Liam Julian

Coby's latest spark--that students (or their parents) who rated their teachers online could provide useful feedback--is intriguing. He's right that such k-12 rating websites exist (see here) but haven't reached a critical mass of users. Even if they did, though,??the whole idea has a major drawback: This.

What is fair criticism and what is insult? What is fair moderating and what is censorship? Do we really want to inject more of this legal mish-mash into the school day?

Liam Julian

Speaking of legal issues in schools.... According to Education Week:

A federal appeals court has ordered an Illinois school district to allow a student to wear a T-shirt proclaiming "Be Happy, Not Gay" to protest a high school event meant to promote tolerance of gay students.

First, one struggles to understand Judge Posner's thinking when he writes, "???Be Happy, Not Gay' is only tepidly negative; 'derogatory' or 'demeaning' seems too strong a characterization." Seems that "derogatory" exactly describes such a slogan. Is a sartorial expression of "Be Happy. Not Italian" (or whatever) similarly "tepidly negative"?

Possibly it is by Judge Posner's thinking, which he elucidated in his decision by writing, "People do not have a legal right to prevent criticism of their beliefs or, for that matter, their way of life." One suspects that lots of people wouldn't classify homosexuality as a belief, akin to Christianity or global warming or that Miley Cyrus is better than Bach, but as an immutable thing--like skin-color or ethnicity. It's good to protect everyone's right to challenge beliefs, generally speaking.??But should students have a protected right, in school, to challenge the validity of another student's being?

Second, and more importantly: Why is Judge Posner even bothering with this? Why is any judge? The answer, of course, is that Tinker established all sorts of k-12 student rights that make it incredibly difficult for administrators to exercise authority on their campuses without ending up in court. A far better route, the...

Several people questioned my argument the other day that bad ideas tend to flow from higher education to our K-12 education system (e.g., here and here). I would encourage ambitious readers find a way to access this longer piece by Checker and see if they still doubt the trickle-down theory.

I also argued that now a bad idea is flowing in the opposite direction--the hyper-unionization of the workforce. But the good folks at the American Federation of Teachers' "FACE Talk" blog raised a red flag about my insinuation that a unionized workforce is a new development in higher education:

Higher education, including graduate employees, have been forming unions for the purpose of collective bargaining for nearly 40 years. There was a notable acceleration of that effort in the '80s and '90s as more and more TAs and RAs were being employed to teach undergraduate courses. As a result (and I don't mean to scare you Mike), there are now over 40,000 graduate employees represented by unions, which actually represents a significant portion of that workforce.

Actually, this does scare me... and goes a long way to explaining why college tuition is soaring. But point taken; I'll try to stick closer to my K-12 beat from now on. Still, this line of theirs caught my eye:

Oh, and by the way, that level of unionization is true for faculty and staff in higher education as well.

Are they saying that...

Liam Julian

Vouchers will be on the ballot in Florida in November.

Liam Julian

Science writer Jonah Lehrer on algebra: "Abstract concepts, untethered to experience, are never internalized by our neurons."

Or are they?

Liam Julian

George Will has a nice column today on A Nation At Risk. He mentions Checker's book, too.

Update: Mike says the column doesn't just mention Checker's book; it "summarizes it!" Let's compromise on "highlights."

According to Sol Stern, it's not his (literal) bomb-throwing past but his (figurative) bomb-throwing present:

Instead of planting bombs in public buildings, Ayers now works to indoctrinate America's future teachers in the revolutionary cause, urging them to pass on the lessons to their public school students.... As Ayers puts it in one of his course descriptions, prospective K-12 teachers need to "be aware of the social and moral universe we inhabit and... be a teacher capable of hope and struggle, outrage and action, a teacher teaching for social justice and liberation."

Nor is his thinking outside the "mainstream" of the ed school professoriate; Stern reports that Ayers was recently elected Vice President for Curriculum of the American Educational Research Association. Perfect.

Liam Julian

You can find a different take on George Will's column over at The Quick and the Ed. The author, Kevin Carey, is a very detail-oriented guy, but one wonders if today he hasn't missed the forest for the trees.

It's no secret that George Will's writing is less than confident (realistic, perhaps?) about the future of public education, but is Carey's assertion that Will "believes that public education is irredeemable, that efforts to improve it are basically useless" correct? One can't know what George Will thinks, but one can know what he writes, and his article today is simply a clear evaluation of the "reforms" that have predominated in the k-12 sphere. Like it or not, they've largely failed. Whether or not Will thinks the whole operation is "useless" and "irredeemable" is never stated, and it isn't all that important, anyway.

Carey nitpicks about some of the least important parts of Will's piece, and he doesn't like Will's harsh tone. Yet, Moynihan (who is mentioned in the column) did not soften his tone when deriding the more-foolish strategies that run amok in America's schools, and neither does Checker. But beyond all that, can Carey truly argue with Will's larger point: that dumb ideas have taken public education in the wrong direction?

Liam Julian

Now is as good a time as any to mention that the deadline for Fordham Fellows applications--the day by which all those who wish for Fellowship must submit the apposite materials--is nearing: April 30th it is.

Fordham Fellows is a 9-month program that endeavors to bring bright young things to Washington, D.C., and introduce them to the world of education policy by setting them up with work at one of several top-notch education-policy organizations. Furthermore, Fellows earn the equivalent of $25,000 for their 9-months of work ("equivalent" not because we pay in yuan, but because we're including healthcare and transportation subsidies in the sum).

Click here for information, and hurry!

Liam Julian

The Economist has an article about the challenges confronting South Dakota's rural schools and school districts.

In many of these cases, virtual education could be a solution. Education Sector's Bill Tucker recently wrote about virtual education, albeit as a catalyst for high-school reform, in The Gadfly.