Flypaper

Liam Julian

The newest edition of The Gadfly is out and jammed with choice offerings, especially an essay that concludes "that for long-term sustainability and academic success, a charter school has better odds if it enrolls at least 300 students. " The small-school crowd won't like it.

As for Coby and whether paying students is the right thing to do, I summarily disprove all his assertions thusly:

~p = q

p

((~q ?? q) ?? q)

((~~p ?? ~p) ?? ~p)

((p ?? ~p) ?? ~p)

~p

Q.E.D.

Liam Julian

Today in The Gadfly, I write about George Orwell's claim that bad writing and bad thinking are mutually reinforcing. I focus on the most egregious cases: sentences punctuated by text-message spellings and abbreviations and plagued by rotten grammar and rampant ambiguity.

What I didn't have space to comment on are the other forms of poor writing that Orwell's "Politics and the English Language"??lambastes, many of which??appear daily on the op-ed pages of America's best newspapers. One of the??sharpest observations in??his essay is that so much writing isn't actually an assortment of words; rather, it's an assortment of hackneyed phrases that people have simply been trained to string together when the appropriate circumstances arise. A writer who follows this training doesn't make his own meaning. He instead allows boring, overused sentences to construct meaning for him.

If you haven't read "Politics and the English Language," you should really turn away from your work for 20 minutes and give it a perusal.

Liam Julian

Florida Governor Charlie Crist stands with the state legislature, which just passed an anti-bullying law. "I'm against bullying, too," he said.

And I'm against purposeless laws that waste everyone's time.

Starting today, I'll do a weekly roundup of New York City union boss Randi Weingarten's most ridiculous statements from the week past. An occasional spot in the Gadfly (see here and here, for example) just doesn't do justice to the incredible dexterity with which she warps logic and reason.

This week's selection comes from this article in yesterday's New York Times about a New Teacher Project report showing that "New York City is paying $81 million over two years in salaries and benefits for teachers without permanent teaching jobs":

The report drew praise from city officials. But Randi Weingarten, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, dismissed it, calling the New Teacher Project a "wholly owned subsidiary" of the Education Department.... "The most repulsive part of this report is that the D.O.E. is abdicating its responsibility to help the teachers who, through no fault of their own, have lost their positions," Ms. Weingarten added. "It's the quintessential blame-the-victim strategy."

Yes, that's right Randi, it's not these teachers' fault that they can't find open positions in the biggest system in the country. I'm sure these teachers are all America's best and brightest....

Liam Julian

Coby will no doubt disagree with this interpretation. But his conclusion reminds one of that advanced by "post-partisans," those who think we should move beyond our (in Coby's words) "heated, theory-driven arguments" and find that hallowed, middle ground.

I recall National Review's Jonah Goldberg pointing out recently that post-partisan people are no such thing. In fact, they're actually very partisan folks who couch their ideas in post-partisan language and pressure others to accept a "compromise" that is, in reality, a surrender. Coby writes that we've reached a stalemate about the appropriateness of paying students for test scores and attendance, and that therefore we should simply allow districts to experiment with paying students for test scores and attendance and see if it works. Such experimentation is precisely what I'm arguing against, for lots of reasons, so I don't see myself accepting his solution.

I have no problem with the Baltimore program, though, which, if I understand it correctly, gives kids a certain amount of money to invest in the stock market and lets them keep the??dollars they earn from their investments.

This is different??from paying kids to attend class. In the stock market, making money is the return, so when we allow students to keep the dollars they earn through their investment savvy, we educate by replicating reality. When we inject cash incentives into areas where they do not belong, however, we pervert the incentives that already exist and students learn nothing for it. If they...

Liam Julian

The New York Times thinks the Big Apple's unemployable teachers should be fired.

Liam Julian

Ben Stein is really doing himself a disfavor by promoting his new documentary thusly. He's in cahoots with the Discovery Institute, the not-so-hidden agenda of which is to lend scientific credibility to intelligent design and push it into schools. Woefully, the strategy seems to be working in Florida and Louisiana. That's bad enough. But the Hitler angle is just too much, and someone needs to tell Stein and his buddies that they're leaving the realm of the respectable.

So why did Miami-Dade superintendent Rudy Crew turn down a principal's offer to work for a $1 salary? As paraphrased by the Miami Herald, he said it was because "a position budgeted at $1 a year plus benefits could not be filled if [the principal] left before year's end." To which the principal, replied, "New life has been thrust into this old body. With one more year, I could take these kids to the next level."

It sounds like new life needs to be thrust into the Miami-Dade school district, which has a habit of tangling itself in bureaucratic knots.

Liam Julian

When a school experiments with paying students for their good grades or attendance, as Coby suggests a school should if its leadership so chooses, it makes not simply a pedagogical or policy decision but an ethical one, too. Part of the trouble with handing out cash to 11-year-olds is that it puts parents uncomfortable with the action in the even more uncomfortable??arrangement of either a) allowing it or b) disallowing it and conspicuously rendering their children among the several who don't receive payment for??time served.

Parents have a right to a public-school education for their children that is unencumbered by controversial incursions unrelated to teaching and learning. Parents do not have a right, for example, to dictate that evolution, which may offend them, be forbidden from science class because evolution is an indubitable part of science and should therefore be taught. They can reasonably object to having their children exposed to a culture of cash payment for achievement, though, which is not indubitably part of learning and completely restructures the culture of achievement??to which??we so desperately cling??as the hope for inner-city schools. ??

We can debate whether or not paying kids to show up to class works, is a good idea, sets up good incentives, etc. We cannot debate that it has ethical reverberations that may not jibe with those parents wish to inculcate in their progeny. As such, it's a policy/pedagogy/ethical decision best left??alone....

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