Repurposing Education: Instead of New Standards, How about an Old One: The Civic Standard

By McClung, Merle | Phi Delta Kappan, May 2013 | Go to article overview

Repurposing Education: Instead of New Standards, How about an Old One: The Civic Standard


McClung, Merle, Phi Delta Kappan


Today, K-12 education reform in the United States is driven by the business model of competing in the global economy. The result has been a narrowing of education that is counter-productive because business models are ill-suited to solving education problems. With traditional jobs disappearing and unemployment levels unacceptable, the focus on jobs as the ultimate goal of education is understandable. This economic purpose of getting a job or getting into college in order to get a better job has evolved into the de facto primary purpose of K-12 (and higher) education.

The business standard drives education policy and practice in various ways. Like dollars in our market economy, standardized test scores, with all their limitations, become the primary measure of success. Questionable dollar-driven spinoffs: for-profit schools and management, including many online and charter schools, performance pay for teachers and students; corporate marketing; soda and snack contracts, and privatizing initiatives in general.

Businessmen see businessmodel solutions as the answer to education problems, and some of them donate hundreds of millions of dollars to implement their unaccountable vision in public schools. But the business models they advocate and help fund aren't a good fit for education problems. Indeed, Michael Edwards in Small Change (2010) makes a strong case for why market models don't work for social change in general.

There is an alternative that would serve us better: the civic standard. By shifting the emphasis to the critical thinking and empathetic citizens necessary to make our democracy work, the civic standard would also produce the kind of graduates that employers need.

Founding fathers' civic standard

Although the origins of the business standard in our schools are unclear, the civic standard is rooted in the founders' vision of the primary purpose of education. One could imagine, of course, that economic (or academic) goals might have been the focus of the founders, but their concept of education's primary purpose was never so narrow. They had a broader civic purpose in mind and saw the nation's interest in education as growing out of a desire to make our constitutional democracy work.

Perhaps George Washington in his Farewell Address of 1796 said it best: "Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened."

Even such fierce political adversaries as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson concurred. Adams: "Education is more indispensable and must be more general, under a free government than any other." Jefferson: "It is an axiom in my mind that our liberty can never be safe but in the hands of the people themselves and that too of the people with a certain degree of instruction." Consider also the words of Benjamin Franklin: "We must have a system of public education; its purpose must be to educate our people in their public duties."

The exact words may differ, but the basic concept stressed by the founders is the same: preparing the informed and active citizenry necessary to make our democracy work. Although it has been reiterated for its rhetorical value ever since, few pause to consider the prioritizing implications of the concept. The concept proposed as the civic standard, with each word having important implications for public school policy and practice: The primary purpose of public education is to prepare students to participate effectively as citizens in our constitutional democracy.

Content

The civic standard requires a basic knowledge of how citizens govern themselves in our democracy. Citizens must know our core values, such as the Bill of Rights, how those values translate into practice, how that practice differs from the ideal, how to know whether the practices should change, and how our democracy enables change and resolving conflicting ideas. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Repurposing Education: Instead of New Standards, How about an Old One: The Civic Standard
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.