Some people suggest that the medium in which we present mathematics is the problem. And I think that is true. However, as with all things that is only one part of the problem.
The Department of Education sees a lack of high standards in schools as the main problem in education.
Politicians, parents, schools boards, and millions of other people see unified standards as a method of solving this problem.
It certainly is tempting. The idea that if everyone would just teach that same stuff then at least we all have a base of knowledge to build upon, to depend on.
If we raise standards by requiring schools to teach specific standards how do we make sure this is being done? The obvious answer of course to raising standards in the quality of education is to set standards and then measure whether we are meeting those standards.
Let’s follow the logic:
When people think that a test is the way to measure a students mastery of a standard we think it is a good idea to develop a better test.
When we try to develop a better test that measures specific standards we spend a lot of time looking at those standards.
We write questions with those standards in mind.
It is very hard to write a question that meets a specific standard and only that standard.
We modify the question so that it only includes information or questions for that specific standard.
These modifications change the question from a fair description of real life into some mutant cyborg that scare little children.