One Size Fits Few is a sharp, pointed pin with which to deflate the overblown pro-Standards movement. In her hilarious, unsparing, and often touching narrative, Susan Ohanian-a teacher, author, and frequent contributor to the Atlantic, Education Week, and other publications-recounts her quest to make sense of the Standards movement.”Making sense” is no small feat, as we see when Ohanian muses on school districts withholding diplomas from students who fail to demonstrate “necessary knowledge” of topics such as covalent bonds, the Edict of Nantes, La Cucaracha, and the Slough of Despond.
Balance is even more elusive in the media, as is evident when Ohanian drafts an op-ed piece on Goals 2000 for USA Today. When her editor repeatedly finds the real-life students she portrays “too unique,” too urban, too nonstandard, she realizes that all he wants to know is “how the kids in Grosse Pointe measure up against the kids in Larchmont or Palo Alto, and how both compare to the Japanese.”
Ironically, even in Japan, Ohanian finds gross denial: When she asks “What happens when a child fails to keep up with his peers?,” she is reassured that this never happens. Yet no one can explain how the McDonald’s clerk fits into the Japanese educational/social system.
Underlying the irony is a call to action. “It is my moral duty to offer a counterargument to people who would try to streamline, sanitize, and standardize education” says Ohanian. “When we get down to the realities of the classroom … the antics of Standardistos are no longer funny … what we need to do is fight back.”
Visit Susan Ohanian online for a wealth of information on education issues and to learn more about her. You’ll find commentary, cartoons, letters, resources, quotes and a word of the day offering children a provocative way to increase their vocabulary.
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