Flypaper

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...

Periodically, a new album from DBLF Studios, features 119 songs, one for each of the elements on the periodic table, as well as a bonus track called "DBLFesium." And yes, each song is actually about the element it's named after. For instance, here's a sampling of the lyrics from track no. 16, "Sulphur":

The lake of fire, yep that's me

I'm what gives the yellow to your pee

As an explosive I'm no conservative

I'm wine and fruit's preservative

Metastable but I rapidly crystallize

I give the colors to Jupiter's skies

Naturally found in volcanic eruptions

Stable in polymer chain constructions

Listen to samples, read the lyrics, and order the CD/MP3s here.

Liam Julian

An argument for teaching the core curriculum.

Liam Julian

The latest National Review contains this article (subscription required) about the spanking debate (whether or not to spank one's children). It's an odd piece that skips not lightly from presenting the controversy's history, to illustrating the problems with a spanking ban, to hypothesizing that less spanking has spawned the prevalence of pharmaceutical methods of youth discipline, to weirdly comparing the "choice" to spank to the "choice" to have an abortion.

Nonetheless, out of the convolutions can be plucked several useful bits. First, that the evidence for and against spanking is inconclusive, and second, that the practice works for some parents and doesn't work for others.

It seems safe to apply these to the k-12 setting and also make an argument for educational choice, which is that parents ought to have the choice to enroll their children in a school that exercises reasonable forms of physical discipline if parents so choose. To say that the watered down discipline at most public schools results from the fact that such schools enroll students whose parents subscribe to radically different notions of appropriate punishment is not to be wrong.

Liam Julian

Certainly this isn't the country's most pressing issue, but it's still a big problem.

Liam Julian

Regarding Mike's post, isn't it odd that a school embraces healthy food alternatives only after a two-year research study? It reminds one of the humorous dig at think tanks: that they study reality to see if it conforms to theory. In Philadelphia's schools, it seems, common sense has truly been vindicated. It is, in fact, correct that replacing soda and potato chips with healthful alternatives will make students healthier!

What happens, though, when this study is replicated in Memphis or Honolulu or Boise and yields no significant results? More studies, no doubt.

Here arises a problem with education reform overall: Common sense often dies at the hands of reports and statistics that obscure or even contradict it. (This occurs in lots of other fields, too. Michael Pollan, for example, makes a persuasive case that America's national eating disorder is, in large part, a product of lousy scientific studies.) It's counterproductive, of course, to toss out the baby with the bathwater and eschew all studies in favor of tradition, but one wonders just how enthralled by statisticians ed reformers wish to be.

Pages