I envy Thomas Paine’s way with language. I’ve been searching for years for words that would have the impact of those he penned in his 1776 pamphlet, “The Crisis.” Admittedly, “These are the times that try men’s souls,” and the words that followed, weren’t a howling success. Only about a third of the colonists agreed with Paine’s call for [...]
Fairtest, Parents Across America, Save Our Schools, United Opt-Out National, and regional groups such as Fund Education Now, are fighting to stop the corporate takeover of public education. It’s a David-Goliath match. They’re up against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the biggest philanthropic foundations in the world, most of [...]
If you fly, thank Myron Tribus for helping make your flight safer. He played a major role in the development of the equipment that keeps airliner wings free of ice. Myron was a captain in the Army Air Force during World War II. Later, he was a gas turbine design engineer for General Electric, dean of [...]
Imagine the present corporately promoted education reform effort as a truck, its tires nearly flat from the weight of the many unexamined assumptions it carries. On board: An assumption that punishment and rewards effectively motivate; that machines can measure the quality of human thought; that learning is hard, unpleasant work; that what the young need [...]
A longtime friend on the school board of one of the largest school systems in America did something that few public servants are willing to do. He took versions of his state’s high-stakes standardized math and reading tests for 10th graders, and said he’d make his scores public. By any reasonable measure, my friend is a success. [...]
A couple of days ago I watched and read the transcript of Fareed Zakaria’s CNN primetime special, “Restoring the American Dream: Fixing Education.” Zakaria talks to Bill Gates, whose five-billion-plus investment in schools has bought him a seat at the head table of education reformers. If I’d gotten any response from my previous attempts to correspond with [...]
The rich philanthropists, hedge fund managers, state governors, big-city mayors, and syndicated columnists now shaping national education policy have reached a firm conclusion. The Number One factor in student performance is teacher performance. Poverty, broken homes, lead and mercury poisoning, bad teeth, poor eyesight, language difficulties, hunger, low self-esteem, run-down schools, frequent moving, cultural differences, [...]
Standardized tests are enhancing and destroying reputations, opening and closing doors of opportunity, raising and lowering property values, starting and ending professional careers, determining the life chances of the young, and shaping the intellectual resources upon which America’s future largely hinges. You might think that with so much riding on the tests, every civic-minded person [...]
I was, generally speaking, a fairly well-behaved kid. I’ve no reasonable explanation, then, for burning a hole in the wall of the one-room school I attended in the late 1930s. It wasn’t an original idea. A precedent had been set by somebody who’d come and gone before I arrived at Union School the previous year [...]
Ronald Reagan delivered some one-liner doozies, one of which is still a favorite of several members of Congress and talking heads on cable news: “The most terrifying words in the English language,” Reagan said, “are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” It’s an interesting perspective, particularly when placed alongside another quote, one [...]
Peter Ruddy Wallace was the speaker of Florida’s House of Representatives years ago when charter-school legislation was adopted. He saw charters as incubators of innovation and experimentation. So did I. Indeed, not long thereafter, I accepted an invitation to serve on the board of governors of a new charter school serving a built-from-scratch new town in [...]
In alphabetical order: Mike Bloomberg, mayor of New York City. Eli Broad, financier and philanthropist. Jeb Bush, ex-Florida governor and possible 2012 presidential contender. Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education. Bill Gates, business magnate and philanthropist. Joel Klein, chancellor of New York City schools. In education issues, mainstream media sometimes call these gentlemen, “The New [...]
Driving the country roads of Scotland, Ireland and Wales, I have sometimes been lucky enough to be blocked by sheep being moved from one pasture to another. I say ‘lucky’ because it allows me to watch an impressive performance by a dog – usually a Border Collie. What a show! A single, mid-sized dog herding [...]
Questions being ignored or inadequately addressed by the current business and industry-driven education reform effort: 1. Market forces in general, and merit pay in particular, are being promoted by leaders of business and industry as keys to improved school performance. In highly effective schools and school systems, educators see themselves as members of a team [...]
The “standards and accountability” education reform effort begun in the 1980s at the urging of leaders of business and industry, is failing. The reform message, powerfully reinforced by mainstream media, is simple:
1. America’s schools are, at best, mediocre.
2. Teachers and students deserve most of the blame.
3. As a corrective, rigorous subject-matter standards and tests must be put in place.
4. Market forces must be brought to bear to pressure teachers and students to work to those standards.
Corporate America has given us Big Banks (banks too big to fail) & Big Pharma (a pharmaceutical industry too big to fight). Coming soon to a school near you, courtesy of corporate America: Big Ed
Once upon a time teachers assigned grades, and that was pretty much that. Oh, occasionally a kid would argue that a particular grade was unfair, or complain so loudly that parents or an administrator would get involved, but that was relatively rare. About a generation ago, acceptance of teacher judgment about the quality of student [...]
Dear legislators, since you’re now running the education show, and the consequences of coming in second in the education-vs.-catastrophe race are pretty grim, perhaps you’d be open to a few observations from someone who’s spent a half-century in Florida’s schools actually doing the work.