Flypaper

One of the most anticipated events of Pope Benedict's upcoming trip to Washington is his address to 200 Catholic educators at Catholic University, scheduled for April 17. One might hope that His Holiness would focus on the tragic demise of inner-city Catholic schools throughout the country, but the Washington Post reports that his objective is likely to be more theological, reining in wayward colleges who aren't sticking to the script on church teachings.

One Vatican official recently called the lack of public funding for Catholic schools in America "an outrage"; forgive me, Father, but I believe it would be just as outrageous for the Pope to come to DC and say nothing about the terrible decline of Catholic schools here and around the country. If the Pope thinks Georgetown isn't hewing closely enough to Catholic doctrine, just wait till he sees what happens in the seven Catholic schools in the District that are converting to charter schools as their option of last resort. There the problem won't be incorrect or incomplete dogma--these schools won't be teaching any dogma at all.

Someone needs to save the Catholic schools. If not the Pope, then who?

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Gadfly Studios

On March 10, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute demanded an inquiry into scandalous efforts by the executive and legislative branches to sabotage the Reading First program.

httpv://youtube.com/watch?v=xSrUEHjwt1I

Meanwhile, First Lady Laura Bush managed to give a speech about literacy this week and not mention Reading First at all. A real profile in courage.

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Margaret Spellings addressed the Reading First state directors on Thursday and complained about Congress's "devastating" budget cut of the program. It's about time. If she had shown even an iota of courage 18 months ago, when the so-called scandal first broke, the program might have remained in-tact. But as Sol Stern shows in painful detail, she and the rest of the Administration headed for cover instead. Such decisions have consequences, Madame Secretary, consequences that are all too real for the 4,000-odd schools likely to see their Reading First funds disappear.

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Liam Julian

An article in Tuesday's New York Times references an experiment in which researchers served icy vodka tonics to some college students and icy tonic water to others. Both drinks tasted the same. After two hours or so, the subjects who received non-alcoholic beverages were just as amorous and unrestrained as those who had been downing the good stuff.

Does this study offer any wisdom for fixing our worst k-12 schools? Perhaps telling awful teachers that they are, in fact, actually doing a fine job will impel them to act just as competent as their truly skillful peers? Probably not, but the alcohol study is nonetheless interesting.

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Gadfly Studios

httpv://youtube.com/watch?v=nTBoycD2Cw4

Liam Julian

The Wall Street Journal examines why Finland's laid-back education system leads the world. Long story short, nobody knows. Students in Finland have smaller classes, don't do a lot of homework, don't start school until age seven, and don't move on to new academic material until everyone in their class has mastered the current lesson (therefore, the country has a tiny gap between its highest- and lowest-performing youngsters). The Finns are also a rather racially and economically homogeneous group and Finnish teaching positions are incredibly competitive--two facts that contrast sharply with the United States.

Funny thing is, a lot of what occurs in Finnish schools seems to undermine the prevailing educational wisdom. The country has self-guided student learning, starts students at a relatively late age, doesn't focus energy on high-performing kids, has little standardized testing, and separates high-schoolers into different tracks (vocational and academic). Kids can even walk around in their socks during class. Perplexing.

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An interesting press release popped up in my inbox today. An excerpt:

With 13 million children living in poverty in the United States, US Airways has made a bold step to help end the cycle of poverty through a new cause partnership with Reading Is Fundamental. Today, US Airways and RIF are launching the ???Fly with US. Reading with Kids."

Here are a few highlights about the campaign:

  • Inflight Customized Books ??? For the month of March, a customized Maisy children's book will be in the seatback pocket of every domestic flight. With half storybook/half activity book, passengers will be encouraged to take the book and share it with a child.
  • Lending Libraries ??? Customized, aviation-themed children's libraries (75 books) will be set-up in all 21 US Airways Clubs where children can read while they wait for their flight. The Maisy book will also be distributed in 2008 in all kids' activity packs.
  • Read with Kids Reading Challenge ??? Customers and employees will log on to rif.org to track the hours they read for a chance to win US Airways' travel prizes like a Disney Vacation. It's a great site with a variety of inactive games and activities for kids. The challenge will last for three months. Visit RIF.org to participate.

Now, I love to see private businesses rolling out programs aimed at educating kids. I fondly remember participating in Pizza Hut's BOOK IT! program when I was a lad. But this is not a...

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Jeff Kuhner

Are we rearing a nation of ignorant students? This is the question posed in the latest report, Still at Risk, by Fordham's sister organization, Common Core. Its answer: yes, and we better start doing something about it. Fewer than half of American teenagers who were asked history and literature questions in a phone survey knew when the Civil War was fought, one in four said Columbus sailed to the Americas some time after 1750, not in 1492, and-most shocking of all-nearly one in four did not know who Adolf Hitler was. It is an education tragedy that a quarter of U.S. teens have no clue about the most dangerous mass murderer of the 20th century, whose call for a new Aryan racial order resulted in 6 million Jews being thrown into gas ovens and nearly 50 million dead due to his plunging Europe and America into a destructive world war.

The survey results, released at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, demonstrate what Common Core says is the "stunning ignorance" of many teenagers when it comes to history and literature. The organization rightly blames President Bush's education law, No Child Left Behind, for impoverishing public school curriculums by holding schools accountable for student scores on annual tests in reading and mathematics. This means that other vital subjects, such as history and literature (as well as art, music, geography and civics)...

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