Flypaper

A lot of normally smart and generally sincere??people have just made the dreadful blunder of affiliating themselves with Al Sharpton, one of America's more unlovable figures, whose fingerprints can be found on an appalling list of divisive, racist, anti-Semitic, violent,??and often bloody episodes over the past quarter century. (For starters, see??here and here.) This man doesn't deserve to be dignified with the label "civil rights leader" and we find ourselves wondering what the likes of Joel Klein, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Kati Haycock, Joe Williams,??and Andy Rotherham think they're doing. (For a full list of this dubious new coalition's members, see here.) Though many of the group's principles are sound (see here), if one is known by the company one keeps, a lot of people with solid reform reputations have just blemished them by association with Sharpton.

Update: Yet more evidence that Sharpton is greedy and opportunistic.

Liam Julian

Naomi Schaefer Riley takes it to the college-entrance-tests-are-biased crowd--especially those within it who profit from the very tests they decry.

Liam Julian

John J. Miller, who wrote a segment of Fordham's recent Catholic schools report, has a nice piece in the most recent National Review that traces the beginnings of school choice--charters and vouchers--in Washington, D.C. (Right now, it's available only to subscribers, but once the NR brass makes it public, I'll be sure to repost the link.) It helps clarify at least one thing about the city's Opportunity Scholarship Program, which Eleanor Holmes Norton and her Congressional colleagues??are planning to kill: The burden of explanation rests with them. That is, OSP supporters include a wide range of people: Conservative Republicans; liberal Democrats; Washington, D.C.'s mayor and schools chancellor; Marion Barry; private school administrators; parents whose students are enrolled through the program. If Norton and Congressional Democrats choose to stick their finger in the eyes of such a truly diverse and widespread crowd, they 1) will need to justify their actions with some convincing arguments (which have heretofore hid), and they should 2) be ready to receive some serious backlash. The battle is over a specific policy that involves only D.C., but it's??going to make??national news... and it's unlikely that our presidential contenders can be silent about it. (If McCain wants some easy education points [points he's mostly lacking], he might want to jump in on the right side of this fight.)...

Liam Julian

In a New Criterion article, Alan Charles Kors, a professor of history, points out the misperceptions that many college faculty members harbor. If only their presumptions were true!

Those often kindly teachers, however, do have a sense of urgent mission. Even if we put them on truth-serum, the academics who dominate the humanities and social sciences on our campuses today would state that K-12 education essentially has been one long celebration of America and the West, as if our students were intimately familiar with the Federalist Papers and had never heard of slavery or empire. Having convinced themselves that the students whom they inherit have been immersed in American and Western traditions without critical perspective--they do believe that--contemporary academics see themselves as having merely four brief years in which to demystify students, and somehow to get them to look up from their Madison and Hamilton long enough to gaze upon the darker side of American and Western life. In their view, our K-12 students know all about Aristotle, John Milton and Adam Smith, have studied for twelve years how America created bounty and integrated score after score of millions of immigrants, but have never heard of the Great Depression or segregation.

To avoid??accusations??that I??care not about the Joads or Martin Luther??King, Jr., I'll add this??bromide:??High school students should learn about the Great Depression and segregation, too....

Liam Julian

David Brooks writes today about the rift in left-leaning education circles. He rightly notes that one group, ostensibly bolder and broader, is actually, um,??regressive-er. The other realizes that schools need overhaul and innovation.

Where, Brooks wonders, does Obama stand? Maybe we'll know soon enough.

Last month, the Washington Post's Jay Mathews mustered strong evidence and taut logic to contest some of the more questionable claims surrounding the prospects for America's economic competitiveness. The latest issue of The Economist resumes where he left off.

Lawmakers, principals, teachers, and parents clearly find it hard to hold back struggling pupils, whether they're failing high school exit exams or elementary school grade-level tests. This hesitancy to hurt kids' feelings--or, as we're usually asked to believe, to gravely damage their social skills, self-esteem, etc.--in fact probably leaves them worse off for the amount of knowledge and skills they lose. That's the thinking at Bruce Randolph Middle School in Denver, where principal Kristin Waters has ended social promotion.

Students and teachers are up in arms that Karen Salazar was fired??from a Los Angeles high school for "encouraging political activism among her students," namely by accusing the LAUSD of denying students "basic human rights" and "doing it on purpose in order to keep them subservient [and] to subjugate them in society." Pretty bold comment there from Ms. Salazar, who calls her student supporters "warrior scholars." Administrators termed her teaching too "Afro-centric" and apparently thought her "advocacy crossed the line."

I'm all for creatively engaging high school students in the subject matter (I used to have to do it myself once upon a time), but it appears that the subject matter was less important here than the politics. Frankly, teachers aren't given the same degree of intellectual freedom as, say, Flypaper bloggers are.... Besides,??does political activism appear in her English Language curriculum standards?

I've been arguing lately that John McCain needs to distance himself from NCLB, because it's unpopular with his base and, increasingly, with the general public. Plus, as I told Education Week, everyone knows that the law needs some reworking. Without saying so, he cedes the "mend it, don't end it" line to Barack Obama--who can claim to be anti-NCLB and pro-school reform at the same time.

Well, forget about that. At a reporter roundtable we hosted this morning,* McCain education advisor Lisa Graham Keegan offered a glimpse at the Senator's nascent education plan. To my ears, it sounds like a major departure from No Child Left Behind as we know it. And I wasn't the only one hearing that. Let me rely on the reporting of real journalists. First, Michelle McNeil at Education Week's Campaign K12 blog:

McCain... wants to move away from sanctions and instead use tutoring and public school choice as "opportunities" for children and families rather than as punishments for schools. And perhaps more importantly, he wants to make the aid available to families immediately without waiting two or three years. And maintaining the current sanction of restructuring schools at five years if they are failing to meet adequate yearly progress isn't a priority for him, either. In addition, McCain will work more closely with governors to come up with other options for addressing failing schools, [Keegan] said.

And Maria Glod at the Washington Post quoted Keegan thusly: "The federal government...

Liam Julian

"In a major legislative success for Gov. Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana Senate voted 25-12 Wednesday for a bill that would let up to 1,500 low- to middle-income students in New Orleans attend private schools at taxpayer expense."

Article here.

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