Why a “One Size Fits All” Curriculum Is a Catastrophe

carpenter-350Today, I had lunch in Riverhead, Long Island with parent activist Al Wicklund. Our meeting symbolized the new alliances being forged in the anti-testing movement — the Cop and the Professor; the Marine Corps Veteran and former anti-war protester  — united in an effort and to prevent Common Core and uncontrolled testing from demoralizing students and driving out our best teachers.

The lunch was illuminating in many respects, but none was more dramatic than learning how many skills Al possessed that I have no aptitude for at all. Al, who told me he struggled in high school academically, not only can fix any car, he can build a car from scratch and has designed and built his home in the North Fork of Long Island without any help from contractors!

Now I am proud of my ability to write articles and books, both for scholarly and popular consumption, but the skills Al has are just as valuable and important as any I have. And it struck me. Shouldn’t those skills be nurtured in our public schools? Shouldn’t children who have those aptitudes for mechanics and design have their talents recognized? And should children who have these kind of talents, but struggle with reading and math, be made to feel school is one big exercise in humiliation because what they have difficult with is all that takes place there?

mak-naison-175The Al Wicklunds of today deserve more than the one-size-fits all curriculum that is being forced into our public schools to the exclusion of all else. Maybe if they are given real opportunity to develop their talents, they can do what Al did, graduate from high school, practice a trade, and go to college in their 30s and 40s when they are ready to handle more academic pursuits.

If we don’t change course fast, we are going to lose a generation of people of incredible talents whose aptitudes are being negated and rendered invisible in a curriculum that follows the narrowest definition of “College and Career Ready.”

Mark Naison
With A Brooklyn Accent


  1. Ryder says

    This is the *result* of moving schooling from the private into the public sphere.

    You can’t have “common core” unless the state has taken over (which it has).
    This author complains about how a “one size fit’s all curriculum” is being forced into public schools. That is no coincidence, for ONLY by way of a state run system can a single curriculum be imposed.

    Private schools have no such problem… and show wildly more diverse and superior results.

    You reap what you sow… we wanted all schools run by the state… and well, that’s what we have. Too late to complain about it now.

    Welcome to the obvious result of a state run school system.

    One size fits all. “Because we say so.”

  2. jk2001 says

    I feel the same. It’s not like there’s just one kind of “intelligence” in the world. It’s just a handful of skills that are valued by the business world. It seems like school’s being narrowed to accommodate developing only those skills. That’s if they develop them at all – some school systems seem to be a “filter” to just pick out the handful of poor and lower-middle-class kids with those skills, and then shunt everyone else into some kind of service work.

    And to top it off, they really don’t teach some practical skills in school. I never learned economics, law, accounting, psychology, local politics, or management. Everyone has to deal with these things eventually, but where’s the education about them?

    • ChristyK says

      How about learning some useful skills like balancing a checkbook, how interest works for loans and investments, how to write a resume, what is expected of employees, and the economics of why an employer hires one person over another and why they pay them what they do?

      • jk2001 says

        Agreed. They taught the checkbook thing in HEALTH class of all things. It was along with “having a baby” or something like that. They should definitely teach people about their rights at work, and how to read contracts.

  3. babysoft says

    Exactly! I was once married to a man like Al, blew me away how talented he was. I always believed he could rebuild a Ford engine with Chevy parts if he had to. He hung iron in our tallest buildings, saved lives on the job, poured beautiful concrete, helped his brothers and father as a child growing up run their farms, but he dropped out of high school. Now I have two grandsons, one a traditional learner who gets an A on everything without even thinking about it, and another who struggles and struggles and consistently gets a F on papers for his rewards .. . .but can sing any tune, play beautiful music, and when we work a project together like building a model, for hours, never lose patience and it’s fantastic. He is never rewarded for his amazing, amazing talents in our current system. What message are we sending him?

  4. llozano says

    On top of the testing that students have to endure we have also sold our schools to privately owned groups and then these schools purchase these prefabricated curricula. There is also a growing business is tutorial schools to help students pass these tests. So we end up paying more and getting less, a corporate dream come true.

  5. teeky2 says

    America is losing its system of public schooling. Parents need to start speaking up before the whole system becomes privatized and for-profit. Sweden already tried corporate reform beginning 20 years ago. It was a disastrous failure. Now they have to climb back out of the hole—-if they can. Why is the US following this failed model? MONEY—-public tax dollars being re-channeled into the coffers of the 1%, DEO’s, big corporations, and Wall Street. Should those guys be in charge of Americas’s public education policy? They are now! O’Bama and Arne Duncan are complicit in this business take-over of our schools.

    • allison says

      Exactly right. Plus we’ll be teaching to the new Common Core national standards that business and industry largely dictated. Should be interesting, but sad sad sad for the students. Hope parents figure it out soon!

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