Question Authoritarianism

Yong Zhao warns that America is on a suicidal quest for educational excellence…

zhaoEduShyster: I have to start by paraphrasing my hero, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman: why can’t we have China’s education system for a day? 

Zhao: Because the Chinese system is not a system that you want to copy. I started thinking about writing this book a decade ago, after No Child Left Behind. I remember thinking *I can’t believe that the US is going to abandon what has made it a good country so far in order to try to copy a system that has been proven ineffective in producing a modern economy.* After a decade, it’s getting worse and worse, not just in education but in the rise in the glorification of authoritarianism in other domains. That’s how you end up with writers like Friedman asking *why can’t we be China for a day?* Every few decades people begin to question democracy because it isn’t as efficient as authoritarianism. On the one hand we condemn authoritarianism but at the same time we admire its actions. Continue reading →

Lab Rats

Welcome to New Orleans—America’s urban education laboratory

B. Frederic Skinner [Misc.]Do you dream of being part of our nation’s greatest experiment in urban education? I know I do—which is why I was thrilled to be the recipient of a recent Google ad inviting me to Teach, Live and Love New Orleans. Welcome to NOLA, reader, where you’ll find plenty of *that je ne sais quoi, that elan, that bon temps* but absolutely pas d’excuses. In other words, it’s time for us to button up our lab coats and get busy. We’ve got a city to colonize an achievement gap to crush. Continue reading →

The Great Big Lovin’ Walheart

The Walton family hearts America’s poor kids. Their parents? Not so much.

walheartWhen we last paid a call on our good friends the Waltons, we found them in a fine, beneficent fettle indeed. Armed with Walmart profits equivalent to the wealth of the bottom 42% of American families combined, the Waltons felt moved to wrap their arms around the nation’s burgeoning population of low-income children and hug them into college readiness and 21st century success. And I’ve got great, heartwarming news, reader. As this New York Times feature reveals, the Waltons’ great big lovin’ Walheart beats stronger than ever—and there is nary an education reform group nor a charter school that is not ententacled in the family’s tender embrace. Continue reading →

College Perp

Is harsh discipline really the best way to prepare low-income minority students for college?

silent lines

Quick reader: what is the best way to prepare low-income minority students for college and 21st-century success? If you answered *an obsessive focus on the students’ smallest behaviors (particularly infractions of the uniform variety) paired with plenty of harsh discipline for disciplinary infractions* you are in excellent company. In fact, almost everyone who is anyone these days is in near uniform agreement that harsh punishment today is a recipe for 21st century success tomorrow. Well, not everyone. A group of New Orleans parents recently filed suit, claiming that a *demeaning culture of discipline* at three of the city’s charter schools, including Sci Academy, considered a model charter for New Orleans and beyond, violates the civil rights of students.  Continue reading →

Arne Does Boston

Behind this week’s non-story is an interesting story…

What a week, reader! The excellence express rolled into the Bay State, carrying some seriously career-ready cargo—none other than Arne Duncan himself. What do you mean you didn’t know anything about it??? Now ordinarily this is the point at which I would lambaste you for eschewing excellence in favor of conducting your own race to the bottom of the wine box. But you’re off the hook. You see, almost no one knew that Arne was in town this week as his visit garnered nary an inch of newsprint. Which seems a little, well, odd, given that the battle over the Liftin O’ the Charter Cap is reaching its acme. Tin foil at the ready, reader. It’s time for another edition of *the story behind the story.*  Continue reading →