Flypaper

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.

Liam Julian

In The Independent, Steve Richards's column is titled: "If you want to understand politics, just examine the explosive education debate."

Whether or not you agree with Richard Simmons, it's promising when anti-obesity initiatives work. That appears to be the case in Philadelphia, where the results from a comprehensive healthy-eating campaign showed that "The number of kids who got fat during the two-year experiment was half the number of kids who got fat in schools that didn't make those efforts."

What was the secret? Enter libertarian paternalism:

"We found when you give children healthy choices, they pick them," said Grace McGinley, school nurse at Francis Hopkinson School, one of the test schools.

Call it a nudge, a push, a shove, whatever???schools are supposed to be in loco parentis, so I say be a nudging nanny and junk the junk food for good.

Liam Julian

A cursory glance at this article, innocuously titled "Bisbee casts net for new schools boss," reveals nothing revelatory. The first paragraph notes simply that the Bisbee Unified School District, which is who-knows-where, is searching for a new superintendent and that at Monday's school-board meeting that search was furthered when members decided to establish an application-review committee. But then, in paragraph fifteen, we learn what else they decided at Monday's meeting:

Students attending the Bisbee High School Prom will be given gifts bags containing pictures (sic) frames, candles, mints and two condoms per bag. The board members voted four to one in favor of allowing the gift bags to be distributed.

Paragraph fifteen is rendered even more shocking because, in addition to being tucked away as if it contained nothing of import, it is preceded by this:

Board member Luche Giacomino was concerned with the wording of another section of the dress code that deals with the length of girls' skirts. She felt the measurement by a girl's fingertips at the sides for length was to (sic) vague and wanted the code changed to inches from the knee. Finger-tip length was too short, she added.

Giacomino, who voted in favor of passing out condoms to high-school students at a school-related activity, is appalled that females might choose to wear clothing that doesn't condemn them to stylistic Siberia. Her logic puzzles.

The Bisbee school board represents an unsettling trend: The strident policing of individual behavior that isn't worrisome...

Richard SimmonsSo says fitness guru cum educational historian Richard Simmons in this Newsweek article: "The idea of NCLB was to make our children academically well rounded. Now they're just round."

Yup, it must have been NCLB that made kids fat, because back in 2001 American younsters were lean, mean fighting machines. Ah, the low bigotry of soft expectations.

George Will explains that Clinton strategist Mark Penn was caught doing something sensible, surreptitiously. (In Penn's case, it was promoting free trade.)

The same could be said about Chris Doherty, who was also caught doing something sensible, surreptisiously. (In Doherty's case, it was promoting scientifically-based reading instruction.)

In today's Washington, both faced the same fate.

Who's ready for a new approach to politics?

Liam Julian

Over at City Journal, Stephen Malanga turns in a piece critical of Richard Florida's newest book, Who's Your City? Florida is the economist best known for his theory that a place's vitality and economic potential is determined by its "creative class," which Florida rather vaguely defines as that composed of those whose jobs require an aspect of creativity. It's actually easier to define what the creative-class economy isn't???i.e., the old industrial economy that gave rise to cities like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Detroit.

Joel Kotkin, Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange, California, disagrees with Florida's thesis that "cool" cities with burgeoning creative classes are the most successful ones. Productive workers want convenience and solid basic services, according to Kotkin, not hipsters. Malanga agrees. He writes:

Unfairly or not, the impression one comes away with after reading [Florida's earlier book] Creative Class is that if mayors can just figure out a way to attract some musicians and gays to their town, they don't need to worry much about intractable problems like crime and failing school systems.

Florida tried to address such criticisms in Who's Your City? by commissioning a large-scale survey that asked people what they looked for in a place to live. Malanga reports the results:

Unsurprisingly, the factors that Florida had mostly ignored???including the basics of personal security and education???top the lists of what people, even creative types, seek. In other words, subsidizing arts festivals and enacting legislation promoting openness

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