Flypaper

Liam Julian

Per my earlier post, here's yet another example, from economist Steven Levitt, of statistics being incorrectly interpreted. One could unearth scads of such instances. But Levitt's story involves medicine, and we seem to hear evermore frequently (from writers such as Jerome Groopman and Atul Gawande) that the medical field, long steeped in data, nonetheless still struggles to correctly use the stats it has. The construction of education policies atop data-based foundations is, comparatively, a new idea; ed reformers would be wise to learn from the experience of confused doctors and approach studies and reports with greater humility and skepticism.

Liam Julian

Mike is probably correct that the Wilson and Dilulio textbook is receiving scrutiny and press attention because its authors are conservatives. And no doubt lots of left-leaning texts escape similar inspection. But one wonders how Fordham can defend literature that goes against the scientific consensus on climate change while pillorying literature that goes against the scientific consensus on evolution.

Liam Julian

Trot on over to Eduwonk, where guest blogger J.B. Schramm, Founder and CEO of College Summit, is turning in some substantive posts. He ends each day by pasting excerpts of student admission essays:??

While the importance of research, policy and debate within the education community cannot be overstated, it is also valuable to be reminded of "what it's all about." During our week here, we'd like to conclude each day with an excerpt from a student's college admission essay that he or she developed at one of College Summit's annual summer workshops.

One is immediately struck,??upon reading??these essays (or at least the two so far posted), that the writing is all about suffering???about feeling lost, about feeling burdened, about feeling like an outcast, etc. Quite frankly, the pieces??resemble the weepy and gaggingly emotive memoirs (some true, others not) that clog bookstore shelves.

It can be supposed that College Summit's essay workshops encourage such outpourings???"Write about what stirs you. Admissions committees want to know how you feel."???and pushes students to include as many mentions as possible of themselves as underprivileged and of a different race or culture. But if the goal is to integrate??these young adults into a university setting, does this approach make sense? Might it not simply reinforce the separations College Summit endeavors to degrade?

Update: I should note that universities of course??ask for this type of essay and certainly look favorably upon those??submissions that??fit the mold, so College Summit??doesn't deserve all the...

One would think this topic wouldn't deserve treatment from the Associated Press's national desk???or be picked up in 200 media outlets worldwide (so far). We've known forever that textbooks tend to be sloppy, riddled with errors, and generally banal. And when textbooks are "found" to have a liberal-leaning bias, the "news" is only reported by outlets like the Washington Times. But alas, the American government??textbook in question in today's articles is written by two well-known conservatives (oh, the horror!), James Wilson and John Dilulio. (The fact that these two even got a contract to write a textbook probably should have been news.)

What were their sins? Among other things, they wrote that "science doesn't know how bad the greenhouse effect is" and global warming is "enmeshed in scientific uncertainty." I might quibble with those statements a bit (I am??Leafy Mike after all), but they aren't as out of line as the anti-American screeds that pass for curricular materials in many a U.S. classroom. But alas, conservatism is under fire from all corners right now, so we shouldn't be surprised when the MSM wants to pile it on....

Liam Julian

Seems that not a few people want to punch Britain's Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, in the face.

Surprisingly that wasn't one of Angelina Jolie's suggestions when she spoke yesterday at a Council on Foreign Relations panel about the impact of??the war??on Iraq's children. Find out what she did recommend here.

Liam Julian

About this and this (the possibility that New York's principals would be disallowed from considering student test scores when evaluating whether teachers should receive tenure), the New York Times thinks:

It is an absurd ban that does a disservice to the state's millions of public school students. The State Legislature should remove this language from the budget.

Who's to blame?

Nobody in Albany would say who is behind this language. The driving force, however, is the powerful teachers' union that gives lots of money and time to state campaigns.

Liam Julian

This ongoing story is understandably unsettling to lots of people. The more one learns about this school, the more one is convinced it's unlawful. Ritual washing and Friday prayers? I know Kuhner doesn't like it....

Update: Mark Hemingway weighs in at The Corner.

This Boston Globe article from a couple Sundays ago highlights the thinking of philosopher Charles Karelis, who teaches at George Washington University. Karelis argues in his book, The Persistence of Poverty: Why the Economics of the Well-Off Can't Help the Poor, that being poor causes people to think differently about life, to the point where traditional economic theory can't properly explain the incentives that motivate the poor to act in certain ways:

Karelis argues that being poor is defined by having to deal with a multitude of problems: One doesn't have enough money to pay rent or car insurance or credit card bills or day care or sometimes even food. Even if one works hard enough to pay off half of those costs, some fairly imposing ones still remain, which creates a large disincentive to bestir oneself to work at all.

"The core of the problem has not been self-discipline or a lack of opportunity," Karelis says. "My argument is that the cause of poverty has been poverty."

The upshot, for Karelis, is that poverty relief programs can "actually make [poor people] more, not less, likely to work, just as repairing most of the dents on a car makes the owner more likely to fix the last couple on his own." He himself favors the Earned Income Tax Credit.

What might this mean for schools in deeply impoverished neighborhoods? For one, you can imagine that college-prep schools like KIPP, which offer much more support to their...

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