Education Myths: What Special Interest Groups Want You to Believe about Our Schools - And Why It Isn't So

Liam Julian

Jay Greene
Rowman & Littlefield
2005

Jay Greene's new book works on a simple premise: Education is prone to myths - here are the facts. He goes about debunking 18 common education inaccuracies, and he relies on actual numbers to do it. Are schools dangerously under funded, are teachers sorely underpaid, are over-crowded classrooms sinking prospects for our nation's students? Well, according to the data, no. Not surprisingly, the book's causing some consternation in the usual places. The Washington Post dubs Education Myths a "data-driven polemic." "Still," the reviewer bafflingly writes, "all the numbers in the world won't end debate over what's true." Maybe not, but they do create a common ground for discussion. On the left coast, the usually sane Richard Lee Colvin, writing in his old haunt, the Los Angeles Times, calls Greene's conclusions, which Colvin frequently misconstrues, "absurd." Greene, for example, notes in a couple of sentences that smaller school districts generally perform better than larger ones. Colvin turns Greene's observation into a demand when he writes, "Breaking up Los Angeles into districts the size of Manhattan Beach or Beverly Hills isn't going to change the quality of teaching or make poor and immigrant kids from single-parent or no-parent families without healthcare suddenly perform like the children of well-paid executives." No, it wouldn't, and surely Jay Greene would be the first to agree. What most upsets such critics, and leads them into hyperbolic accusations and poor arguments, is Education Myths' emphasis on evidence. In the ongoing debates about education reform, it is true that reasonable people will disagree on policies. But if progress is to be made, it's essential that everyone come to the table with shared facts. Education Myths is a good step in that direction. Which may be why innumerable sticks-in-the-mud are trying to discredit it. You can order a copy here.

"Stories from the front lines of American schools reveal the world beneath policy debates," by Eric Hoover, Washington Post, September 4, 2005 (article purchase required)

"A free-market primer for the classroom," by Richard Lee Colvin, Los Angeles Times, September 18, 2005

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