Standards are needed to try to ensure a minimum standard of quality. In business, this was probably more important when people were less sophisticated and information was less available. Today, we have access to enough information to make all of us capable of making good choices and recognizing poor quality when we see it. We also have more choices in the global economy, thus poor products are quickly identified and the word spreads. Bad products do not last. They do not enhance our lives. They do not connect us to others. Who wants to be part of a tribe of people identified by their loyalty to a bad product? Nobody. Bad stuff can’t hide.
In education, standards are put in place for the same reason. Their importance is enhanced when quality is suspect. When students are doing great work, nobody points to the standards. When students aren’t learning, standards are front and center in the debate.
Standards, in and of themselves, are not bad. We should have high standards. We should place them on ourselves. We shouldn’t need them placed upon us – unless we become mediocre. When we don’t live up to the standards we profess, someone will hold us accountable. When we talk about being excellent, but don’t deliver, something will outline how to deliver. Nobody wants to be associated with a bad product.
In today’s world, mediocre is the new bad. There are only two options. Be great or not.
Here’s the difficult news. The emergence of increased standardization seems to have resulted from the awareness that our students were falling behind globally. Intentions were good. Set high standards and put a plan in place to achieve them. It has not worked quite as planned. Our capacity to be less mediocre could not keep up with the growing unease caused by global awareness.
Here’s the odd twist of fate. A major reason we have become more globally connected and aware of our own challenges provides the best resource for fighting mediocrity and catching up. Yes, I’m talking about the use of technology. The same technology used to measure and communicate our challenges is the same technology that can help us become a world leader in education.
Here’s the good news. The people needed to make this change are already in place. We do not need to wait for a superhero to arrive or for lawmakers to change policies. If you are a teacher or administrator, you make the change – or at least the decision. Continue mediocrity and feed standardization. Provide excellence and feed innovation.
One choice will isolate our students in a world becoming more connected. One choice allows our students a chance to lead the future in a connected world.
Bad stuff can’t hide and nobody wants to be associated with it. Mediocre teaching is the fuel that keeps standardization ahead of innovation.
Choose excellence. Choose innovation. Be great.
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