Magazine article Insight on the News

OBE Has Little to Do with Real Learning

Magazine article Insight on the News

OBE Has Little to Do with Real Learning

Article excerpt

What would you call an educational system that abolishes grades and doesn't let any student in a class move on to a new lesson until the slowest student in the class has mastered the initial one? Or one that doesn't require mastery of the multiplication tables but does require students to demonstrate that they "make environmentally sound decisions in their personal lives" before they can graduate?

Bad? Wrong? Tragic? Perhaps all three.

But in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and 29 other states it's called "Outcome-Based Education," or OBE, and it is being implemented. Unfortunately, the outcomes being taught have little to do with real learning.

In Oklahoma, the state's Education Department recently proposed that before children can graduate from the first grade, they must demonstrate that they can "identify different types of family structures, so that no single type is seen as the only possible one." Apparently, the first graders must pledge allegiance to the notion that a married, monogamous couple is no more inherently desirable than a single parent or an unmarried non-monogamous couple of either gender. For grades 9-12, the students must demonstrate "communications skills, including being able to talk with one's actual or potential partner about sexual behavior."

Similarly, in Pennsylvania, the state's Education Department recently proposed that before graduation, students must demonstrate that they "make environmentally sound decisions in their personal lives." In other words, no recycling, no graduation. Such "education goals" are to replace traditional academic subjects. Students no longer will be required to take and pass classes in English, math, science and social studies. Instead, they are to "demonstrate" that they have achieved a schedule of vague, subjective "learning outcomes" such as those above.

Further, OBE abolishes grades and uses instead check marks indicating that a targeted outcome has been achieved. This provides no recognition of the abilities or achievements of the better students and leaves those students with no incentive to excel. In addition, each lesson is repeated until every student achieves the desired outcome. All the outcomes, therefore, must be set low enough so that all students are capable of achieving them, reducing education to the lowest common denominator. …

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