Equity Poverty Scandals Fraud and Hoaxes

Paul Karrer: The Fraud of “High Standards”

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Paul Karrer teaches fifth grade in Castroville Elementary School in Southern California, where most of the children are poor. He writes here about the irrelevance of standards to the children he teaches, other than to label them as failures.

He writes:

“The latest education mantra, chant, and canard thrust upon the herds of educators before they are joyously led to the steep walls of the cliff is … “high standards.”

“As with most populist war cries, initially it seems obvious that the maxim is without a doubt unarguable correct. Who, for example, could make any headway promoting the opposite chant? “I’m for low standards.”

“No one.

“But what happens if the mantra is unnecessary? What if the chant rings untrue? How can one fight such a hypnotic zombie tide?”

Karrer decries the idea that “high standards” will solve the problems of his students:

“It is a bamboozle. A fraud. Snake oil sold as gold in the guise of a false solution to the wrong problem.

“Why, pray tell, does the following real hard fact exist? Carmel’s education scores are high, Monterey’s are nearly as high, and North Monterey’s scores are the lowest. Is it because of standards?


“The answer is parent income and poverty. Wealthy cities have children with wealthy outcomes. Desperate communities have desperate outcomes. Nothing to do with higher standards in this place or that.

“The real issues in communities of poverty are: unemployment, underemployment, lack of entrepreneurial traditions, living hand-to-mouth, early birthing, generational established gang influence, lack of printed matter in households, parental incarceration, second-language issues, lack of medical care, drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, trauma, etc.

“Many kids in areas of high poverty are in survival mode. Before they can even focus on a computer screen, get to school on time or even entertain the idea of completing homework – they need wraparound services – doctors, nurses, psychologists, therapists. Smaller classes would help too.

“High standards are a sickening joke – a money-making bandwagon. A distraction from what is needed. Once again a top-down phony solution.”

No reformer would agree with Karrer. They would say he has low expectations. Maybe he is a “bad teacher.”

Maybe he is right.

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