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Yet more proof that to some anti-reformers, adults inside the education system are more important than everyone else ? a guest blogger at Valerie Strauss's place says reformers lack empathy:

?When you are basing the effectiveness of teachers on lots of softer things, whether the kids feel good, whether the classroom is happy, whether we're creative (don't get me wrong, those things are important), but if the kids can't read?that's not acceptable,? former Washington D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee asserted indignantly in a recent interview with Charlie Rose, defending the standardized test-based reform movement that she has touted to an applauding media. [...]

From the perspective of corporate reformers and complicit Democrats, who employ the language and ideology of corporate America, public schools are factories designed to manufacture potential employees, human products who can compete effectively on the global market, and help the United States ?Win the Future.? This is a striking departure from the original mission of public schools, which conceived of our schools as not just skills centers, but civil institutions which cultivate democratic values ? empathy, compassion, citizenship, creativity, and other ?softer things.?

Given yesterday's news that half of Detroit adults are functionally illiterate (PDF), this is a strange charge to make against reformers. Empathy is precisely what drives people to label a system unacceptable when it leads to outcomes like this. Having grown up in a working-class family, I know what that lack of basic skills means for...

Liam Julian

Yesterday's post, ?Save the interns: Part 1,? noted that higher education is frequently complicit in, and occasionally precipitates, the misrepresentation as ?internships? of mundane, tedious jobs to be staffed by unpaid workers. Universities lend their credibility to employers?who seek?to conceal the true nature of such faux-internships; in return, these schools are able to collect tuition money from students while avoiding the attendant chore of educating them.

Ross Perlin, who covers this ground in his new book Intern Nation, believes that ?some in the Academy? have assisted in mixing ?the cocktail of ideological motivations, justifications, and half-hearted excuses behind the internship boom.? And they have done so not only by dispensing pro-internship propaganda but by drowning the internship idea in syrupy education-speak, ?using philosophies such as ?situated learning' and ?experiential education' to present internships in an appropriately educational light.? The former, situated learning, is founded upon the notion that knowledge is?passed on?socially, in certain environments, between individuals; Perlin quotes professor Paul Hager, for instance, who has written that the traditional ?learning-as-product? view is outdated, a relic of a ?mass production mindset reminiscent of the industrial era.? It seems likely that most education school professors would not reject classroom teaching as wholly anachronistic but would concur that situated learning should be a seminal part of the academic experience.

And while most students probably would profit from directed situated learning, it and theories like it have been broadened beyond usefulness. They have, Perlin writes, often ?proven to be an invitation...


The U.S. didn't triumph over terrorism today but its brave fighting men won a crucial battle when they rid the world of Osama bin Laden. Bravo for them?and may his soul suffer eternal damnation.

This achievement inevitably recalled memories of 9/11 and is bound to cause educators across the land to ask themselves how best to teach their young charges about what happened on that beautiful/dreadful autumn morning and about the terrorism threat that has never ceased.

Allow me to remind one and all that, on the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Fordham brought out a publication on that exact topic: "September 11: What Our Children Need to Know." You can find it on our website, containing some twenty-three short essays from some of the most thoughtful people I know. I offer it as a valuable resource for teachers and other adults trying to help children (or adults, for that matter) put the events of the past 24 hours into perspective.

Near it on our website, you will also find "Terrorists, Despots and Democracy: What Our Children Need to Know," which Fordham published the following August (2003), containing yet more material for educators (and others) to use in teaching kids about these events and their background.

Please have a look. I just did, and...


In honor of Earth Day, I thought I'd bring back an oldie but goodie, from the December 14, 2009 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

Whole Foods Republicans

The GOP needs to enlist voters who embrace a progressive lifestyle but not progressive politics.


The Republican Party is resurgent?or so goes the conventional wisdom. With its gubernatorial victories in Virginia and New Jersey, an energized "tea party" base, and an administration overreaching on health care, climate change and spending, 2010 could shape up to be 1994 all over again.

Maybe. The political landscape sure looks greener than it did a year ago, when talk of a permanent Democratic majority was omnipresent. But before John Boehner starts measuring the drapes in the Speaker's office, or the party exults about its possibilities in 2012, it's worth noting that some of the key trends driving President Barack Obama's strong victory in 2008 haven't disappeared. Republicans need to address them head-on if they want to lead a majority party again.

There are the depressing numbers on young voters (two-thirds of whom voted for Mr. Obama), African-Americans and Latinos (95% and 67% went blue respectively). But these groups have voted Democratic for decades, and their strong turnout in 2008's historic election wasn't replicated this fall, nor is it likely to be replicated again.

