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Education Reform:
The "Tough Standards" Movement

Shaun Kerry, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology

Is such a movement harmful? Most people oppose it, yet it seems to be forced on us.

Read the penetrating books by John Holt and Alfie Kohn

In 1959, John Holt noted that a consequence of 'tougher standards' in education is that children are too busy to think.  A pioneer of school reform, he made a noteworthy contribution to education with a series of books that are partially listed in the bibliography.  For a more complete listing of his works, please refer to

Alfie Kohn has led the next generation of writers who expressed a similar opinion.  In his books, all extremely content-rich, he sets forth a series of principles that more concisely define the problems of the 'tougher standards' movement.

    ●  A preoccupation with achievement is detrimental to learning.

    ●  The tougher standards movement treats kids as though they were inert objects, and then tries to shove 'core knowledge' down their throats.

    ●  This movement is wedded to standardized testing, along with buzz-words such as ‘excellence’ and ’higher standards'.
    ●  The movement consists of requiring a specific type of curriculum and methodology.

    ●  The notion that 'harder is better' prevails throughout the movement

When discussing these ideas with parents, students, and teachers, they most always agree strongly with my assessment of the situation.  The 'tough standards' movement, however, seems to be widely accepted by school board officials, and in political circles; among both democratic and republican leaders.

The Business Coalition for education Reform, Business Roundtable, National Alliance for Business, Committee for Economic Development, and other such corporations have purposefully released deceptive reports that use standardized test scores to support their belief in the "tough standards" movement.  Their findings should be questioned, as they may be driven by an ulterior motive.

Many of our elected officials have entrusted the control of our schools to corporate interests, because corporations provide a majority of the funding required to sustain our political parties.  This raises deep concerns, as the goals of corporations differ sharply from the goals of parents and students.

For example, many corporations want employees who are easily led and not inclined to think for themselves.  Most large businesses want people who are hard-driven and achievement oriented, even though this attitude may ultimately be harmful to the employee.  They want people who are willing to 'play the game' in order to increase their profits.

Furthermore, corporations tend to neglect the medical and psychological consequences of the learning process that currently prevails in our schools.  They believe in the 'tough-standards' theory, and hire social scientists and writers to conduct tainted research, and publish the results of biased studies that support their preconceived notions.

Control of the American government must be returned to the people.  This will occur, but only once the populace is enlightened and finds the clear path that it must follow.  Our political reform site covers this subject in detail.

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