In a Gadfly article that's ruffled some feathers, Mike wrote last week that "the health insurance costs associated with treating overweight teachers and other school staff are taking a major bite out of public education budgets. I estimate that these costs come to at least $2.5 billion annually--more than Maine spends on its entire k-12 system in a year."

Liam, for one, wasn't offended. On the contrary, he was driven to action: he stayed up all night penning this Policy Review piece on Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food. It's a must-read for teachers looking to eat better and the school administrators who wish they would. (Those with only a passing interest in education will find much of interest, as well.)

Photo by Flickr user snrang.

My short post today on the decision of a couple-dozen Denver high school teachers to skip school last Friday did not sit well with one commenter and at least one educator. The commenter wrote:

How dare teachers take action about their professional concerns during professional hours! They should do this on Saturdays ... or at night ... like the rest of the professional world.

If I'm interpreting the sarcasm properly here, this person is suggesting that professionals in other industries commonly leave their workplaces while they're on the clock to protest at their company's central offices. To tighten the comparison, let's say we're talking about service industries--places where the workers, like teachers, get paid for serving others and have to be at their workplace at appointed hours to do their job, unlike someone who works in an office and tackles their various tasks at their own leisure.

Now, in what service industry are employees free to skip work--i.e., to leave their customers high and dry--to air their grievances? I find it strange that this commenter (who I would address directly if he or she hadn't left a fake name and email address) thinks teachers suffer some unique...

Mike just quoted this from the Rocky Mountain News:

Nearly two dozen teachers from Denver's Montclair Elementary took a field trip of their own Friday--to their union headquarters to urge a vote on the school's six-week-old request for autonomy.

Montclair is the third Denver Public School, and the first elementary, to seek freedoms from district and union rules in budgeting, hiring and scheduling.

While it's encouraging that Denver high school teachers are demanding more freedom from union rules, one wonders, didn't any of this school's twenty-four protesting teachers have classes to teach on Friday?

Every May and June hordes of school groups descend on Washington, D.C. Each year, like clockwork, we wonks witness gaggles of tweens and teens take over our commutes. They're marked by a tendency to stand on both sides of the Metro escalator, yell and scream in the Metro tunnels, and cram into the center of the Metro car. They can be a local's worst nightmare. But during my past two commutes, riding the train home yesterday and to Fordham this morning, I witnessed a new kind of school group: the KIPP group.

They appear as a small army of pre-teens in matching t-shirts, standing single-file on the right side of the escalator. Several adults walk alongside various points in the line while one leader holds court...

Republicans should be thankful that, according to Rasmussen,* education ranks only sixth out of ten issues for American voters right now, because Congressional Democrats are opening up a big lead on the issue again--fifteen points in May, up from six points in April. On only "health care" and "government ethics" are Republicans faring worse. Perhaps that's because Republicans aren't talking about the issue, while Democrats (particularly their presidential candidates) are talking about it all the time. To close this gap, the GOP needs a positive agenda on the issue--one that transcends the increasingly unpopular No Child Left Behind Act. That's a job for Senator John McCain--and his colleagues in the Republican Congressional caucus.

* Hat tip to "angryteacher" at the Buckeye State Blog.

Liam Julian

With the release of every new education report, it seems, we hear from commentators that the findings are promising but certainly do not constitute a "silver bullet" or a "panacea" for k-12's problems. No longer. This sounds like a bonafide silver bullet to me.

Liam Julian

The latest issue of Commentary contains a review of Checker's newest book, Troublemaker. It's available here for subscribers.

Baffled by America's arcane process for electing a president, the Edmonton Sun's Edward Greenspan has this to say:

One super delegate is Inez Tenenbaum, South Carolina's former education superintendent. That makes her the most super super delegate of all.

Ha! Good one, Edward! Jeff, is this sort of thing that made you want to leave Canada?

Amid all the news of doom and gloom, here's one reason for optimism: America's best spellers appear to be getting better and better. According to the Washington Post, these are some of the words which clinched the National Spelling Bee over the years:

1925: gladiolus

1932: knack

1938: sanitarium

1940: therapy

1956: condominium

1960: eudaemonic

1973: vouchsafe

1980: elucubrate

1991: antipyretic

2001: succedaneum

2004: autochthonous

2006: Ursprache

2007: serrefine

2008: guerdon

"Knack," really? Maybe the "Greatest Generation" (whose members would have been right around 12 years old in 1932) weren't our greatest spellers ever. Or maybe, what with the Great Depression and all, they had other concerns on their mind. Regardless, it's pretty cool that American students (or at least .000001 percent of them) have gotten better at something.

It seems that students at top colleges can't soon shed the feelings of anxiety that accompanied their hypercompetitive high-school careers. Our intern Amy notifies me that the stress that bears down upon aspiring college-goers can manifest itself even more intensely after one matriculates at the university of his or her choice.

Take her high-school classmate, currently studying theater at NYU, who, determined to face his demons, wrote an off-Broadway musical about the dog-eat-dog world of AP testing:


More here.