Skip to main content

'21st Century Standards' -- code for 'touchy-feely mush'


The goal of '21st Century Standards'

What, exactly, is a “21st Century World-Class Education Standard?”

I know, I know: it sounds awesome. Every kid should have one. But what the heck is it?

In a nutshell, what it means is that a kid has learned enough to be able to expect to qualify for a job with Wal-Mart. If he’s ambitious, he might be able to attempt remedial math and English courses at the college level and become a perpetual student.

If that sounds to you a whole lot like lot we’re teaching to the lowest common denominator, give yourself a cookie because you won the prize in today’s quiz.

Education traditionalists have been maintaining for more than three decades now that all this “education reform” mumbo-jumbo is just exactly what George W. Bush called it back in 1997: “touchy-feely mush.”

(Dubya sold out to get elected President, and we saw what happened from there--Texas now enjoys a 33 percent dropout rate and a ranking of No. 48 in the nation, thanks to the “reform” implemented in his name.)

The problem is that education standards and curriculums keep getting written by professional educators whose primary goal is job security.

What should a kid graduating high school know and be able to demonstrate in, say, the field of English literacy, do you think? Should he or she have some knowledge of the roots of our common, shared language? Should he or she be versed in the great literature of our language and gain an appreciation in particular for those literary stars of U.S. ancestry?

According to the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), “21st Century” curriculum and assessments should:

“• Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
“• Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and
“• Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of
“• Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous
“• Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts
“• Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments”

In other words, the main goal of English literacy in our schools is to learn how to be able to use a computer effectively, and should be able to work at Wal-Mart without causing too much disruption.

The language is all upbeat and forward-looking, and that’s one reason the education bureaucracy has been able to foist wave after wave of “education reform” on an unsuspecting public – wave after wave of expensive “education reform,” by the way, which has driven up the cost of a K-12 education by 400 percent since 1960.

As an example, check the education goals of the new administration, available at

“President Obama will reform America’s public schools to deliver a 21st Century education that will prepare all children for success in the new global workplace. He will foster a race to the top in our nation’s schools, by promoting world-class academic standards and a curriculum that fosters critical thinking, problem solving, and the innovative use of knowledge to prepare students for college and career. He will push to end the use of ineffective, ‘off-the-shelf’ tests, and support new, state-of-the-art assessment and accountability systems that provide timely and useful information about the learning and progress of individual students.”

In other words, we’re going to continue to provide more and better-paying jobs to administrators to continue “reforming education,” even though they’ve been at it for 50 years now and still haven’t succeeded. The only difference is that the U.S. Education Department will now begin trying to openly formalize national control over education, and gay activists who supported Obama’s campaign will be in charge.

It all comes down to parents. Those who get involved actively with what their children are learning – whether as a home-schooling parent or as a parent who pays enough attention to what their kids are learning in school that they can react to correct deficiencies through outside sources – have a chance at producing adult children who can do more than stock shelves with products made in China.



  • Maya Frost 5 years ago

    Thanks, Dave. You're absolutely right--it's imperative that parents pay attention and fill in the cracks--or crevasses, as the case may be. We can't expect schools to teach our kids how to adapt in a constantly changing world--it's our job as parents to make sure they have plenty of room to explore a range of learning options, discover their talents, and develop the confidence and confidence to seize their most thrilling and fulfilling opportunities in the future.