Forcing everyone to teach by the rules does not improve the “bad teachers”– it only hobbles the good ones (Papert 1990)
I came across this quote from Seymour Papert in Joe Bower's post at http://coopcatalyst.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/the-illusion-of-standardization/. He sees standardisation in education as one of the ways in which mass production techniques are being applied to the work of teachers. The justification for this is 'fairness': the argument is that everyone should have an equal experience of their education, otherwise something isn't fair. The fact that the quality of an experience - how it is felt by two different people - is completely immeasurable, and actually is a completely meaningless idea, is forgotten because of our fear of being unfair. Sadly, the price for alleviating this fear is 'dumbing down' to the minimum level set by the standards, exactly as Papert pointed out more than 20 years ago. Supporters of standards argue that because there are so many bad teachers, we have to have standards to ensure that teaching quality is consistent. This is another concept, along with standardisation, that needs looking at carefully by every teacher.
Joe also includes a link to an article by Maja Wilson, who tells the story of her son choosing a book to read and taking it to school, but being told off because he hadn't chosen the book from the 'levelled book tubs'.
'Standardisation' in education is a paradigm indicator of what Donald Schon, nearly 30 years ago, described as 'technical-rationality':
In the varied topography of professional practice, there is a high, hard ground where practitioners can make effective use of research-based theory and technique, and there is the swampy lowland where situations are confusing ‘messes’ incapable of technical solution. The difficulty is that problems of high ground, however great their technical interest, are often relatively unimportant to clients or the larger society, while in the swamp are the problems of the greatest human concern (Schön 1983 (1991), p42).
Schön uses the term ‘technical rationality’ for what he describes as
the dominant epistemology of practice...which has most powerfully shaped both our thinking about the professions and the institutional relations of research, education and practice – professional activity consists in instrumental problem solving made rigorous by the application of scientific theory and technique (Schön 1983, p21).