Liam Julian

Ben Wildavsky's Wall Street Journal review of Real Education is much better than this. One point: Wildavsky worries that in Murray's system, capable students will be tracked, early on in their educational careers, into academically undemanding courses and eventually similar jobs. Those who, with a little tough love and nurturing and fine teaching, could have become doctors and lawyers will end up mechanics and plumbers.

While determinative tracking is a bad idea, it is not a bad idea to allow pupils who want to be mechanics and plumbers--regardless of their academic potential--to be... mechanics and plumbers. Instead, we shuttle them as 16-, 17-, and 18-year-olds into college-preparatory classes that they don't enjoy and they feel are wastes of time. Seriously, let's give these near-adults some educational and vocational options and quit shoving college down their throats. Murray's book makes some solid and compelling points about this that Wildavsky ignores.

Liam Julian

Kevin Carey treats Charles Murray unfairly. Carey, reviewing Murray's new book Real Education, writes:

Yet an active strain of educational hobo-phobia remains, a persistent, largely sub rosa muttering that perhaps too many of the wrong kind of people are being allowed inside the ivy-covered walls. It's not respectable conversation outside of conservative circles, due to its unvarnished elitism and 0-for-the-last-60-years-and-counting historical track record. But it lives on, and now has a new standard-bearer in the person of Charles Murray...

Come on. Besides being boring, this is just drips with all sorts of overpowering nasty implications. The rest of Carey's review is similarly accusatory and haughty without ever??even approaching the realms of cleverness or originality.??The??article certainly is not as infallible and a priori right and just its author--The EduOne, shall we call him?--seems to believe.

Update: And really, why would any publication??ask Carey to review Real Education? That's like asking me to review Das Kapital.

"Senator wants all schools to open on same day"

According to the AP article:

Sen. Thomas Gaffey, a Democrat from Meriden, is upset that some schools are opening this week while others are not.... Gaffey says it makes no sense to hold classes for a few days this week, only to send students and teachers home for a long three-day holiday weekend.

Here's a suggestion, Senator: Run for school board. Then you can weigh in on these weighty issues. Otherwise, butt out.

Kudos to New York City for launching a new pilot program to put Core Knowledge in ten city schools. But what's the matter with Schools Chancellor Joel Klein that he can't get himself to admit that the "balanced literacy" program in use throughout the system is hogwash? "I view it as building on but not in any way repudiating [balanced literacy]--our results speak for themselves."

Mr. Chancellor, a couple of months ago you admitted to me and 300 of our closest friends that "Month by Month" phonics was a big mistake. Why not acknowledge that balanced literacy is screwy too? (Read this report to understand why.)

Sol Stern gets the last word: "I can finally say something nice about one of Klein's curriculum choices. Unfortunately, it's just a few schools in the sixth year of his administration. But at least it looks like he's educable."...

Following up on yesterday's post on Baltimore's K-12 culinary reforms, here's a look at the types of "food" that Baltimore students presumably were ingesting before the changes.

While taking the Washington Teachers Union to task today, the Post is mostly spot on. They are right to point out that the union is largely acting against the interests of its members, especially in terms of how much money is being offered to all teachers, green and red track alike. They run into some trouble near the end, however, when they address the issue of seniority. Professing they find the opposition by older experienced teachers "perplexing", the Post editors ask: "Isn't the argument for the seniority pay scale based on the notion that experienced teachers do a better job?"

At first glance, this seems nothing more than a stock rhetorical question getting at the heart of a contradiction--experienced teachers should be "better" and therefore benefit from and support merit pay. If experience is correlated with performance, we should be seeing...

I'm working on a piece about the Bush education legacy, and I'm thinking about the notion that these years have seen a flourishing of reform efforts and leaders. (It certainly appears that Bush's No Child Left Behind Act has given cover to reform-minded Democrats.)

Here's one question: are today's big-city superintendents more reform-minded than their predecessors in the pre-NCLB age? I'm not so sure. Take a look*:

I'd argue that only Klein's New York and Rhee's Washington, D.C., have seen a real sea change in leadership since 2001. (I'd count Duncan, Ackerman, and Johnson as reformers too, but their predecessors deserved that label also.) Of course, it so happens that the nation's media and policy elites are concentrated in New York City and D.C.; maybe that's why there's a perception that radical reform is afoot. To my eyes, maybe not.

* I picked the ten biggest metro areas, which aren't necessarily the biggest school systems, but they are what most people think of when they picture "big cities."...

CATO's Neil McCluskey, at the end of a long post arguing against my call for national standards and tests, says of the idea that "harsh reality just seems to??eclipse impossible dreams."

Isn't this the same CATO that advocates a universal education tax credit system? I thought CATO specialized in impossible dreams. Strange.

There's a lot for conservatives to dislike about the Bush Administration when it comes to education and the No Child Left Behind Act. But they should give the President some credit: he certainly split the Democratic Party on the issue. Consider the news out of Denver, where the "Ed Challenge for Change" event showcased the bitter divide between progressive reformers and teachers unions--a direct outcome, I would argue, of NCLB. Consider this, from the Rocky Mountain News:

"It is a battle for the heart of the Democratic Party," said Corey Booker, the 39-year-old rising star mayor of Newark, N.J.

"We have been wrong in education," Booker said of his party and its alliances with teachers unions that put adults before children. "It's time to get right."

Booker was among those who appeared Sunday at the Denver Art Museum to challenge the Democratic Party to reconsider its course on education.

In references sometimes veiled and sometimes blunt, they tackled the party's often-cozy relationship with the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, which typically support--financially and otherwise--Democratic candidates.

"The Democratic Party is supposed to look out for poor and minority kids," said Washington,