Liam Julian

I said I'd do it, and I meant it. We begin with this portion from our latest "watch-worthy" post??(the basic point of which is that the blogger does not like gender-based college admissions preferences but??is fine with??race-based ones):

Because minority students are less likely to attend well-funded schools and less likely to get strong college prep curricula in high school, on average they enter the college admissions pool with weaker credentials than white students, and thus end up disproportionately attending less selective colleges. Affirmative action counteracts this, with the result being within-college racial/ethnic makeups that are more representative of the college student body as a whole.

Affirmative action "counteracts" the fact that minority students (black and Latino students, really) in general "enter the college admissions pool with weaker credentials than white students" only insofar as it overlooks those credentials. Affirmative action does nothing to solve the underlying problem, which is a yawning gap between the qualifications of black and Latino college applicants and those of their white and Asian counterparts. Instead, it simply ignores the??disparity and gives leniency to applicants of lesser academic qualifications as long as they??manage to be??black or Latino, which is troublesome for all...

Liam Julian

Jay Greene's blog led me to this, from the Cato Institute's Andrew Coulson:

To the left is a 1971 Chevrolet Impala. According to the New York Times of September 25th, 1970, it originally sold for $3,460. That's $19,011 in today's dollars. If cars were like public schools, you would be compelled to buy one of these today, and to pay $43,479 for that privilege (2.3 times the original price).

The bold portion presumably designates the bit that Coulson finds??totally whack (or is it wack, derivation wacky?), and he's right.??Coby is a big libertarian, so I bet he'll be pretty, pretty, pretty??steamed to discover that America's??public schools are actually??Impalas, especially when school systems already spend so much money on buses.

Liam Julian

If you live in Seattle and you just can't seem to slake your thirst for discussions about school diversity, I'll be on the David Boze talk-radio show today, chatting about the direction that some districts (including, perhaps, Seattle) are taking their school-assignment plans. Much auditory??hand wringing and finger wagging??promises to??go down.

Over twenty years ago, Bill Bennett popularized the term, "The Education Blob." The Blob is the seemingly infinite ocean of alphabet-soup organizations that lobby on behalf of educators and in opposition to any reforms that might upset the status quo. The teachers unions are the blobbiest of The Blob, but they have many allies in administrator associations, school board groups, professional associations, etc.

So to illustrate the intransigence of The Education Blob to adopt positive change, I hereby announce our new weekly feature, The Blobbiest Quote of the Week. And now, the inaugural winner...

Richard Flanary, the director of professional development services for the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP for short), who was quoted in Thursday's Education Daily (available to subscribers only, of which I think there are about 74) responding to John McCain's call for greater authority for school principals:

Certainly we support greater spending autonomy, but there needs to be more clarity on the criteria on which principals make these decisions. Principals already?? have very busy schedules, and I would hate to think that they would get caught in a situation where they are the purveyors of funds.

Yes, that would...

Liam Julian

I wouldn't link so often to pieces on NRO if a) such pieces weren't so interesting and b) weren't so well written. Even that outlet's??more langorous languorous libations manage to refresh. Here's just such an article, by John Derbyshire, which uses??about 800 words more than needed to make its point but which is nonetheless fully enjoyable.??

Derbyshire notes that most Americans, accustomed to observing inequality in most things, bristle when inequality of "smarts" crosses their paths. "The problem with this smartocracy," he writes, "is, we have this itchy feeling that it's un-American." He makes many of the arguments usually associated with Charles Murray, who is not shy about pointing out that people with low I.Q.s are, generally, not going to do well in school and that not much can be done about it. (Murray makes precisely this argument in his forthcoming book, Real Education.)

Yes and no, of course. While it doesn't hurt to acknowledge that a bell curve exists in academic achievement, as in most things, it's tough to prove that the entire curve can't be moved--i.e., that "average" can't become better.

But Derbyshire is right that scads of people don't like...

Liam Julian

I heard this morning on NPR that murmers have it that Senator John McCain, in order to distract from Senator Barack Obama's European travels, will perhaps announce this week??his running mate. Looks like McCain plans to be in Louisiana on Wednesday, which is the state governed by Bobby Jindal, a sharp character who is reportedly high on McCain's vice presidential grocery list.

Jindal, though, is no longer on a??honeymoon with his state's voters.??He's not on a honeymoon with science, either.

Liam Julian

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush talks education.

I've gotten lots of feedback about my Education Gadfly column on extra-curricular activities; several friends have written gleefully to make the connection between my piece and Randi Weingarten's big speech last week, particularly its call for schools as community centers. (Checker made that connection in the Gadfly itself.)

That's all in good fun, and yes, on the surface, it might appear that we're talking about the same thing. But upon closer inspection, you'll find that our visions are actually polar opposites. First, here's Randi:

Can you imagine a federal law that promoted community schools--schools that serve the neediest children by bringing together under one roof all the services and activities they and their families need... and suppose the schools included child care and dental, medical, and counseling clinics, or other services the community needs.

And now me:

Here's a suggestion: architects designing high schools of the future should skip the classrooms but keep the gym, the auditorium, and other common spaces. In other words, forget the "school" and build a "community center" instead. Kids could learn academics at home and come to the center for all the rest.

Randi's vision...

Japan's famously demanding education system figures significantly in Natsuo Kirino's new novel Real World, reviewed in Sunday's New York Times books section:

"Real World" begins with a matricide. No longer willing to cooperate with the expectations of the "total idiot" who forced him to attend a prestigious high school even though he lacked the aptitude to succeed in such an environment, Worm bludgeoned his mother to death in what Terauchi, whose worldview allows no possibility of forgiveness or salvation, dismisses as a mindless, infantile response to frustration....

Welcome to present-day Tokyo, where "air pollution advisories" announce the arrival of summer vacation and where vacation isn't a holiday from the 11-month academic year, but a break to be spent in cram schools taught by brainwashed college students who advocate studying hard enough to "spit up blood" as the avenue to a "tremendous confidence ... you can build on for the rest of your life."

I'm back after a week's vacation (yes, I believe in extra-curricular activities in my own life too) and see that Flypaper has been buzzing along. But I also notice that we failed to mention Jonathan Alter's hard-hitting Newsweek column taking the teachers unions to task for blocking meaningful school reform. Atler writes:

Teaching is arguably the only profession in the country with ironclad job security and a well-honed hostility to measuring results. Because of union resistance, NCLB measures only schools, not individual teachers. The result is that school districts fire on average only one teacher a year for poor performance. Before recent reforms (which have boosted test scores), New York City dismissed only 10 of 55,000 teachers annually. What business could survive that way?

Hear hear, though teachers are right that today's tests are hardly the best instruments for measuring their performance. But we shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good; if we harnessed the resources we currently spend on our fifty-state system of tests for one common system, we could afford to measure subjects beyond reading and math, online, in a way that encouraged intellectually-challenging schoolwork rather than test prep....