"In part to ameliorate the errors and costs associated with human scoring, test publishers are investing heavily in automated-response systems that use artificial-intelligence software to “read” student answers."
---Education Week, Jan 21 2010
I'm afraid Hirsch is wasting his eloquence in arguing that humans should be the ones to choose the common standards that will save us (at last) from the failures of standards. if machines are going to score our children's verbal competency, it makes sense to let them choose the standards by which that competency will be judged, and the curriculum to inculcate it. That's reverse engineering (a primary focus of the implementation stage of the Race to the Top). We must start with the goal, then work backwards to design the process that will achieve it. In this case, the goal is clearly maximum profits for the booming data processing industry, and we're right on track.
Alternately, E.D. Hirsch's proper response to any question about "standards" should be "I don't give a damn about standards. What's the curriculum?" He doesn't really want standards like Finland, which he praises in his piece -- their standards are exactly the kind of thing he hates, all about "skills and techniques in reading," pursuing the student's interests, etc. He may like the stuff other than standards, but basically he's just not into standards and really has nothing useful to say about them. Any more than I have anything useful to say about smartphones.