Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality

Christina Hentges

Charles Murray
Crown Forum
2008

As he did in his 2007 Wall Street Journal series, Murray lambasts in Real Education the entire k-12 education establishment--not just standardized testing, say, or teachers' unions--for building its house on sand. The sand, in this case, is the belief that the academic horizons of all students are virtually endless. Murray doesn't believe they are. He believes an individual's IQ translates into academic capability in a definite and predictable way--i.e., those with higher IQs will be better at academics. To deny this is, the author writes, "educational romanticism," which has led, inter alia, to colleges that enroll students who are drastically unprepared to attend them (and who, in many cases, don't want to be there but feel forced to earn a B.A.). Murray also believes that pushing so many academically deficient people into college means that their other skills go unnoticed and unrefined. It's no secret that Murray's ideas about the immobility of academic ability have irked some (such as our own Checker Finn). But despite Murray's relatively rogue views about student ability, many of Real Education's proposals are unremarkable. Ideas such as allowing gifted children to accelerate in the classroom, teaching a pre-determined core curriculum, expanding school choice, and providing a safe and orderly classroom environment have long had much support in ed reform circles (from Fordham: see here, here, and here, for starters). Even the book's suggestions about preparing students for the working world (a strategy exemplified by Cristo Rey Network schools) are nothing new or shocking. Where Murray breaks with conventional school reformers is around the "every child college-ready" dogma. Real Education wants schools to create productive citizens, whether or not they wear caps and gowns. You can buy the book here.

More By Author