Flypaper

Liam Julian

Kevin Carey tags my opinion about private colleges and prep schools, which he doesn't care for, with the word "indefensible." That I am hereby defending it proves Mr. Carey's label logically wrong, and I hope he will retract it.

He may be right, though, that looking beyond ritzy private schools will bring more meritorious students to Harvard's halls. Or he may be wrong about that, too. Whereas I posit ideas on this topic, Mr. Carey posits certainty. I simply worry that if university admissions officers feel pressure--either from outside their institutions, inside their institutions, or themselves--to look with disfavor on students from private schools (which may be happening, no?) that they??could??either intentionally or unintentionally enroll many pupils who are less qualified than those who aren't offered entry. And that could water down the intellectual experience on campus. The same might??happen if universities over-enroll pupils admitted through legacy or athletic considerations, of course, but it seems that the prevailing pressure is for them,??universities,??to do the opposite. The bottom line, I suppose, is that Harvard really ought to be able to offer admission to whomever it wishes and then reap the rewards or suffer the consequences. ????

On another note, Mr. Carey is wrong (never mind--same note) elsewhere, too. He has yet again ascribed to me words that aren't, in fact, mine. The writing to which he refers at the bottom of his post (the portion in which he??grows exasperated about a quote from Thomas Sowell) was produced...

Liam Julian

This article (via Joanne Jacobs) may be heartening to some who believe that if fewer ritzy, private prep-school students are admitted to Harvard and its ilk then perhaps more deserving, low-income students from public high schools will be. That may be true. It would be a shame, though, if America's best colleges were to??accept large numbers of pupils who are less academically able than are many to whom they, the colleges, deny entry. What good comes of enrolling young people who aren't prepared--or, rather, aren't the most prepared--for the Ivy League?

I know, I know: Ivy League classes are supposedly easier than classes at many state schools, so students don't actually need to be more prepared for Harvard than for the University of Virginia or LSU. Maybe not. But as we've argued about AP, and as Checker told Jay Mathews in so many words, the quality of a higher-level class is in many ways determined by whether or not that class actually enrolls higher-level students. I tend to think the same holds true, to a large extent, for university classes and campus culture, too.??Too much??diversity of intellectual ability??on campus doesn't seem to offer any particular benefit. (It is certainly a myth that Ivy League graduates are the only ones who fill competitive jobs, or that a Harvard degree is necessarily the ticket to success.)

And colleges are??of course??judged largely??by their prestige...

Liam Julian

Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed this week a bill that lessens the emphasis of the state's high-stakes test, the FCAT. The House minority leader, Dan Gelber, a Democrat, and Patricia Levesque, who directs former Governor Jeb Bush's Foundation for Florida's Future, both supported the bill--a rather odd pairing, to be sure. Here's more about the changes.

Liam Julian

From the Washington Post:

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee is proposing a contract that would give mid-level teachers who are paid $62,000 yearly the opportunity to earn more than $100,000--but they would have to give up seniority and tenure rights, two union members familiar with the negotiations said yesterday.

Union members

said teachers are opposed to giving up seniority and tenure, no matter the size of their raise, and probably would reject such a proposal.

"You may be trading off your future, your tenure, your job security," a union member said. "When you trade that, it seems to me you're not getting much."

Rhee, who declined to comment yesterday because of the ongoing negotiations, has said she wants a contract that would "revolutionize education as we know it." She also has said she wants to improve instruction by ensuring that the District "has the most highly compensated and competent" teachers in the country.

Education experts who follow teacher contract issues said that D.C. teachers would be among the highest-paid educators in the nation under Rhee's plan and that a proposal eliminating seniority and tenure would be groundbreaking.

Liam Julian

Nice, Christina. And then there are these problems. First, none of the arguments he points out is reductio ad absurdum (one must never forget the ad). Second,??if one was, what the heck??would be??so wrong??with that?

Third, who's Leo Casey?

Update: Rethinking this argument, I??believe??our opponent classified it nearly correctly, actually--it is reductio ad absurdum, and a strong one at that. Now, when I ask, above,??"who's Leo Casey"... well, that's definitely ad hominem.

Liam Julian

David Broder writes today about America's national identity and whether the nation's young people are learning enough about it. He sees a lot to like in the Bradley Foundation's E Pluribus Unum report, which notes that today's students seem to know much less about history and their country's government than did their predecessors. But Broder isn't too concerned. He writes:

Young people may not know the Constitution as well as we would like, but they found their way to polling places in record numbers this year and joined enthusiastically in many campaigns. And they volunteer for all kinds of good works in their communities.

Pointing out that young people went to the polls in record numbers and that they volunteer in their communities is not an effective way to disabuse anyone of the idea that those young people don't know much. Enthusiasm is not, in itself, a virtue. History is replete with examples of rallied populations whose ignorance imbued their enthusiasm with the potential for unseemly consequences. Too often, those consequences??came to pass.??In fact, a persuasive argument can be made that young??Americans' relative flock to the polls this year is a direct result of the emotional pulls of a certain politician, one??who seems quite at home with the notion of rewriting history. It is certainly not a reaction to that particular candidate's intellectual appeal.

Photo by Flickr user kjd....

Liam Julian

The NEA is gathering in Washington--some "10,000 delegates and a few thousand other union members and guests," according to the Washington Post. The union is going to decide whether to offer its presidential endorsement to Barack Obama or to John McCain. (I wonder what are the Vegas odds on McCain?) What's interesting about this, though, is that Obama will address the group on Saturday. I predict that Mr. Postpartisanism (a concept that shares much with postmodernism), will offer up a bland speech about making sure all children have a future and all teachers have support and all American classrooms are splendid. Maybe he throws in a few lines??like, "We??should reward the best teachers as they deserve to be rewarded,"??from which??ed-reform tasseographers can??divine the candidate's future support for merit pay. The key, of course, is for Obama to give a talk that a) doesn't offend the NEA and b) doesn't make him sound any less postpartisanismishy. We'll see if he can pull it off.

Liam Julian

Britain's schools minister is Lord Adonis. Its schools secretary is Mr. Balls.

Liam Julian

Britain's schools minister is Lord Adonis. Its schools secretary is Mr. Balls.

New Philadelphia schools CEO Arlene Ackerman is making an impression right away; the Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

More than 200 Philadelphia School District staffers received layoff notices this week, a move the new schools chief hopes will begin to de-centralize the district and move resources into classrooms.

The employees were all academic coaches, mostly veteran educators who supported teachers in a variety of roles, from technology to mentoring new teachers.

In short, she's quickly asserting control over a behemoth bureaucracy, much like Michelle Rhee is in D.C.

The Philly union leader suggests it's for show: "This is the kind of thing that happens each time a superintendent takes over." I might be so cynical myself, except we know that such central-office "coaches" are often poorly managed and, unbeknownst to them or anyone else, can help cause huge funding inequities between schools. Marguerite Roza has studied this phenomenon; in an anonymous city where four psychologists float among 10 schools, one "says she spends most of her time at a school where the principal ???values her work,'" and another "spends the largest portion of her days at the school her own child attends." As a result, some schools are shortchanged--and often those with the neediest students.

Ackerman might have such a problem in Philly: "When I asked what these coaches do, people would sort of shrug their shoulders and say, 'Well, I don't know.'"

But what's most encouraging to me is that it's "a move the...

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