I just got off the phone with a reporter wanting names of the primary contenders for the Secretary of Education spot if either Barack Obama or John McCain wins in November. Here are my thoughts:

John McCain

--??Lisa Graham Keegan has to be considered the front-runner, if only because she's McCain's most trusted and visible education advisor (and has been for years). Plus she was a great state superintendent in Arizona, is telegenic, loves school choice and accountability, and is loved in return by the conservative/libertarian base. The only problem: her tenure at the Education Leaders Council ended in a mess, which might make Senate confirmation challenging.

-- Tim Pawlenty is a real contender too. Passed over for the V.P. slot, he's still got one of the highest profiles on education of any GOP governor, in part because he chairs the Education Commission of the States . He also pushed a major merit pay program in Minnesota and is good on choice and accountability. Surely he'll get a job in a McCain Administration; the only question is whether this will be the one.

-- I still think Mike Huckabee could...

The Jay Mathews contest to name the high-flying schools in David Whitman's book has come to a close. The winner? No excuses schools-a "golden oldie," as Mathews says, since that term's been around for a decade. But he's right, it's pretty good, if not as accurate as "paternalistic." Read more here.

The Washington-area media is abuzz about the news that the University of Louisville is investigating the PhD awarded to Prince George's County superintendent John Deasy. The Washington Post reports:

Deasy, leader of the 130,000-student system since 2006, was awarded a doctorate of philosophy in education in May 2004 after completing nine credit hours of work at the university -- equivalent to one semester -- in addition to 77 credit hours he earned from other schools. Deasy also wrote a 184-page dissertation. ??

This is an outgrowth of a federal investigation of Deasy's doctoral advisor Robert Felner, who is being questioned about "alleged misappropriation" of a large federal grant.

Deasy's response was pitch perfect:

If the university made errors in the awarding of the degree, I do hope they rescind it. My responsibility is to do everything I was advised and told to do. If I was advised wrong and given wrong information, the university needs to take responsibility for that. I certainly would not want anything unearned.

I've only met Superintendent Deasy once, but have been impressed with his tenacious work reforming Prince George's County schools. By all appearances he...

Liam Julian

Remember when Ed in '08 hired Kanye West to say that education needs to be a top priority? Now the group can put this line into their "Future of America" ad (which we parodied): "I will smash your camera."

Liam Julian

This week's Gadfly is up. In the editorial slot, on this day of reflection, we present excerpts from our 2003 report, Terrorists, Despots, and Democracy: What Our Children Need to Know. You'll find offerings from Richard Rodriguez and William J. Bennett, among others. (It's certainly worth glancing back at the full report, too.) Also in today's Gadfly, Stafford dissects the Democratic and Republican education platforms, and we've got analysis of the education-related speech Barack Obama gave on Tuesday and a cautionary tale from Australia.

Liam takes to the pages of the Washington Times to explain why paying children cash to behave in school is nothing more than bribery. In a vegetable inspired analogy, he explains:

What sort of unintended consequences might this experiment yield? Here's but one: Think of the parents who, rather than exert strong discipline over their vegetable-averse child, pay him $100 each month to choke down his brussel sprouts. It's a safe bet that they will create a rules-shirking monster and one who will learn nothing important and enduring about nutrition, behavior, obedience, personal responsibility, or authority.

Similar monsters are birthed through an educating strategy that pays pupils to do that which is legitimately expected of them.

Indeed, continues Liam, the message behind a "pay-as-you-go" plan such as this one is even worse than turning our children into brussel sprouts eating monsters. Such a plan actually promotes the deleterious and false message that there are students who are so hopeless they will only attend school when being paid to do so. Read the whole editorial here ....

It's often the case that this blog inspires the most audience participation (via comments) on issues directly relative to teachers. I ran across this article an hour ago in USA Today and was just about to blog on it when I thought I'd rather just keep my big flapper shut...and hear from the teachers and principals and others who are also interested in education issues, especially as they relate to teachers and their unions. So, just to get you started:

1) Can teachers unions reform their own profession?

2) Does the best reform happen from the ground up?

3) What is the right role for unions in education today (assuming they aren't going away anytime soon)?

4) Other than the 3 reform ideas listed in the article, what would you like to see the unions support? Is it feasible?

Those of us in think tanks are expected to be highly opinionated. It's the nature of the game. But strong opinions need not breed closed ears. We look forward to hearing from you....

Liam Julian

Greg Forster thinks (at least I think he thinks) that the difference between rewards and bribes is purely semantic. But semantic distinctions are born to relate and describe real distinctions and degrees, no? Otherwise, we'd have but one word (briwards, maybe) for the concept in question. I argued that Michelle Rhee's KIPP-based justification of her plan to pay students to induce their good behavior overlooks several basic points, such as the real difference between KIPP Dollars and American dollars and that KIPP rewards its students for behavior it already expects while Rhee's plan bribes students to do that which they already should.

Forster doesn't understand the difference between KIPP's rewards and Rhee's bribes. I'll explain it again, but differently. Suppose: Iran refuses to cease its nuclear-weapons development despite the world's protestations. America therefore offers to give Iran $5 billion in annual aid and lift sanctions if the Islamic nation pulls the plug on nuclear dabbling. Behold--bribery! Now suppose Iran voluntarily ends nuclear-related nonsense and, for the most part, behaves itself. America then decides to lift sanctions and transfer funds to Tehran, but only so long as Tehran continues to play by the rules. Behold--a reward!


Liam Julian

The Heritage Foundation's Dan Lips writes today, on National Review Online (where "Education Week" continues), more about the Republican eschewal of No Child Left Behind.