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February 14, 2011
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In the new Washington Monthly Steven M. Teles, a political science professor at Johns Hopkins, reviews Frederick M. Hess's recently published book The Same Thing Over and Over. Teles is particularly attentive to ?Hess's argument? that ?where education is concerned, democracy is distinctly inferior to liberty??or, put another way, that debating educational issues, even in democratic fashion, in unlikely to yield ?definitive settlement,? while liberty allows individuals to make their own, individual choices. Teles quotes Hess: ?The frustrating truth is that there are no permanent solutions in schooling, only solutions that make sense in a given time and place.? One wonders if such a statement couldn't be applied to, well, lots of things. And if that statement is true, what, frankly, is the point of most of the ed-policy organizations now extant? If all education policy is local, even individual, then why have the U.S. Department of Education? Teles finds in Hess's book the instruction that ?Instead of doubling down on a particular set of supposedly research-driven 'best practices,' we should hedge our bets by allowing radical new models of schooling and eccentric and unproven ideas to gain entry into the system . . .? But while we go along, merrily experimenting, we might remember that we are experimenting on children, who have no real autonomy and rely on adults to provide them a decent education. Adults ? policy makers, administrators, parents ? may be fired up about new, innovative, ?eccentric and unproven? ways of teaching, but it is the students who will bear the consequences of those once-unproven ideas eventually proven bad.
?Liam Julian, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow ?