Arguing the Merits

August 11, 2010

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Last week I noted that Fordham had offered up the Gadfly as a platform for an argument, made by guest columnist Eugenia Kemble, that the next logical step after establishing national standards is a single national curriculum.

Well, my post has drawn a sharp response from Kemble. Of course, she disagrees with me on the substance (the merits of a national curriculum and the badness of teachers’ unions) but that goes without saying. More interestingly, she accuses me of not addressing her argument on the merits, but only being concerned with the significance of her piece having appeared in the Gadfly. The indictment has two counts. First, she accuses me of not offering an argument for my position that “common” standards adopted by the states are really “federal” standards (i.e. controlled by the federal government.) Second, she accuses me of practicing “guilt by association” by insinuating that if Checker publishes a union piece, he must embrace the entire union agenda.

To the second count I plead not guilty. I didn’t insinuate that Checker agrees with the unions about everything. I insinuated that his position in favor of national standards was having the effect – whether intended or not – of advancing the unions’ agenda in one respect. And that the appearance of Kemble’s piece in the Gadfly clearly demonstrates that those of us who have been saying this all along were right. And I stand by that insinuation.

But to the first count I plead guilty as sin. I did not address the merits of Kemble’s claim that it is possible – not just in some hypothetical cloudcoocooland but in the real world, right now, in the actual political climate as it stands now and under all the other conditions that currently prevail – to have “common” standards nationwide (thus “national” standards) that are not controlled by the federal government. On the merits of this claim I said nothing at all.

Here are some other claims whose merits I have never addressed:

  • The existence of the tooth fairy
  • The medical effectiveness of aromatherapy
  • The flatness of the earth (oh, wait)

Even Checker admits that national standards have been “entangled in a competition for federal money,” that it’s bad that “that same federal money [is] paying for development of new assessment systems to accompany the standards,” and that “it would have been lots better if President Obama had never hinted at harnessing national standards to future Title I funding.”

As Matt aptly put it: other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

But never mind. My real point was to highlight the fact that Checker has spent weeks calling us “paranoid” because we thought national standards would become the first step toward greater national control of schools, especially by unions; then offered up the Gadfly to a union blogger as a platform to argue that national standards should become the first step toward greater national control of schools.

Does Fordham Support a National Curriculum?

August 5, 2010


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

For weeks, Checker has been calling us “paranoid” for worrying that the national standards machine Fordham has helped create will be hijacked by the teacher unions.

Today, there lands in my inbox the new Gadfly from Fordham, featuring a guest editorial by Eugenia Kemble of the Shanker Institute. Kemble’s argument, in a nutshell: Now that we have national standards, the next thing we need is a national curriculum. That way we don’t just ensure that all schools set outcome targets and measurements in the one best way that’s right for everyone regardless of their individual needs; all schools will do everything in the one best way that’s right for everyone regardless of their individual needs. And we’ll have a benevolent dictator who will make sure that everyone will do everything in the one best way, and who will never abuse that power.

I paraphrase.

On Kemble’s list of the heroic, wonderful people she admires who have been pushing not just for national standards but a national curriclum are Bill Schmidt and Randi Weingarten at the AFT; teacher union shill Diane Ravitch; and . . . Checker Finn.

Inquiring minds want to know:

  1. Does the Fordham Foundation support a national curriculum?
  2. Given that Fordham is offering up the Gadfly as a platform from which Kemble can advocate using national standards as the first step toward broader federal control of schools, does the Fordham Foundation still consider it “paranoid” to be worried that national standards will be used as a first step toward broader federal control of schools?

I’ll hold my breath and wait for Checker to give us a clear, unambiguous answer.