Critical Pedagogy and Teacher Education in the Neoliberal Era

Volume 6 of the series Explorations of Educational Purpose pp 37-48


Standards Talk: Considering Discourse in Teacher Education Standards

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My interest in understanding the discursive meanings of national standards in teacher education comes from my early experiences as a high school English teacher and member of our school district’s K–12 English/Language Arts standards committee in the early 1990s. Standards-based teaching, at the time, involved collaboration with other teachers on the committee, as we negotiated agreement about what our students should know, and what we would consequently teach. Teachers’ voices were integral to the process, and we used our knowledge of our students and the local community’s resources to consider appropriate grade-level standards for our students. The process was not perfect: as Bourdieu (1974) suggests, teachers often act as if the language of standards is natural, “full of allusions and shared understandings,” and assume that “academic judgments which in fact perpetuate cultural privilege” are “fair” (pp. 39–40). To us, standards-setting seemed a professional, rational exercise concluding in consensus, and we never asked whose standards we were promoting. It seemed we were promoting our own.