Flypaper

Terry posted earlier today on the pressure mounting on attorney general Marc Dann to quit office in light of recent scandals.

He's just resigned.

Google announced yesterday that it will launch Friend Connect, a free service that will allow any website to operate as a so-called "social website," in the mold of Facebook and MySpace.

Friend Connect is aimed at the millions of Web sites that could benefit from having members interact but can't enable such connections because of a lack of technical expertise or hardware.

If anyone struggles from a "lack of technical expertise," it's district and state education agencies, whose websites often recreate for those seeking meaningful information the experience of a drugged mouse struggling frantically and usually in vain to find the cheese at the end of a maze.

Wouldn't it be great if, say, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District pasted a bit of Google code into its trainwreck of a website and allowed users to build a community that either a) collaborated to make sense of the content for everyone or b) bypassed the content altogether and built a kind of parallel knowledge base that became much more useful for the average visitor to the website?

Although details are still murky, this plan out of Denver, inspired by Chicago's Renaissance 2010 and New York's New Visions for Public Schools, seems promising.

The key here will be to keep these schools sufficiently insulated from district regulations. It's unclear whether they'll be charter schools, contract schools, private schools, or some hybrid thereof. But as long as they're truly free to experiment with non-traditional schooling methods--e.g., extended learning time, college-prep culture, rigorous curricula, no-nonsense discipline, variable teacher pay--these schools could make a real impact in the Mile High City.

It's great to see these bureaucracy-busting approaches catching on around the country.

Photo by Flickr user stevenm_61.

Jeff Kuhner

Australia's aboriginal community is suffering from a serious epidemic of children watching pornography at home--and then simulating sex acts in the classroom. Some of these aboriginal children are as young as seven. Even more disturbing, plenty of Australian social workers and community leaders think there's nothing wrong with it. In their twisted minds, these children are not suffering from child abuse, despite being fed an endless diet of adult porn and, in some instances, having their parents sexually molest them.

The story in the Australian should be a wake-up call to the country's authorities to crackdown on child abuse, improper sexual behavior in the classroom, and rampant pornography. A formal investigation by a former Supreme Court judge found that communities on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands were not only inundated with porn, but that welfare workers and local aboriginal leaders--those who are supposed to be protecting children--deliberately sought to dissuade teachers from tackling the problems of child abuse.

The judge's report is replete with disturbing examples of illicit sexual behavior by students in classrooms. In one case, a seven-year-old girl dropped her pants in class, simulated sexual intercourse, and jammed several plastic objects into her vagina. School officials suspect she is the victim of incest. In another case, a nine-year-old girl made numerous sexual gestures in class. When confronted by her teacher, she said she learned the moves from "blue movies." It was later found out that the girl came from an abusive home and that...

The Education Gadfly

Fordham is thrilled to welcome Amber Winkler to our ranks. As our brand new Research Director (see her bio), she'll be overseeing Fordham's vast research enterprise (and helping us produce sophisticated studies like this one). And she's blogging too! We're a boy band no longer.

The Education Gadfly

Informed sources say the finalists to succeed Chris DeMuth as president of the American Enterprise Institute are Princeton's Robbie George and Columbia's Glenn Hubbard--youngish, brilliant, and dynamic, both.

Today at a big wing-ding on federal education research sponsored by Education Sector and several other groups , former Deputy Secretary of Education Marshall (Mike) Smith agreed that it was probably a mistake to have carved the Education Department (ED) out of the old Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

I was half-serious when I first said this, citing Moynihan and Califano (celebrated opponents of ED's creation, both) and teeing off Russ Whitehurst's comment that the Department of Health and Human Services now spends a vastly larger fraction of its discretionary budget on R & D than does ED. Smith was serious, citing evidence that one of the largest contributors to weak student achievement and even worse problems for kids and school systems is health issues (he focused on tooth decay leading to rampant infection leading sometimes to death) besetting American children, especially poor ones.

The Ed in '08 chairman told ABC News:

My reasons are that the party needs to get on right now with a lot of business, including figuring out what to do with Michigan and Florida. It's important to make known right now not only my vote but as many superdelegates as possible.

Asked if this endorsement was a problem for Ed in '08, he said:

My partner here, Marc Lampkin is a Bush Republican, a McCain Republican, so we are still one Democrat and one Republican who will be working even handedly.

ABC News implied that his motives might not have been entirely pure:

By making his announcement, Romer may have enhanced his clout in an Obama White House. Plouffe said the Obama campaign will seek the counsel and advice of Romer on education issues.

"Secretary Romer" doesn't have a bad ring to it--though he'll be disappointed to discover that the U.S. Department of Education's discretionary budget is much, much smaller than Ed in '08's $60-million bank account.

Liam Julian

Malcolm Gladwell, kicking-off last week's New Yorker Conference, spoke about the mismatch problem--i.e., the hiring of people based on qualities or characteristics that have little or nothing to do with what delivers success in the position being filled.

For example, Gladwell discussed how scouting combines--at which??the best college players must jump high, run fast, be strong in front of professional scouts--is a lousy predictor of athletes' eventual success.

Another profession that Gladwell thinks suffers from the mismatch problem: teaching. "So teaching is a profession that is every bit as screwed up as professional sports," he said. (He addresses teaching about halfway through his talk.)

Pages