A "Standard" Con

Joanne Jacobs observes the publication of Education Secretary Arne Duncan's national standards, in "Core Standards: The Final Version". Harriet left a comment, expanded below.

Arne Duncan is either stupid or dishonest, or both. The same goes for all other serious promoters of national standards. Amateurs who accept the arguments for government-imposed education standards succumb to magical thinking.

Some years ago Harriet took the grades which the Education Trust and the Fordham Institute gave to individual US States for their standards, converted these grades into numbers on a 0-4 point scale, and applied the EXCEL correlation function to these numbers and State-level NAEP scores. The correlation was negative.

A "standard" is a unit of measurement. A kilogram weight is a standard. A meter stick is a standard. A mark on a thermometer is a standard. Academic standards are to intellectual growth what kilogram weights are to physical growth. Platinum meter sticks will not make children taller and elaborate academic standards will not make children smarter.

"Uniformity shall prevail" say the control freaks, who would turn civilian society into an industrial army. In The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell argued that socialism originates in a hypertrophied sense of order, like compulsive handwashing or obsessively rearranging the socks drawer. Elsewhere, (e.g., "Raffles and Mrs. Blandish", "Inside the Whale"), Orwell suggests that a preference for authoritarian politics indicates vicarious sadism. In Socialism, Ludwig von Mises suggests that socialist leanings originate in a primitive revenge fantasy.

The State (government, generally) cannot subsidize education without a definition of "education". Public frustration with the ever-rising cost and marginal performance of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel's schools (the "public" schools) prompts legislators and administrators to deflect criticism of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel's schools with distractions such as "standards", which voters apparently expect authorities to wield against failing schools, as a nun would yield a ruler in catechism class. Problem is, insiders get to define the standards and wield the ruler. Internal accountability mechanisms fail, through a process which economists call "regulatory capture". In the case of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel's schools the industry starts the process several steps along the path. The most effective accountability mechanisms that humans have yet devised are policies which give to unhappy customers the power to take their business elsewhere.

Humans are not standard.

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