The voting patterns of the college-educated is another story. This is a group that, slowly but surely, is growing larger every...


Results are in! We had ninety-two respondents to Tuesday's survey asking two simple questions: Do you align yourself with the education-reform community, and did you go to public school?

Here's what we know: At least ninety-two people read Flypaper on Tuesday, or at least are connected to someone who read Flypaper on Tuesday (thanks to all who participated!). Of them, 88 percent characterize themselves as education reformers, and 83.7 percent went to a public high school.

Unfortunately, because I didn't read the fine print, we can't cross tabulate the findings without paying hundreds of dollars (angry fist shake Survey Monkey!). So, our fun little thought experiment can't break down the exact numbers of those who both view themselves as reformers and graduated from a public high school. (I'm annoyed too.)

But, hypothetically speaking, if all our non-reformy respondents were public school attendees, that still means that a mere 19 percent of education reformers got their high school diploma from a private school. I'll let you decide what that means, if it matters, and why.

?Daniela Fairchild


We've got a true multimedia experience for you in this week's Education Gadfly. Mike and Checker lead the way with an editorial on a little thing we like to call ?Reform Realism? and how it should help shape federal education policy in general, and the reauthorization of ESEA in particular. (Also, check out Fordham's latest, our ESEA Briefing Book released this week). For those visual learners in the crowd, this week's ?fly also features a short video on the topic.

In the New Analysis section, we speculate about the sustainability of reforms in Illinois?and opine on what the appointment of J.C. Brizard as Chicago schools chief might mean for the Windy City. (Hint: We're thinking singing kumbaya can only get you so far.) We then highlight an exciting new pilot program out of Boston. When it comes to turnarounds, not much has worked. But, this initiative to recruit a ?critical mass? of effective, experienced teachers in low-performing schools (to act as teacher-leaders and to support the good work done by strong principals) just might be onto something. ?The question will be how to bring it to scale.

Short Reviews tackle school choice, explain that Gen Y teachers may not be as reformy as we think, push the teacher-evaluation conversation just a little further and show what Finland really has going for it.

And a few of the articles are supplemented by some witty banter from the Education...

Liam Julian

Kevin Carey calls a recent Daily Caller article by Kay Hymowitz ?generally silly? and ?an alarmed reaction to female college attainment.? No, the piece is none of those things. It is a short discussion of American marriage trends: Hymowitz asks whether women, as they attain ever higher levels of education (57 percent of this year's college graduates are females), will ?be willing to marry ?down'??that is, to marry men who possess fewer diplomas and degrees. The author then answers her own question: Probably not. Her subsequent analysis isn't particularly convincing, but neither is it ?silly? or ?alarmed.? The article is mostly just dull?it makes a point that has been made many, many times, by Hymowitz and others.

Carey is on sturdier ground when he attacks Hymowitz for writing this: ?It also explains why, though we don't have solid research distinguishing between elite and State U mating choices, Ms. Harvard will probably not accept a proposal from Mr. Florida State.? Though it's true that incoming freshmen at Harvard have higher SAT scores than their FSU counterparts, Carey notes that Harvard is also much smaller than FSU, which enrolls some 31,000 undergraduates to Harvard's 6,600. ?The top 25 percent of Florida State constitutes roughly 7,700 students,? he writes, ?for whom the lower bound SAT Math score is 650. That means that the median SAT score among top Florida State students (the precise numbers aren't available) is probably up around 700.? Harvard's median math score is about 750. Were one...

The Education Gadfly

Michael Winerip has released the flood gates with his Sunday column in this week's New York Times. In it, he calls into question the resolve, capacity, and genuineness of education reformers (Fordham's own Checker Finn included) who attended private high schools. He's got Whitney Tilson, Eduwonk, Ed Sector, The New York Post, and others all in a tizzy.

Putting the question of whether the argument should even matter aside (and really, should it matter, as long as competent, dedicated individuals, with adult experience in the public-school system are working hard to better education for students?), Gadfly is asking Flypaper readers to take a short survey, two questions total. Do you consider yourself to be a part of the edu-reform movement? And did you attend a public high school?

We'll tally results and have them out with the Gadfly on Thursday, as well as post them on the blog.

Of those in the Fordham office, we're clocking in at two private-school attendees, five public schoolers, one former charter-school student (how does Winerip deal with charters?), and a lucky alum of one of Chicago's residential public-magnet schools (an even more tricky designation!).

Of course, please add your thoughts in the comments section below.

?The Education Gadfly...