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Tienken, Ch.H. (2016). Defying Standardization. Creating Curriculum for an Uncertain Future. USA: Rowman and Littlefield
di Andrea Rega   

 

In the new book, Defying Standardization. Creating Curriculum for an Uncertain Future, Professor Christopher Tienken exposes the flaws within the arguments made in favor of standardizing the curricula and assessment expectations for the approximately 56 million students that attend public school in the United States. Tienken provides practical and research-informed examples of how school leaders, educators, and students can design curricula locally that addresses skills and dispositions necessary to be a participative citizen in a democratic society and globally competitive economy.

The first three chapters of the book present evidence-informed rebuttals to the arguments that America’s public schools are failing and that American students are failing behind their global peers in academic achievement. Tienken explains how proponents of curricular and assessment standardization use low rankings for American students on international tests to paint a picture of public education failure. He expertly critiques the misinformation surrounding the claims that international tests scores and rankings are valid and accurate indicators of national education quality and global competitiveness. Tienken provides a large amount of independent research and evidence that refute claims by proponents of standardization that international tests ranks and scores (a) relate to current economic strenght of a country, (b) predict future economic strenght, (c) correlate to skills and dispositions needed in the knowledge economy such as creativity, innovationm and entrepreneurship, and (d) accurately describe the education quality of a country. Statistics and other evidence are provided that neutralizes the argument for standardization based on international test rankings.

Tienken proceeds to provide readers with varied indicators of long-term education output in the United States and suggests that the U.S. is already the most globally competitive nation in the world. He presents a comprehensive look at global economic competitiveness indicators associated with long-term education output, including (a) innovation patents, (b) Nobel prizes, (c) scientific publications, (d) citations of scientific publications, (e) mathematics research publications, (f) global economic rankings, and more.

The middle section of book, chapters 4 and 5, critiques some of the most prominen theories and philosophies that support standardization. Tienken sistematically dismantles the philosophies and theories of standardizations to reveal that the entire idea rests upon pillars of sand. Tienken exposes the inherent weakness of Essentialist philosophy, extreme behaviorism, linguistic relativism, and the cult of specificity, and the theory of performativity. Next, Thienken presents intellectual and civic arguments in favor or not stardardizing curricula. He introduces a set of skills and dispositions that transcend time and subject matter, like creativity, innovation, compassion, empathy, leadership, persistence, resilience, collaboration, communication, and critique. The progressive-experimentalist Curriculum Paradigm for curriculum design, development and implementation is explained as a tool for injecting creativity and innovation into the curriculum. Tienken supports his ideas throughout by quotes and research from some of the legendary progressive-experimentalist thinkers such as John Dewey, Ralph Tyler and Harold Rugg.

In the last two chapters of the book Tienken provides practical and evidence-based suggestions for designing curricula at the local level. The examples align to progressivist/experimentalist philosophy and they provide concrete, classically informed models that educators can use to awaken their education imaginations and overcome the repressive nature of standardization in whatever context in which they work. Practical examples of how to use classical curriculum design tools such as the problem-method, problem-finding, topic funneling, students needs approach, socially conscious problems, and the development of complex thinking objectives are explained and provided.