|By Maureen Downey
Considering that virtually all the countries outpacing the United States in educational attainment have national curriculums, the disdain for any federal involvement in education in this country seems inexplicable.
Despite laments about federal control of schools, American schools enjoy more local control over their schools than most any country in the developed world. As a result, the U.S. has dramatically uneven results from state to state. Historically, the lowest performing states have been in the South.
While there's a nostalgia for schools of bygone days, America has never experienced a golden age of education. Yes, there was always an elite core of students for whom college was the expectation; they received quality educations. But there was a belief - shared by schools, parents and students - that the factory, farm and mill jobs awaiting most teens did not demand high-level thinking, writing or math skills. Kids could nap through math class or chemistry and still land a decent job in a factory.
Schlechty, author of "Working on the Work" and "Shaking up the Schoolhouse," once told me, "Schools were designed to send 10 percent of students to college. In 1960, half the kids didn't drop out of high school - because they didn't come to school. They got through eighth grade and left. Schools are much better than they used to be at what they used to do, but we don't want them to do that anymore."
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