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Liam Julian

If Michael Winerip is to be taken at his word, then his latest New York Times piece, published Sunday, is meant merely to make the reader ask?himself?whether the fact that?lots of?so-called ?education reformers? spent their formative years in private schools is at all relevant to judgement of?their adult perspectives. In other words, are the public-school remedies proffered by private-school graduates inherently tainted owing to their remove, during their teenage years, from public-school education? The reporter doesn't put it exactly like that, though, instead wondering evenhanded-seeming-ly if ?a private school background gives them [?reformers?] a much-needed distance and fresh perspective to better critique and remake traditional public schools?? Or, might it simply ?make them distrust public schools?or even worse?poison their perception of them? Or does it make any difference??

Unanswerable questions, maybe. But it seems logical to believe that one needs not attend a public school to fairly offer suggestions for mending the worst among them (incidentally, such suggestions might be made to a number of private schools, too). After all, we do not think it odd that most of those working to aid the poor (social workers, community organizers, whatever) were never themselves poor. And no one seriously asks what percentage of top officials at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grew up in the projects, nor whether those who wish to improve the nation's prison conditions?ever did time at Sing Sing. Public education, with its chip-on-shoulder workforce, its us-versus-them, union-versus-?reformer? ethos, is one of the...

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Liam Julian

Being a do-gooder is not easy, especially if one happens to be a multimillionaire celebrity attempting to do good in a?realm far removed from one's own land of expertise. Jamie Oliver knows all about this. He is an English chef who, for one reason or another, became incredibly famous and is now worth some $105 million. He traffics in kitchen-based, instructional television programs; food-chain sponsorships; cookware lines; artisanal edible products with his name on them; and suchlike. Lately, however, he has nursed a new afflatus: to improve the schools for the schoolchildren in them. It began in Britain with his very public campaign to redesign the typical school lunch, which needed it. His message was that kids are too fat and unhealthy and that the rations schools offer them will only make them more of both. Oliver took this message to the United States last year with Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, a television show in which the chef attempted and largely failed to restructure the school lunches being proffered in one of the country's most unhealthy cities, Huntington, West Virginia.

One could make the argument that Oliver, in these pursuits, wasn't do-gooding too far from home base. He is a chef, and this activism involved food?more specifically, not shoveling heaps of the trashy sort of it into the mouths of babes. But now, perhaps, Oliver has stretched too far. His new show is Dream School; it is currently airing in the UK. Charlie Brooker, writing in the Guardian,...

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On Wednesday I suggested that furloughed federal employees might be a great source of volunteers for DC-area schools--if only someone could organize them. Well, I've stumbled across a great social entrepreneurship effort to do just that sort of thing: Shutdown Startup, a website created by federal employees with the tag line: "If we can't serve our country, we'll serve our community." Yes!

The site asks federal staffers to make a volunteer commitment, which is great. But the actual volunteer opportunities listed are a little thin. So if you're a social service agency and would love to tap a handful of the hundreds of thousands of soon-to-be-idled federal workers, post something now!

Unfortunately DCPS is not likely to be one of those agencies; I heard from Chancellor Kaya Henderson and she tells me that all DCPS staffers are swamped with testing (and test security!) right now. Those damn tests, always getting in the way.

But surely local charter schools and inner-city Catholic schools could post requests for help. And well-organized PTAs in the District could also find creative ways to engage furloughed feds that didn't involve them stepping on campus. (For instance, they could knit sweaters to be sold at fundraisers, redesign PTA websites, or beautify local parks.)

I'm still amazed (like many of you) that our country's leaders might actually shut the government down. But if it happens...it's time to service up!

-Mike Petrilli...

