Flypaper

Liam Julian
Liam Julian

I was just chatting about this after a recent and jolting visit to some of New York's Chelsea galleries--today's art is not judged by how it looks or the skill of the artist who produced it. It's all about ideology, which is a shame.

But to bring it back to k-12, the article's larger point is that writing about art has become inscrutable. An example from the Whitney Biennial:

Bove's "settings" draw on the style, and substance, of certain time-specific materials to resuscitate their referential possibilities, to pull them out of historical stasis and return them to active symbolic duty, where new adjacencies might reactivate latent meanings.

That's bad. But this tripe isn't limited to the art world; lousy writing is prevalent in all subjects because it's what students are taught (when they're taught). Just today, one finds yet another article (this one's from the U.K.) in which corporate bosses complain that their work-forces lack basic skills, including writing. Seventy-two percent are concerned about the quality of written English. A dose of Strunk & White??("Make every word tell," "Be obscure clearly") in our schools would do everyone--managers, employees,??museum patrons--a lot of good.

Surely this is better than attacking a teacher, but still, not so good.

Liam argues that Fordham is "not content to let the market decide which schools are great and which aren't, because when quality counts, the market is often wrong." This post from the New York Times wine blog, which observes that in the unfettered wine market people often choose to drink slop, is supposed to make his case.

I find a flaw in Liam's reasoning. First of all, the point of the Times blog post is not that the market does a poor job of gauging wine quality, but that there are a lot of shoppers in the market who don't care about the quality of the wine they're swilling. Eric Asimov, author of the blog in question, finds a useful analogy in literature:

given the choice, 500 people might legitimately prefer to spend their time with the latest legal drama from John Grisham than with a Thomas Pynchon novel. I might be among them. But what does that prove? By any of the usual standards for assessing an artistic achievement it proves only that few people are willing or able to make the commitment to the Pynchon novel. But to argue that "Porky's'' is better than "Persona'' or that Grisham is better than Pynchon says nothing about achievement or standards and everything about wanting to rationalize one's choices.

In short, most people are familiar with these respective authors' positions on the acknowledged ladder of literary achievement--Pynchon is near the top while Grisham rounds out the bottom...

Gadfly Studios

Mike and Christina discuss Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United States and what he had to say about Catholic schools.

httpv://youtube.com/watch?v=xOJnxYJ1U_0

Fox Business channel must have seen Mike discussing the Catholic schools crisis on the latest episodes of Fordham Factor (here and here), because they invited him on to butt heads with Dr. Karen Ristau, who disagrees with him, respectfully:

Part 1

Part 2

...

Colorado lawmakers voted put forward a plan yesterday to align state academic standards with the ACT exam.

This seems wise. Most states have struggled to implement high-quality academic standards in the major subject areas, and in the few states that have raised the bar across the board--California, Massachusetts, Indiana--an exceptional amount of political cooperation was required. Certainly that's not something most states can count on.

So why not adopt a set of clear, ready-made standards that have received the seal of approval from top universities across the land?

UPDATE: It should also be noted that the bill "laid out a multi-year collaborative process for state education officials" to develop K-12 grade-level standards based on the ACT content.

Ah, the vaunted "multi-year collaborative process for state education officials." Just when you think they've figured out a way to cut through the red tape they wrap themselves up again.

Liam Julian

Clayton Wilcox, superintendent of Pinellas County Schools (Florida), the 22nd largest district in the country,?? today??announced his resignation. After years of controversy, the district just released??zoning maps for its??new student assignment plan, which doesn't take race into account when apportioning pupils to schools. The maps are bound to stir things up, and perhaps Wilcox wants to avoid the??forthcoming??scuffles.

(For fourteen months, Wilcox actually operated a blog, which he briefly shut down, ostensibly because too many comments on his posts were insulting.??Flypaper scoffs at such blogging weakness.)

What to make of Pope Benedict XVI's comments about Catholic schools? Here are a few thoughts.

First, note that he described ???contribut[ing] generously to the financial needs of our institutions??? as ???a highly commendable opportunity for the entire Catholic community.??? Translation: Bishops should ask their parishioners to open their wallets and help support Catholic schools (as has happened in Wichita, where widespread tithing has allowed the diocese to make all Catholic schools free for Catholic families).

Second, he said that ???everything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that [Catholic schools] are accessible to people of all social and economic strata.??? Translation: it's not just the Church's responsibility to support Catholic education for poor children; the larger public should help, too--perhaps through school vouchers and the like.

Bottom line: if these words reach the ears of Catholics, and other Americans, too, they could do a world of good.

UPDATE: Education Week's take here....

Last week we asked, ???Who Will Save America's Urban Catholic Schools???? Pope Benedict XVI offered his thoughts in today's address to Catholic educators:

The Catholic community here has in fact made education one of its highest priorities. This undertaking has not come without great sacrifice. Towering figures, like Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and other founders and foundresses, with great tenacity and foresight, laid the foundations of what is today a remarkable network of parochial schools contributing to the spiritual well-being of the Church and the nation. Some, like Saint Katharine Drexel, devoted their lives to educating those whom others had neglected--in her case, African Americans and Native Americans. Countless dedicated Religious Sisters, Brothers, and Priests together with selfless parents have, through Catholic schools, helped generations of immigrants to rise from poverty and take their place in mainstream society.

This sacrifice continues today. It is an outstanding apostolate of hope, seeking to address the material, intellectual and spiritual needs of over three million children and students. It also provides a highly commendable opportunity for the entire Catholic community to contribute generously to the financial needs of our institutions. Their long-term sustainability must be assured. Indeed, everything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that they are accessible

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