Are We Capable of Setting Real Educational Priorities?

It’s taken as a given that any educational standards must demand high achievement in as many academic subjects as possible. But all subjects aren’t equal, and pretending they are leads to inefficiencies in the education system. For example, although elementary school children are old enough to comprehend the “nature of science” (NOS), many students graduate high school without a proper understanding of evidence, reasoning, and other crucial NOS concepts.

To fix this kind of problem there needs to be a drastic shift is how we perceive educational standards and priorities. People need to go on record about what is and isn’t absolutely crucial. We could start by acknowledging that it’s worth making sacrifices in the humanities in order to do better in literacy.

The big question is whether we reach a point where the politics of our education system will allow elementary schools (or even high schools) to set real, non-standard priorities. Certain Head Start programs are already experimenting with placing a heavier focus on literacy and math, and so far the results have been promising. It’s considered blasphemy to downplay the importance of history, literature, and science (yes, much K-8 science is heavy on memorization), but doing so would be worthwhile if it ensures every student knows how to read and reason.

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