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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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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.

Ricky Ricardo Hess, on his "Spiraling Down" blog reports:

Soothsayers, sociologists, warlocks, and the Dalai Lama all agree?Arne Duncan is surely cursed. Voodoo experts tie Duncan's damnation back to a New Orleans mother of five, angry over Louisiana's loss in Race to the Top. Since the RTTT announcements, things have gotten progressively worse for the Secretary. In recent weeks, his labor-management collaboration summit in Denver led to an eruption of labor-management battles in the Midwest. And his ?vacation? at the pyramids and the famed Roman ruins of Leptis Magna clearly left a trail of unrest. Secretary Clinton has now banned her colleague from further travel to, and contact with, citizens of a host of touchy places, including Israel, Pakistan, China, and Zimbabwe. Three dozen other countries have petitioned to have him quarantined on Maryland Avenue SW. Attorney General Holder is investigating his authority to invoke and enforce such a confinement. There are rumors of Guantanamo. Sorry pal.

?The Education Gladfly

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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.

In light of the heroic efforts of some school districts around the country to "do more with more" by raising fees paid by students for things like school supplies, driver's ed, and sports, I'm excited to announce that the Thomas B. Fordham Institute will be charging you, our readers, for all the thoughts we produce as of today, April 1, 2011.

The fees will follow a tiered schedule based on how good the thoughts produced are. Half-baked thoughts produced during staff meetings or the Education Gadfly Show podcast will cost $500. Carefully researched ideas arrived at through rigorous analysis will cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000, based on their impact on student test scores. Brilliant ideas that have the potential to save American education before the next school year (most of which come from our staff assistant and interns) will cost a mere 1 million bucks. They have the potential to put us out of business if they work, after all, so we have to charge a bit more for them.

We've set up this plan to be as painless as possible for you, our audience. You'll be billed automatically by email whenever Mike, Amber, or one of our other researchers has an idea. Installment plans and payments via PayPal are available. Not only will this system help Fordham...

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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.

Longtime Fordham friend and acclaimed education historian Diane Ravitch, author of last year's The Death and Life of the Great American School System, has agreed to showcase here a brief excerpt from her next best seller, Ravitching: Loving Myself as an Immortal, to be published by the L. Ron Hubbard Press in September.

In the fall of 2010, I decided to completely revamp my home-entertainment system. Best Buy was refusing to special order VHS tapes for me anymore, and I was starting to understand the benefits of surround sound and a speaker set. As part of that transition, I went through all of my old videos, boxing them up for storage and making room for the newer DVDs (of course, I couldn't just get rid of them!). When I came across my old favorite, Risky Business, I had to pop it in the player and relive the joys. Watching the familiar plot unfold, however, I was struck by how unactualized Tom Cruise was in that movie. As I watched him slide across the screen, I wondered what had changed so much for Cruise in the past thirty years. What was the turning point in his life? And, more importantly, how could I have a similar conversion experience?

Then I got it: Scientology. That was?that is?the missing piece in

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Liam Julian

Michelle Rhee, in Indianapolis this week, spoke with reporters from that city's paper, the Star, and answered questions about her education-related positions and philosophy. On vouchers, she said that when she first came to Washington she opposed them, mostly because she is a Democrat and believed, as many Democrats do, that vouchers?pointlessly took money away from public schools. But she changed her mind after meeting parents who, from her perspective, were ?doing exactly the right thing??i.e., trying to attain for their children the best education possible. But . . . Rhee is no closet libertarian. ?I don't believe in a sort of free market approach? to education, she said, in which, the theory goes, the K-12 market will correct itself as demand for great schools rises and for bad schools plunges. ?Education has to be a very heavily regulated industry, like the airline industry,? she said. ?We don't let every crazy person with a propeller run an airline because people's lives are at risk. The same is true with children and their educations.? Not sure I totally get the analogy, but okay. Rhee reiterated her obsession with teacher quality: If she could focus on just one area of education, improving teacher quality would be it. ?The research shows the most important school factor in student achievement is the teacher in front of the classroom,? she said.

?Liam Julian, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow...

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Liam Julian

Parents in Volusia County, Florida (it's always Florida, it seems) are picketing outside an elementary school that recently instituted several regulations to protect a six-year-old student who has a serious peanut allergy. Among the new regulations: Pupils must wash their hands before and after lunch. Some parents apparently see such rules as an infringement on their kids' rights and have thus?decided to fashion cardboard protest signs and wave them at cars before and after classes. This story is definitely weird. What's even weirder, though, is that certain CNN news anchors spend time debating it (?Another part of this story I think is really compelling . . .?). It's like an Onion News Network parody that is, well, reality.

