Flypaper

Liam Julian

The Gloucester, Massachusetts, principal who told Time that several students made a "pact" to get pregnant stands by his remarks. (Last week, Amber wrote a sharp Gadfly piece related to this subject.)

Liam Julian

NPR's Morning Edition aired today a segment on which presidential candidate, John McCain or Barack Obama, is actually the most bi-partisan or post-partisan or something like that. Frankly, I couldn't care less, mostly because these glorified labels are hooey. But here's how Obama, when asked to speak about??a time??he has broken ranks with his party, explained his bi-/post-partisanshipishness:

Obama also points to his willingness to consider merit pay for teachers. "I've gotten in trouble with the teachers union on this--that we should be experimenting with charter schools," he said. "We should be experimenting with different ways of compensating teachers."

We've been accused at times of union-bashing (as distinct from the teacher-bashing attributed to Liam, yesterday and today), but perhaps we can cede that mantle to Thomas Sowell. From his column on National Review Online today:

during the Second World War, France collapsed after just six weeks of fighting and surrendered to Nazi Germany. At the bitter moment of defeat the head of the French teachers' union was told, "You are partially responsible for the defeat."

His point, though, is that patriotism matters, and that the French union helped water it down in the 1920s and 30s. I'm not enough of a historian to wade into that issue, but as we approach July Fourth, it should be said that teaching students about America's greatness (and yes, mistakes too) is something we should applaud, not shun. In 2003, Fordham gathered an esteemed group of authors who made that very point, in a volume that still has relevance today....

At Fordham, we normally avoid the paparazzi and gossip columns by donning dark sunglasses and entering buildings only by tunnel or back alley, but still, Checker couldn't avoid the New York Sun's "Out and About" blog, which caught him and others in New York last month celebrating Fordham trustee Diane Ravitch's 70th birthday.

If it hasn't been said on Flypaper before, a belated happy birthday to you, Diane!

New York City's experiences in the last couple weeks reinforce my belief that the notion that we can "hold public schools accountable for results" is questionable.

No one bought the district's announcement that test scores have dramatically improved. And why should they have? The doubters seem to understand that politicians who pledge to raise student achievement are heavily motivated to make it appear that they've raised student achievement--even if they really haven't.

What puzzles, though, is that this sage observation seems to have died at the doorsteps of Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein. The skeptics blame these particular politicians as if the perverse incentive to varnish test scores afflicted only certain snaky individuals rather than all holders of public office. Why is that? Why when public servants invariably fall prey to the sinister tug of politics do we blame the individuals and never politics?

"3 of 4 City Students Say They Took No Art Class This Year"

Update: NYC Department of Ed press secretary David Cantor writes in the comments section:

This New York Sun headline from today's edition is inaccurate, and the Sun will be publishing a correction.

The Sun misread our student survey, publishing the percentage of students who said they participated in arts activities before or after school rather than the number who said they took classes.

In reality, 46% of students said they took at least one class in visual arts this year; 37% of students took at least one music class; 15% of students took at least one dance class; and 12% of took at least one theater class.

To supplement these classes, many students said they participated in arts activities before or after school or during free periods, including 27% in visual arts programs-the number from which the Sun's headline derives. Here's the link to the survey.

Given that New York City high school students are required to take only one year of arts, these participation rates for last year are good news.

David Cantor

Press Secretary

NYC

...

Even as he announced an initiative yesterday to educate more mathematicians and scientists, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg thought it necessary to point out that anti-immigration policies pose a grave threat to our economy.

Evidently fearless in the face of controversy, Liam writes today on the touchy subject of so-called "Raza Studies" in Arizona on National Review Online.

While my esteemed colleague may not be buying the numbers coming out of the Big Apple, parents and students are. Mayor Bloomberg announced today that a survey of parents and students revealed that a "vast majority" (according to the New York Times) of New Yorkers were "satisfied" with their schools. While we can only hope the results of said survey may prove to be worth their whopping two-million-dollar price tag, the real kicker was the response of Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, to the finding that 94 percent of parents surveyed were happy with their child's teacher:

"The fact that parents think so highly of their children's teachers also indicates how selfless our educators are," Ms. Weingarten said. "They give their all despite feeling that the central administration isn't listening to their concerns."

Did I miss something? Here's a thought. Maybe the reason parents are happy with their teachers is that Bloomberg's system works and teachers are responding in kind.

Liam Julian

Clearly, it's struck a chord and it's worth unpacking: Why do so many teachers lean so heavily, when criticized, on the "you've never yourself been a teacher" argument? As I noted here, it's logically baseless. Imagine lawyers, doctors, oil-company executives mounting such a defense. If one may judge the performance of only those whose occupations he at one time or another shared, then he is prohibited from judging the performance of almost everyone--the lazy sales associate ["Barista," I mean]??at Starbucks, for example, or??the incompetent dentist who leaves his??patient's??mouth feeling as if it were invaded by those particularly nasty African bees.

But perhaps the??one in question has, in fact, worked as a waiter. And so he feels assured that his critique of the poor service he received at dinner last night is quite within bounds. Alas, no. He is mistaken, you see, because the restaurant at which he once delivered entrees to customers cannot be considered very busy, whereas the restaurant at which he dined last night certainly is. (The restaurant analogy is here used to demonstrate the further silliness of teachers who trumpet their work in urban schools, as opposed to the cushy schools across town.)...

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