It is apparent that reforms are being conducted in every sector with the sole aim of improving the quality of services. The United States, for instance, has introduced major reforms within the education sector, known as the Education Standards Movement that is aimed at ensuring high standards for all the students (Center for Education, 2003). It is worth noting that this educational reform contains two important strategic components: challenging the standards regarding what students should know and do as well as promoting educational equity (McLaughlin & Shepard, 1995). The most notable aspect is that the academic standards will be applied in making high-stakes decisions by students regarding their progress and future (Hirsch, 1987). However, the educational standards movement has met numerous controversies. Critics argue that the educational standards movement is simplistic with regard to what is being measured and that it imposes punishment on the low-performing students, especially for the students from different racial minorities and poor backgrounds, but the federal as well as the state levels consider the educational standards movement as a significant educational thrust. Nonetheless, a significant amount of work has been done with regard to education. This paper will analyze two authors, a supporter and the one who critiques the educational standards movement.
From his writing, it can be deduced that Alex Inkeles would have been most supportive of the educational standards movement as presently formulated. Inkeles recognized the fact that investing in intellectual capital will become more profitable, particularly within the post-industrial society (Inkeles, 1966). In his book, The Socialization of Competence, Inkeles highlights that the introduction of latest technologies within the electronics and the biotechnology, together with the information processing sectors will shrink, while the other sectors that tend to build on the high-level professional individuals possessing the skills that are aimed at enhancing the management and quality of work will probably expand (Inkeles, 1966). This will therefore expand on the traditional limits that have been placed on both training and research. He applied the modernization theory to expand on this fact, identifying schools as a main context for modernization. Education is indeed considered as a significant order-producing principle regulating the characteristics of people in the complex, large-scale, modern societies (Inkeles, 1966). According to this theory, it is apparent that more education would lead to better computational skills, more precise recognition of the historical figures and events, more extensive geographical knowledge and a wider association with works and authors of literature (Inkeles, 1966). A significant aspect to note is that education does not only lead to differences in cognitive content, but also in cognitive styles (Inkeles, 1966). In addition, Inkeles realized the need to have higher quality education as this will have a positive impact on the values and attitudes of the individuals within the society hence transforming such individuals to be more tolerant and inclusive.
Basically looking at the analysis of Inkles focus, and with regard to his theory of modernization and technology, it can be deduced that what constitutes an educated person is not just the cognitive content, but how that content could be applied to the real life situations. Besides, an educated person has better computational skills and an extensive knowledge. This is why this paper presupposes that Inkles would have been one of the supports of education reform , considering the fact that these reforms are aimed at raising the standards of education, but also enabling the students relate whatever they lean in school with the real life situations (McLaughlin & Shepard, 1995). Moreover, looking at the key reasons as to why the education standards reforms were formed within the United States, they were basically aimed at improving the quality of education that is offered to the learners. Furthermore, such reforms recognize the significant role played by the school in ensuring such standards are enhanced (Inkeles, 1966). In essence, Inkeles could be counted as one of the supporters of the educational standards movement today. He was a major reformist and identified schools as a key context for modernization. He actually highlighted higher quality education contains significant impacts on the individual attitudes, social relations as well as personal values (Inkeles, 1966). It can thus be deduced that Inkeles would be probably supporting the present reforms to ensure that high educational standards are attained.
A Critique of the Academic Standards Movement from the Perspective of John Dewey
John Dewey In his book, Democracy and Education, provides a detailed analysis of his understanding of democracy and education and how teaching should be done. Dewey talks about the methods and constructive aims of public education according to his point of view and has formulated various theories of moral development and knowledge, some of which are still applied in the democratic societies today (Dewey, 1916). Additionally, Dewey is concerned about transforming the method and the subject matter of education to ensure successive learning processes. He was primarily concerned with transforming the educational setting from informal to formal. He highlights that the societies are becoming more complex with regard to the structure and resources used day-by-day, thus increasing the need for formal teaching and learning.
With regard to the method of teaching, Dewey highlights that learners should be taught in such a way that they could be able to recall on what they have been taught. For instance, in his book, Dewey emphasizes on the importance of fostering good habits of thinking in schools (Dewey, 1916). This is because thinking is a method of intelligent learning that enables the student to reflect on what has been learnt. This is in line with the educational standards reforms and it also emphasizes that learning requires thinking. This is because learning necessitates an active construction of mental models by the learner. Moreover, it is apparent that every individual possess an organized set of ideas, regarding how concepts are linked to science, math, or history. Therefore, when learning takes place and fresh ideas are acquired, the learner has to figure out how that information fits within the existing mental structure or, at times, the mind will have to reorganize in order to accommodate the fresh knowledge (McLaughlin & Shepard, 1995). In addition, Dewey also highlights that the knowledge acquired by students should not only be limited to the classroom but should rather be applied in some real world situations. The learners should be able to carry on whatever they have been taught and apply it in the outside life. For instance, he highlights that learners should be able to extend the meaning of the primary activities to be able to understand the geographical and historical concepts.
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However, there lays a major controversy with regard to Dewey thinking with regard to educational reforms as he lays greater emphasis on social efficiency. Well despite the fact that Inkeles is also concerned with the socialization of competence, he is more concerned with the raising the standards of education towards attaining high quality education as is this is important in developing competent individuals within the society. Furthermore, Inkeles recognizes the important role the schools play in realizing this goal (Inkeles, 1966). Dewey on the other hand is more concerned with ensuring social efficiency is attained. It is also worth noting that Inkeles identified schools could be held accountable for ensuring higher academic standards are attained. Dewey on the other hand does not emphasize on the role the schools can play in attaining educational reforms.
The educational standards reforms are basically aimed at improving the educational standards such that high quality education is offered to the learners. However, this movement has encountered major criticisms with its opponents arguing that the system is simplistic with regard to what it measures while the proponents consider the system as a major initiative towards attaining high quality academic standards along with educational equity. Despite the criticisms, it is worth noting that these reforms have attained the major support from the state and federal government as it is considered to be an educational thrust.