?Liam Julian, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

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Though Deborah Meier's newest post on Bridging Differences is ostensibly about hypocrisy (she says she tells her left-wing friends that ?we should honor hypocrisy?), I was drawn to her reference to habits of mind.? The phrase is one of the most useful in understanding the huge responsibility of our public school system.? In fact, the epigraph I chose for my story on the Catalyst charter schools in Chicago is all about habits. It's from the Old Testament (Proverbs 22:6): ?Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.??

The power of a habit should be indisputable, but the nature of the habit, especially?a habit?of the mind,?is subject to some misdirection.? (Dare I remind our readers that drug addictions, etc. are also habits.)

Meier suggests a 2007 blog essay by Bruce Schauble (who says he is Director of Instruction at Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii) as a good summary of the field; and I trust her judgment on this. Schauble reviews?Ted Sizer's habits of mind ? perspective, analysis, imagination, etc., -- and Meier's habits ? evidence, connections, viewpoints/cause and effect, etc. ? and those of Arthur Costa and Bena Kallick, at the Institute for Habits of Mind ?? thinking and communicating with clarity and precision, managing impulsivity, gathering data through all senses, etc. ? but he leaves out Sizer's important introduction to the whole?subject:

Good schools are places where one gets the stuff of

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Liam Julian

The Wall Street Journal ran today an article about Portugal's rickety educational system and how it has affected the nation's economy: Portugal is the least educated country in Europe, and it is also the poorest. ?Without budget cuts,? the Journal reports, ?Portugal is almost certain to need an international bailout. It will run out of money this year without fresh cash . . . .? The plentiful, inexpensive, manual labor that once sustained the country's textile industry has ?vanished to Asia,? and skilled jobs have left for former Eastern bloc countries, where salaries are lower and the people better-educated. One need not be a soothsayer to predict what this article will work: Ominous warnings from the usual suspects about the parlous condition of the American educational system, whose failings will soon deplete the U.S.'s economic output. But consider: According to the Journal, ?just 28% of the Portuguese population between 25 and 64 has completed high school,? while in the U.S. the figure is ?89%.? Furthermore, in Portugal it was mandatory until the mid-1970s to complete only three years of schooling. There are sundry other obvious differences between America, a behemoth, and Portugal, a relative Lilliputian. Beware simplistic comparisons.

?Liam Julian, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow ??

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Liam Julian

Readers will recall the appearance, in the summer of 2008, of an article in the Atlantic by a pseudonymous Professor X [insert X-Men joke here to flaunt pop-culture cred] that relayed his experience teaching basic English courses at two colleges, one a four-year, private institution and the other a community college. Professor X found his students deficient in?primary information?they can't spell, can't form a coherent sentence on the page, and make fundamental mistakes (e.g., confusing Hamlet, the character,?with Shakespeare, his author) that many elementary-school students would not.?X's point was that too many students who are in college shouldn't be. The piece caused enough controversy that a publisher thought it should be expanded to 240 pages. Coming next week to Amazon.com on a computer screen near you: In the Basement of the Ivory Tower, the book. One thing to say about it is that this Professor X can write. His sentences are invigorating even when his content is plodding.

?Liam Julian, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

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NPR's Morning Edition has been running a series on youth violence in Chicago ? this morning's story is here.? And it's worth paying attention to. ?I just finished a story for Ed Next on two new charter schools in the badlands of Chicago's Westside (Catholic Ethos, Public Education) and know that if there's any single challenge that defies a quick fix in our inner city schools, it is this: violence.?

I have, over the years, done a great deal of reporting on childhood violence (see my book Death of Innocence), meeting my share of horror along the way.? It is not a continuum; it is a swamp.? (The book I wanted to write on the subject is called The Triple A of Childhood Violence: Armed, Angry and Amoral.) There is nothing worse than seeing a child arrive at school in the morning?bearing the scars of such terror -- these kids are victims.? (I have met kids who, academically, are reading two grade levels ahead of their peers, but who are unable to eat lunch using a fork and spoon.) But I can't help but looking at these kids and thinking, `They are learning the ways of violence.' ?And though there is plenty of research linking environmental and domestic victimization of children -- sexual abuse is a terribly underreported story here -- to future behavioral problems (that's the anger part), I'm sure anyone who has ever worked in a school in a violent neighborhood knows the scene.?...

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