Liam Julian

This week's Gadfly is up. In the editorial slot, on this day of reflection, we present excerpts from our 2003 report, Terrorists, Despots, and Democracy: What Our Children Need to Know. You'll find offerings from Richard Rodriguez and William J. Bennett, among others. (It's certainly worth glancing back at the full report, too.) Also in today's Gadfly, Stafford dissects the Democratic and Republican education platforms, and we've got analysis of the education-related speech Barack Obama gave on Tuesday and a cautionary tale from Australia.

Liam takes to the pages of the Washington Times to explain why paying children cash to behave in school is nothing more than bribery. In a vegetable inspired analogy, he explains:

What sort of unintended consequences might this experiment yield? Here's but one: Think of the parents who, rather than exert strong discipline over their vegetable-averse child, pay him $100 each month to choke down his brussel sprouts. It's a safe bet that they will create a rules-shirking monster and one who will learn nothing important and enduring about nutrition, behavior, obedience, personal responsibility, or authority.

Similar monsters are birthed through an educating strategy that pays pupils to do that which is legitimately expected of them.

Indeed, continues Liam, the message behind a "pay-as-you-go" plan such as this one is even worse than turning our children into brussel sprouts eating monsters. Such a plan actually promotes the deleterious and false message that there are students who are so hopeless they will only attend school when being paid to do so. Read the whole editorial here ....

It's often the case that this blog inspires the most audience participation (via comments) on issues directly relative to teachers. I ran across this article an hour ago in USA Today and was just about to blog on it when I thought I'd rather just keep my big flapper shut...and hear from the teachers and principals and others who are also interested in education issues, especially as they relate to teachers and their unions. So, just to get you started:

1) Can teachers unions reform their own profession?

2) Does the best reform happen from the ground up?

3) What is the right role for unions in education today (assuming they aren't going away anytime soon)?

4) Other than the 3 reform ideas listed in the article, what would you like to see the unions support? Is it feasible?

Those of us in think tanks are expected to be highly opinionated. It's the nature of the game. But strong opinions need not breed closed ears. We look forward to hearing from you....

Liam Julian

Greg Forster thinks (at least I think he thinks) that the difference between rewards and bribes is purely semantic. But semantic distinctions are born to relate and describe real distinctions and degrees, no? Otherwise, we'd have but one word (briwards, maybe) for the concept in question. I argued that Michelle Rhee's KIPP-based justification of her plan to pay students to induce their good behavior overlooks several basic points, such as the real difference between KIPP Dollars and American dollars and that KIPP rewards its students for behavior it already expects while Rhee's plan bribes students to do that which they already should.

Forster doesn't understand the difference between KIPP's rewards and Rhee's bribes. I'll explain it again, but differently. Suppose: Iran refuses to cease its nuclear-weapons development despite the world's protestations. America therefore offers to give Iran $5 billion in annual aid and lift sanctions if the Islamic nation pulls the plug on nuclear dabbling. Behold--bribery! Now suppose Iran voluntarily ends nuclear-related nonsense and, for the most part, behaves itself. America then decides to lift sanctions and transfer funds to Tehran, but only so long as Tehran continues to play by the rules. Behold--a reward!


Liam Julian

The Heritage Foundation's Dan Lips writes today, on National Review Online (where "Education Week" continues), more about the Republican eschewal of No Child Left Behind.

I'm in Scottsdale, Arizona today (projected high: 99 degrees) for an education reform summit hosted by the State Policy Network, the Alliance for School Choice, and the Friedman Foundation. Savvy readers will surmise that at such an event, "school reform" equals "private school choice," and that no keynoter would be appropriate other than the 60's-radical-turned-school-choice-godfather Howard Fuller. (They'd be right.)

Fuller is not known for dry oratory, and he gave a real stem winder of an address today. He took some shots at Barack Obama, whom he supports for president, for calling for change and yet not being willing to break with the teachers unions over choice. But he saved most of his fire for none other than my good friends Rick Hess and Sol Stern. (He went out of his way to say that he "likes Rick." Sorry, Sol.)

He argued that both think tankers quoted him selectively in recent articles (this one by Sol ; Rick's is listed here but not yet available online). For instance, in the current issue of The American , Rick writes:

Howard Fuller, patron saint of the voucher program, has wryly acknowledged, "I think


"Indiana girl clocked at 118 m.p.h. held on DUI"

She allegedly told cops she was late for school.

Guest Blogger

A post from guest blogger and Fordham writer and researcher??Emmy Partin.??

This morning in Fordham's hometown of Dayton, Senator Barack Obama promoted his education plan during a speech at a local high school.?? Education is a hotter topic in the Buckeye State than most places with Governor Ted Strickland already having wrestled control of higher education and now aiming to take over the K-12 system, too.?? Obama echoed many of the sentiments expressed by Strickland, calling for more after-school programs, longer school days and years, and teaching students to be innovative and creative.?? But this wasn't your father's union-friendly, Democratic education-stump-speech, with Obama taking moderate positions on issues like teacher tenure and charter schools, in stark contrast to the governor's positions.

Obama is calling for more accountability for all charter schools and increased funding for the good ones; Strickland sought to set-back big time the state's charter sector in his inaugural budget proposal in 2007. Senator Obama wants to increase teacher accountability for student achievement, but the details for this are yet to come.?? Teachers would be paid more under Obama's agenda and struggling teachers would get help, but...