In a two-part post questioning the wisdom of investing time and reform energy in “national standards,” TLN blogger Nancy Flanagan takes us back in time to a strange land — a parallel America where we not only knew which knowledge was important, we did something about it.

It’s the late 1980s. President Reagan has used the moral stimulus of A Nation at Risk to drive the creation of our first comprehensive United States curriculum standards and national assessments, which (predictably) have cost twice as much as budgeted to develop.

Out in the heartland, far from the rarified policy atmosphere of Washington D.C., School Superintendent Williams is walking the halls of Elmwood High, admiring its new state-of-the-art facilities, financed by a bond issue enthusiastically approved by voters to meet the new national standards.

Williams feels a great sense of accomplishment as he glimpses the shiny Selectric typewriters; the large fully-equipped photography lab; the technology room with its blazing fast 386 computers and DOS computer manuals; the handsome world maps in the history classrooms, brightly delineating the USSR; and finally, the cutting edge (and very expensive) security system for the school library, which will assure that the school’s extensive collection of hard-bound books will be available to help students “meet standards for decades to come.”

Superintendent Williams is well-satisfied. Elmwood High is set for the New Millennium. Party on, dude.

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