Tag Archives: New York Times

A School is Not a Pet. And Yet . . .

This weekend’s story in the New York Times about former NFL star Deion Sanders’ struggling charter school lays bare much of what’s wrong with the way Americans think about public education in general, and charter schools in particular.

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This is Your Brain on Test Scores

There are two seemingly unrelated columns in today’s Opinion page of the New York Times that provide a crisp summary of where we stand in our current thinking about school reform — and where we need to go.

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The World is . . . a Sisyphean Hill of Policy Smackdowns?

As a former teacher with a MBA, I read a lot of “business books.” And of the titles I’ve read over the past few years, none have characterized the future of public education more presciently than Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when I read an Op-Ed in this weekend’s New York Times in which Friedman abandons the nascent non-hierarchical plains of the twenty-first century for the familiar twentieth-century terrain of command-and-control. Yet there it is – and there he is – writing about the future of school reform, and praising the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program.

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Hey Tom — When it Comes to Ed Reform, China is the Least of Our Worries

Tom Friedman has a new column abut education in today’s New York Times, in which he almost makes an important point about the state of K-12 schooling in America and what we can do to improve it.

The thing Friedman gets right is the easy part — the fact that despite the willingness of American politicians to keep beating the xenophobic drums and lead the chant for everything to be “made in America,” American businesses are already operating in the flat world of globalization and cost efficiency. Consequently, Friedman writes, “the trend is that for more and more jobs, average is over.”

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In Defense of the Department of Education, Diplomacy and . . . Defense

Two unrelated articles in yesterday’s New York Times – one about the ostensible decline of influence in American geopolitics, and the other about the ostensible rise of autism in American schoolchildren – have led me to consider a radical proposal:

Let’s merge the Departments of Education, State and Defense.

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Should Schools be More or Less Democratic?

Like most parents of a young child, I’m trying to decide which environment will be the best for my son when he enters a public school for the first time next fall. At nearly every open house my wife and I attend, cheerful administrators and educators tout the advantage of being a “participatory” school, and of “giving children the opportunity to learn and work in groups.” Send your child here, they tell us, and he’ll acquire a core set of democratic skills – from working collaboratively to acting empathetically – that will help him successfully negotiate our increasingly interconnected global community.

Sounds great, I say – until I open my Sunday New York Times and read a cover story warning against the rise of a new type of groupthink. “Most of us now work in teams,” writes author Susan Cain, “in offices without walls, for managers who prize people skills above all. Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is in. But there’s a problem with this view. Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption.”

Whom should we trust? Have we overvalued democratic skills like collaboration and shared decision-making to our own detriment? And, in the end, should our schools be more or less democratic?

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Art in the Ownership Society

If you’re looking for the latest signs of America’s cultural descent into inanity, look no further than this weekend’s Sunday Styles section in the New York Times, and its review of Maria Abramovic’s performance piece at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art’s recent fundraising gala.

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What We Talk About When We Talk About School Reform

With all due respect to Flannery O’Connor, my vote for greatest American short-story writer goes to Ray Carver. And with all due respect to America’s current crop of leaders, my hope is that they convene a summer book club to read Carver’s stories – and heed his central message.

I’m thinking specifically of his collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. As with all of Carver’s work, it’s a collection filled with a cast of characters best suited for the island of misfit toys – or the town in which you live. These are people who are down on their luck, who have fallen out of love, and who are struggling to find the right words to communicate their feelings, their thoughts, and their sense of how (and where) it all went wrong. Reflected in Carver’s spartan prose are the surface realities of life – the quotidian desperation of the things we sometimes say, see and do. But his genius comes from his ability to surface the submerged emotions of living – the weight of grief, the insufficiency of the words we live by, the slow acknowledgement of seeing what we don’t want to see. Carver’s stories are always about what we know, what we are perpetually struggling to know, and what we talk about while we linger in the chasm in between.

Which leads us to the present moment.

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The X Factor of School Reform

In case you missed it, there was a great piece in yesterday’s New York Times, the core message of which has a lot of relevance for those of us who, barely a week removed from not one but two major reports of misleading test data being used to evaluate schools and school districts, continue to […]

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Judicial Activism & the Yelp-ification of Voting?

As someone who never travels without his pocket U.S. Constitution, I loved that yesterday’s New York Times forced me to revisit the two sections that deal with Judicial and Executive power — Articles III and II, respectively.

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