More from CM on Standardizing Education

Dear Reader,

In my earlier post I talked about Charlotte Mason’s comments on standard curricula and standardized testing. I spoke a little soon, because now I find that she has a little more to add on the subject. In that previous post, I said that we must examine our goals and also our methods of evaluation to ensure that they do not stifle the love of learning.

Now, a few pages later in her second volume, Parents and Children, I find that Charlotte says that the desire for knowledge can be drowned out my the desire to excel. When we make education all about grades, the natural desire to succeed swells beyond its normal proportions and squeezes out the desire to know. As Charlotte says:

“Just as much as he wants to know, he wants to excel, to do better than the rest . . . Kindle their emulation, and all must needs do the same thing in the same way to see who can do it best. The boys will no longer want to know.”  [p.112]

The U.S. is often compared to other countries, especially Asian ones, in which academics are rigorous and there is a rigid system of examinations that must be passed. In Charlotte’s time, she seems to have thought that such systems lead to mediocrity:

“We absolutely must get rid of the competitive examination system if we would not be reduced to the appalling mediocrity which we see, in China, for example, to have befallen an examination-ridden empire.” [p.113]

I do not know if such systems produce mediocrity. We are always hearing that it is our students falling behind, in math and science particularly. But I do believe they fail to breed individuality and creativity. Again Charlotte says:

“Society may be imagined so uniform that one education shall be suitable for all its members; we have not a society of that kind, nor has any European country . . . ” [p.113]

We always tell children that fair does not always mean equal. If my daughter desires to do dance and art and pottery but my son does not (as is the case), am I being unfair to not provide him with as many classes to take? Would it be more fait to deprive my daughter of pursuing her interests or to force my son into things he shows no real interest in? So with education, we must not think that the same means fair. To provide each with a wholesome banquet of ideas and to let each choose his or her own interests and pursuits, that is the fair way, not to pick one mold of education and say all must fit into it.


One response to this post.

  1. […] learning. I also don’ think that standardized testing benefits students (see this post and this one) or that focusing primarily on the STEM subjects is the right way to […]


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