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Liam Julian

Eric Felten, perhaps best known for his writings on music and drinking, was in the pages of the Wall Street Journal last week, reviewing the new book In the Basement of the Ivory Tower, which is an expansion of an essay of the same name that ran in the Atlantic in the summer of 2008. The book's point, well-known to Flypaper regulars, is that too many pupils attending college should not be. The author, a pseudonymous Professor X, is an adjunct professor at two institutions of higher learning?a private, four-year school and a community college?at both of which he teaches nighttime courses in basic writing and reading. His students' work is, mostly, a mess; mostly, he writes, it's pre-high-school-level-type stuff. He surveys the classroom: his pupils are a hodgepodge, some still teenagers, others married with kids and mortgages, some employed, others full-time students. But Professor X writes that they share one thing: they do not want to be spending their evenings with him, writing and reading.

Felten wonders, though, if the professor's students are as hopeless as depicted and if ?part of the classroom problem is the teaching itself.? ?Professor X prides himself on bringing a real-world perspective to writing, one born of his own long experience crafting words,? Felten writes. ?And yet, what sort of writer is Professor X? Before the essay in the Atlantic, he was, by his own account, unpublished.? Not that the thwarted literary aspirations of an adjunct necessarily disqualify him for Teacher of...

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The Education Gadfly

This post was a part of our April Fool's Day edition of The Gladfly! Please don't think we're serious about this.

In the spirit of doing more with less, and enjoying some fun: a blog post that everyone can appreciate. Feel free to fill in the blanks yourself as your party line dictates. But, please, no language that couldn't appear in a family publication?that means you, Neal McCluskey.

Fill out the Mad Lib and post your results in the comments section below. Be sure to leave a name and an email address so we contact you. The funniest Mad Lib will win a $50 gift card to Starbucks! (not a joke)

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This post was a part of our April Fool's Day edition of The Gladfly! Please don't think we're serious about this.

Napoleon had his Waterloo. Harding had his Teapot Dome. And now the Gates Foundation has its ?conflict of interest? clause. Let's back up. For more than a year, education groups, states, and local districts have been busily updating curricula, altering assessment blueprints, and writing new state tests as they ready themselves for implementation of the new Common Core state standards. Yet in March, the Gates Foundation completely sidelined all efforts by introducing a ?conflict of interest? policy that prevents any grantee from discussing the work of a fellow grantee publicly or privately. As soon as Gates made the decision public, all work on Common Core standards implementation promptly ground to a halt. When asked about the consequences of the new policy, Stefanie Sanford said, ?Huh. Interesting.? She later when on to reassure grantees by explaining that Gates has created a National Commission that will look into the policy and its ramifications. A report on their findings and recommendations is due out this summer.

In related news, the Liberty Institute released a report today praising the conflict of interest policy. ?At last,? the release said, ?a Gates policy recommendation we can get behind!?

?Kathleen Porter-Magee

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The Education Gadfly

This post was a part of our April Fool's Day edition of The Gladfly! Please don't think we're serious about this.

The Gladfly has it on good authority that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will step down from his position with the Obama administration at the end of 2011 for undisclosed reasons. What do you think his next move will be?

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This post was a part of our April Fool's Day edition of The Gladfly! Please don't think we're serious about this.

Jeb Bush, an ardent fan of technology, will not be outdone. Today, he issued an op-ed in the Main Street Journal, ?People will always be stupid, that's why I'm putting my money in robots,? describing the launch of his own advocacy group, Robots First. It has a fundraising goal of $30 bazillion and will use its raised cash, not to mention its serious political clout (shoot, the dude is a president's brother AND son), to ensure that robots remain globally-competitive well into the future. According to the organization's website, the group's mission is to: ?promote robots, urge their respect in contemporary society and guarantee that they'll be afforded equal educational opportunity.? Leaders of the new group say students?and the world at large?would benefit from more automated heroes like R2D2, C3PO, and Hilary Clinton. Said Jeb of the initiative, ?Our first order of business is to push for a reauthorized ESEA?No Robot Left Behind?that appropriately focuses on the needs of the robot community.?

?Daniela Fairchild

This piece originally appeared in today's Education Gladfly....

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