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.

Liam Julian

Greg Toppo's story in??USA Today about the rift between two segments of left-leaning education types is noteworthy. Education has for some lengthy period been relegated to the outskirts of political conversation, and it's refreshing to see it command a little spotlight, however briefly. The story, summed up, is this: Al Sharpton ("a political gadfly," writes Toppo) and Joel Klein have teamed up to do right by poor and minority children, and part of their agenda might run afoul of teachers' unions, which have traditionally been partners of civil rights organizations and personalities such as Sharpton. What does Randi Weingarten think about it?

"Too often what happens is that when people get into this, they blame all the people who have been toiling in this field without the resources and without the public focus on it," she said. "It's like saying that those of us who have been frontierspeople in this fight for equity for the last 50 years are the ones who should be faulted, as opposed to saying, ???We'll join you ready for duty--what can we do to help?'" ??

The above is called peevish whining. Weingarten is scandalized, it seems, that some are not ready to "join" her and would rather put forth ideas of their own. But what are Weingarten's ideas other than sound bites and continuation of the failed status quo? And what does Richard Kahlenberg think about it all?

Education historian Richard Kahlenberg said that while unions' and civil rights groups' interests "are

Liam Julian

In this week's Gadfly, published mere moments ago, one can find a riveting examination by Checker of what we mean when we talk about "international benchmarking." We pull no punches regarding Eleanor Holmes Norton and the minions of A.J. Duffy. And Checker explains why Fordham now makes movies.

Regarding the news that Al Sharpton and Joel Klein will team up to bring fresh ideas into education, unions be damned, New York teachers union head Randi Weingarten had this to say:

"Too often what happens is that when people get into this, they blame all the people who have been toiling in this field without the resources and without the public focus on it," she said. "It's like saying that those of us who have been frontierspeople in this fight for equity for the last 50 years are the ones who should be faulted, as opposed to saying, 'We'll join you ready for duty--what can we do to help?'"

These words illustrate more clearly than any Weingarten has uttered that the UFT puts its own interests before those of students. Two reasonably well-respected public figures propose new ideas for closing the achievement gap, and Weingarten issues a self-pitying apologia so obsessed with the plight of her union that she fails even to mention the students for whose future she is supposedly so concerned. Time spent toiling aimlessly in the field and starving in the wild frontier, which Randi would have us believe are her union's main claims on Al Sharpton and Joel Klein's attention, are not the criteria by which serious ed reformers judge applicants to their club. They're more concerned with what you can bring to the challenge of educating kids....