Tough Love for Schools: Essays on Competition, Accountability, and Excellence

Thea Stewart

Frederick M. Hess
The AEI Press
2006

In this volume, Hess presents a straightforward but unconventional approach to education reform. “The nature of tough love,” he writes in the introduction, “is that we demand more, not less, of the people and things we cherish.” Hess makes demands, and he eschews easy rhetoric. In one essay, “Technical Difficulties,” he writes: “Ultimately, if leaders lack the tools to increase efficiency, streamline their workforce, or sensibly reallocate resources, they won’t. Technology is not a miracle cure. It’s a tool.” He suggests that technology in the classroom can be more effective if fueled by competitive pressures. Just as manufacturers use technology to stay ahead of the competition, schools can use technology in the classroom to increase productivity and get results. For Hess, competition “works when it hurts,” and his comments about quality and accountability are similarly unbending—closing the doors of poor schools and firing inadequate teachers is sometimes necessary medicine. These essays address diverse topics, but they are united under one theme: schools need tough love, not excuses. Simple, straightforward, and true.