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A week from today, America's team of finely-tuned physical specimens will start piling up medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Meanwhile, their counterparts in the Education Olympics will face the world's best in a contest of academic acumen, an arena in which the United States has lost its edge in recent decades. How will they fare in this year's competition? Will America's youngsters prove intellectually impotent on the world stage yet again? Or will they recapture the glory of years past?

Find out at The games begin on August 8th.

While I usually agree with Liam's witty pronouncements on the reasoning of others (and you must agree that Liam doesn't just express his opinion, he passes judgment with a swift blow of verbal acrobatics--Kevin Carey, I'm sure, would agree) I must take issue with his latest post, mostly for blithely linking to an argument on which commentary is sorely needed.

Once you get past the first few paragraphs, I happen to agree with Mr. Fish; professors are not responsible for solving the world's ills and must adhere to standards of professionalism when it comes to sharing their personal (and usually political) beliefs in the classroom. But those first few paragraphs are simply off the mark. Here's the problem: the mission of a university is not the sole purview of the professors.

He accuses Yale (which for full disclosure's sake happens to be my alma mater, but Wesleyan takes a beating too) of trying to develop the "moral, civic and creative capacities [of its students] to the fullest." But he goes astray when he puts this responsibility squarely on the shoulders of professors. In fact, he's right when he says, "You could ace all your...

The parents of San Francisco kindergarteners are fed up with a school choice system that doesn't really let them choose and they're speaking up.

A few weeks ago we commented on L.A.'s less-than-tactful capital expansion plan . It's only getting worse. Today, the Los Angeles Times reports that the school board is going to ask for another $7-billion bond in November. They don't actually know what they're going to use the money for, but the $3.2 billion that was proposed last week just didn't seem quite enough. Never fear, they'll think of ways to use the money, the school board reassures us. Apparently the $20 billion they got from taxpayers over the last few years to build the plethora of new (empty) schools wasn't enough. Let's hope the L.A. taxpayers don't encourage this gluttony and mismanagement by acquiescing to hand over their hard earned dollars.

Liam Julian

Or perhaps it is. American Teen, a documentary about five high school seniors who live in Indiana, opens tomorrow. It picked up an award and a lot of buzz at the Sundance Film Festival, and the reviews have so far been pretty positive. Perhaps I can convince Coby, our resident film critic, to spend his Friday evening reviewing this movie, surrounded in the theater by gaggles of 17-year-olds whose cell phones, when called by their friends several seats away,??sing out??the latest from Ludacris.

If you can't make it to American Teen, though, be sure not to miss this.

Update: If you watch the video appended to the Wall Street Journal article, you may confuse??the reporter??with the "teens."

Liam Julian

With Rick Hess on vacation, sunning himself on some Chesapeake beach, we recruited Kevin Carey, he of the Quick and the Ed fame, to fill Rick's customary spot as Mike's podcast interlocutor. Sense must waft upon the air currents in Fordham's offices because Carey managed to make it through the recording session with nary a wholly preposterous remark escaping his lips. Sadly, I couldn't be on hand to witness it and for that reason remain unconvinced that it was the Kevin Carey on today's podcast and not some wily impersonator. Nonetheless, you should listen to this week's??segment, which is less jejune than usual.

Liam Julian

"What if ???improving teacher quality' isn't THE answer?," wonders Mike, who does not generally capitalize definite articles, so you know he's serious about THIS. In the newest Gadfly, just out, he writes:

Allow me to add yet another dollop of doubt to the reform consensus: Are we sure that "improving teacher quality" is the panacea that so many (including us and our friends) have suggested? Is it possible that our current fascination with "human capital development" is misguided? That both presidential campaigns' embrace of this issue is ill-considered?

Former Assistant Secretary of Education (and onetime colleague of mine) Susan Neuman promotes the "broader/bolder" agenda in the pages of the Detroit Free Press today. (HT to Alexander Russo.*) I've already expressed my dismay with said agenda (and Checker and Liam go even further), but let me quibble with a few of her article's specifics. First:

Six years after the passage of the federal No Child Left Behind law, there is frustratingly little evidence that it will close the achievement gap between low-income, minority children and their middle-class peers.

Perhaps not, but there is plenty of evidence that NCLB-style accountability is helping to narrow the gap between low-achieving and high-achieving students, for better or for worse. But let's be honest: none of the social service programs Neuman touts are likely to "close" the achievement gap between poor and middle-class children either. Maybe they can help to "narrow" the gap. That's a big distinction. As I wrote the other day, we're unlikely to entirely erase group differences in achievement, particularly class differences, so...