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A Dark Cloud on the U.S. Horizon?

A Dark Cloud on the U.S. Horizon?

The National Curriculum in England comes with a heavy price — a price mostly paid by England's struggling students, many of whom are low income or of color. Few teachers in the United Kingdom would deny that the National Curriculum has significantly narrowed what can be taught and has reinforced, if not introduced, a skill-and-drill approach to schooling. It's virtually impossible to avoid when there's such an emphasis on examination results and classroom teachers are held accountable for students' test scores.

Back home in the United States I've heard praise for the British system — how "accountable" teachers are there, and how equitable it is to have a "rigorous," uniform curriculum. Well, I've seen this future, and it's not so great. Teachers will spend even more time on test prep. Inequality will become more pronounced. Students' behavior will deteriorate as they rebel against an empty curriculum. Fewer and fewer students will be exposed to material that encourages them to reflect critically about social issues. As the United States moves more and more toward a standards- and test-driven curriculum, I hope my experience offers a warning of what lies ahead.

Melissa Schieble (mbschieb@wisc.edu) is currently working on her Ph.D. in the department of curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Summer 2006

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