Another important question is what sorts of outcomes the state can reasonably prescribe in government schools and what obligations it assumes in doing so. This is a fundamental issue confronting contemporary education policy.
Private schools as well as public magnet, specialized, and even the new independent public schools called charter schools are forthright in declaring what knowledge, skills, and understandings—even values, attitudes, and behaviors—they want to instill in students. These are schools of choice, however, and parents are not forced to send their children to them. Therefore, these schools feel obligated to express clearly what students will learn, and it is in their best interests not to harbor hidden political agendas, even if the curricula they embrace are sometimes controversial.
There is, however, a huge difference between What is required in these schools of choice and what a state can reasonably require everyone to learn in a public—that is, compulsory—school, especially where this involves the broad and controversial outcomes proposed by some OBE advocates.
Forcing parents to send their children to school is one thing. But for the state to declare that students cannot graduate from a government school they must attend unless they demonstrate values and attitudes the state prescribes—even when these values conflict with what those students and their families believe—has all the trappings of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. All this is to say that the "Age of Aquarius" life roles and outcomes espoused by transformational OBE betray an unjustifiably grand view of what compulsory government schools can require of the students forced to attend them.
The situation becomes even more complicated when the state provides no means to assist the exit of children whose parents do not want to send them to public schools inculcating Aquarian conceptions of life roles. When a government prescribes outcomes that include values and attitudes, it takes on a correlative responsibility. It must provide families with the widest possible range of schooling options so that they may exercise a choice that meets their needs. If not, it should come as no surprise that the level of discourse on the issue of government-prescribed outcomes will be shrill—as it has indeed become.
If a state refuses to allow a wide range of alternatives and some means to support these choices, it is left with only one option: prescribing for government schools carefully circumscribed outcomes that reflect only the broadest public consensus on what students should learn. Such an agreement is most likely to be a consensus not on affective (e.g., "transformational") outcomes but on cognitive ones—academic knowledge, skills, and understandings all children must master so that they can live, work, and compete successfully.