Liam Julian

This week's Gadfly is now out. You won't want to miss Checker's feature editorial, in which he writes about why he sees "parallels between America's present condition and Rome circa 350 A.D." (Teaser: "Frappuccinos aren't very powerful weapons against Al Qaeda.") We're also offering a piece about why Louisianans can't get angered by jokes at their expense. (Teaser: It has to do with their legislature's rejection of modern science.) And Amber makes her podcast debut with her very own segment, "The Gadfly Research Minute."

Yes, Liam, some Democrats like charter schools and merit pay. But the base of the Democratic Party (the teachers unions) doesn't. And most politicians are careful not to alienate their core supporters. (Except on The West Wing.)

The rigorous-math crowd continues its string of victories in California with this decision to test all eighth graders in algebra. State board chair (and generally good guy himself) Ted Mitchell wanted to allow a watered-down version of algebra but relented under pressure from the Gubernator. Here's hoping that other states follow California's lead.

Liam Julian

Mike writes??that merit pay and charter schools are "anathema to the teachers unions." They're not at all anathema to the Democratic Party, though.

Update: Checker wants examples. Off the top of my head: I remember George Miller, a very liberal, establishment Democrat, sparring publicly last year with NEA President Reg Weaver about merit pay. And the Center for American Progress, a think tank loaded with establishment Dems, is in favor of merit pay and charter schools. Bill Clinton, too,??liked charters, didn't he? There are lots more instances. Maybe the NEA doesn't speak for the Democratic Party anymore??(via Russo)? One might make the point (and I have) that??clashing with??the NEA is not synonymous with clashing with the Democratic Party, or with bipartisanship or post-partisanship or whatever we're calling it.

Update II: I appreciate Checker's post, but my defense of Dems comes in response to Mike, who believes that when a national Democrat goes against merit pay he is stepping out of line with his national party. This is simply untrue; it's entirely okay for national Dems to be in favor of merit pay and charter schools, just ask Andy Rotherham. So, I??balk when??a Democratic candidate??(or...

That's how this Investor's Business Daily (IBD) article describes Senators Barack Obama and John McCain when it comes to education.

While both senators have tried to build an independent image on other issues, on education they are staunch partisans.

Well, not exactly. By all accounts, John McCain strongly supports No Child Left Behind--which isn't exactly a favorite of the GOP base. And Obama has gone out of his way to promote merit pay and charter schools, which are anathema to the teachers unions. It's true that McCain supports vouchers and Obama supports more spending--typical partisan positions--but for better or for worse, education politics are still too mixed-up and fluid to define along party lines.

Ah, the revered IBD. First it got it wrong on beer, and now this.

Liam Julian

Re my post about a national service academy, Jonah Goldberg makes some fine, related points in the Los Angeles Times by arguing against what he calls "national service mania." His piece has attracted some 360 comments, which shows that this subject resonates. National service is surely good and something worth encouraging, especially in schools. But it can be taken too far.

Update: Over at The New Republic blog (yes, they have a blog... and yes, TNR is still hanging around and publishing a magazine), Eve Fairbanks responds to Goldberg's article and totally misses the point.

Liam Julian

Re Coby's post: It's worth noting that if frat houses throughout the country substitute video game beer pong for the real kind, then it stands to reason that fewer drunken antics will ensue. And why all this beer bashing, anyhow? George Will writes today that beer has, in fact, saved civilization.

The article to which Coby links??leaves the important questions unanswered, though, such as, Does a player's accuracy decrease as the game wears on and??the number of his cups dwindles? Can one choose from a variety of virtual partners, each with his own characteristics and ratings in various categories (accuracy, alcohol tolerance, etc.)? There are??a lot of ways to get creative here, and I hope the game's designers took advantage of them.

Karl Priest comments on Liam's recent post:

If you thing evolution is "modern science" you need a healthy dose of reality?

With all due respect, if Mr. Priest thinks the above sentence is coherent as written, he needs a healthy dose of Strunk & White.