teacher know what students needs are so that they can be addressed, and at the end of the year to know that progress has been made.

The real question is not how to set standards and what they should be, or whether those standards should be set at a community or national level, but how do we encourage children to set standards for themselves? That all has to do with craftsmanship.

Charles H. Hamm, Mind and Hand:
It is thus that the trained hand comes at last to foresee as it were that a false proposition is surely destined to be exploded. The habit of rectitude gives it prescience. It invariably discovers, sooner or later, that a false proposition, when embodied in wood or iron, becomes a conspicuous abortion, involving in disgrace both the designer and the maker. A false proposition in the abstract may be rendered very alluring; a false proposition in the concrete is always hideous. One of the chief effects of manual training is, then, the discovery and development of truth; and truth, in its broadest signification is merely another name for justice; and justice is the synonym of morality.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:35 AM

    And speaking of standards, what about a kid like my younger son who doesn't really fit the mold because he thinks in original ways? Not many teachers along the way were able to recognize his talents.