E.D. Hirsch, Jr. [300K pdf]:
Like other forward-looking organizations, the American Federation of Teachers believes that we need to have better state standards if we are truly going to improve K-12 education. I’ve earnestly stated that same view. That’s no doubt why I’ve been invited to write on this subject.
I’m genuinely flattered. But after living with this question for more than two decades, my views have become so definite (some might say extreme) that I decided to conceive of this piece as a guest editorial where no one should think I am speaking for anyone but myself. That will allow me to speak my mind, which will I hope be more useful to readers than an attempt to find and express a consensus view on behalf of American Educator and the AFT on this controversial subject.
E. D. Hirsch, Jr., is professor emeritus at the University of Virginia and author of many articles and books, including the bestselling Cultural Literacy and The Schools We Need. He is a fellow of the Academy of Arts and Sciences and founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation. His most recent book is The Knowledge Deficit: Closing the Shocking Education Gap for American Children.
The subject is controversial in part because some teachers do not like explicit subject-matter standards. In my own state of Virginia, some teachers are quite annoyed with me personally because many years back my writings influenced the Virginia Board of Education when they introduced the “Virginia Standards of Learning”—the much debated, often dreaded SoLs. But let me say to those teachers, and to other teachers, that the state did not pay attention to what my colleagues and I said back in 1988. We said that subject-matter standards and tests of them should be just two prongs of a four-pronged policy. Standards and tests needed to be accompanied by good teacher training in the subject matter specified in the standards and by good classroom materials that clearly indicate what to teach, but not how to teach it. The last two prongs have never come properly into existence in Virginia, nor to my knowledge in any other state. Moreover, the Virginia standards (not to mention the tests) are not nearly as good as they should be. other state standards are even worse. No wonder there is such dissatisfaction!
But many teachers I have talked to have agreed that they would very much prefer to work in a more coherent system, one that ensured that students who entered their classrooms were adequately prepared.
Thanks to a reader for mentioning this article.