Flypaper

Liam Julian

The Discovery Institute's David Klinghoffer defends the link--made by the new Ben Stein movie, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed--between Nazis and Darwinism. I wish I could write on this with more authority, but the D.C. advanced screening of Expelled was canceled.

I just don't get it, though. Klinghoffer's piece points out how Hitler used evolution and Darwinism in his propaganda and his personal thought. But nowhere does??Klinghoffer discuss why inclusion of such historical instances is at all appropriate in a film that purports to investigate how evolution is taught in modern-day American science classes.

I think it's safe to say that Expelled is inaccurately juxtaposing Nazis with those who defend teaching evolution in public schools. The New York Times reviewer wrote that Expelled is "[o]ne of the sleaziest documentaries to arrive in a very long time," and I'm inclined to believe her.

Usually bad ideas flow from academia into our K-12 system. (Think moral relativism, the decline of the core curriculum, dubious pedagogical approaches.) But now one of public education's worst features--its hyper-unionized workforce--is finding its way into higher ed. At least that's the intent of a bill introduced yesterday by Senator Edward Kennedy and Representative George Miller (respective chairmen of their chambers' education committees) that would allow graduate students who serve as teaching or research assistants to bargain collectively. This is only likely to drive up tuition and drive down quality.

Colleges and universities: we feel your pain. But maybe this is some sort of Karmic payback for all the damage you've done to our elementary and secondary schools.

Update: The AFT says higher education is already hyper-unionized.

Liam Julian
Liam Julian

I was just chatting about this after a recent and jolting visit to some of New York's Chelsea galleries--today's art is not judged by how it looks or the skill of the artist who produced it. It's all about ideology, which is a shame.

But to bring it back to k-12, the article's larger point is that writing about art has become inscrutable. An example from the Whitney Biennial:

Bove's "settings" draw on the style, and substance, of certain time-specific materials to resuscitate their referential possibilities, to pull them out of historical stasis and return them to active symbolic duty, where new adjacencies might reactivate latent meanings.

That's bad. But this tripe isn't limited to the art world; lousy writing is prevalent in all subjects because it's what students are taught (when they're taught). Just today, one finds yet another article (this one's from the U.K.) in which corporate bosses complain that their work-forces lack basic skills, including writing. Seventy-two percent are concerned about the quality of written English. A dose of Strunk & White??("Make every word tell," "Be obscure clearly") in our schools would do everyone--managers, employees,??museum patrons--a lot of good.

Surely this is better than attacking a teacher, but still, not so good.

Liam argues that Fordham is "not content to let the market decide which schools are great and which aren't, because when quality counts, the market is often wrong." This post from the New York Times wine blog, which observes that in the unfettered wine market people often choose to drink slop, is supposed to make his case.

I find a flaw in Liam's reasoning. First of all, the point of the Times blog post is not that the market does a poor job of gauging wine quality, but that there are a lot of shoppers in the market who don't care about the quality of the wine they're swilling. Eric Asimov, author of the blog in question, finds a useful analogy in literature:

given the choice, 500 people might legitimately prefer to spend their time with the latest legal drama from John Grisham than with a Thomas Pynchon novel. I might be among them. But what does that prove? By any of the usual standards for assessing an artistic achievement it proves only that few people are willing or able to make the commitment to the Pynchon novel. But to argue that "Porky's'' is better than "Persona'' or that Grisham is better than Pynchon says nothing about achievement or standards and everything about wanting to rationalize one's choices.

In short, most people are familiar with these respective authors' positions on the acknowledged ladder of literary achievement--Pynchon is near the top while Grisham rounds out the bottom...

Gadfly Studios

Mike and Christina discuss Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United States and what he had to say about Catholic schools.

httpv://youtube.com/watch?v=xOJnxYJ1U_0

Fox Business channel must have seen Mike discussing the Catholic schools crisis on the latest episodes of Fordham Factor (here and here), because they invited him on to butt heads with Dr. Karen Ristau, who disagrees with him, respectfully:

Part 1

Part 2

...

Colorado lawmakers voted put forward a plan yesterday to align state academic standards with the ACT exam.

This seems wise. Most states have struggled to implement high-quality academic standards in the major subject areas, and in the few states that have raised the bar across the board--California, Massachusetts, Indiana--an exceptional amount of political cooperation was required. Certainly that's not something most states can count on.

So why not adopt a set of clear, ready-made standards that have received the seal of approval from top universities across the land?

UPDATE: It should also be noted that the bill "laid out a multi-year collaborative process for state education officials" to develop K-12 grade-level standards based on the ACT content.

Ah, the vaunted "multi-year collaborative process for state education officials." Just when you think they've figured out a way to cut through the red tape they wrap themselves up again.

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