May 2009 Archives

Dear Diane, I got a few blasts for the comments you liked on Klein/Sharpton/Gingrich’s (EEP) civil rights efforts. It hit a nerve. Our obsession with schools is both a healthy and an unhealthy aspect of the American psyche. This is, at least, the second time we’ve placed schools at the center of the civil rights movement. Dr. King moved on to other issues—above all to poverty—before he died. But poverty was less appealing to the conscience of the country, and he isn’t remembered for that work. We have a very strong heritage...


Dear Deborah, I was glad to read your comments on the faux-Education Equality Project (EEP), now headed by New York City’s Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and the Reverend Al Sharpton, with the assistance of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The papers used to call Klein and Sharpton the odd couple; now they will have to refer to the leaders as the odd trio. I have wondered why veterans of the civil rights movement of the 20th Century were willing to sit by silently and see their language corrupted by present-day politicians. The civil rights movement was about dignity, justice, ...


Dear Diane, It would have chilled Martin Luther King’s blood to see how the struggle for equality has been narrowed into a race for higher test scores in a society that abandoned Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” We are now one of the least equal and least mobile modem societies. Less racist than we once were, but no less disdainful of “losers.” Our individualistic modes of thought have gotten badly skewed to just mean “it’s your own fault.” Or if blame must be placed, it’s the fault of those on the next rung up the ladder. ...


Dear Deborah, You seem to believe that I was chastising "the poor" for their lack of manners. Not at all! We live in an age when manners, self-discipline, respect for others, civility, and courtesy are in short supply in all parts of society. Like you, I have encountered many children from comfortable, middle-class, and affluent backgrounds who were spoiled, undisciplined, selfish, and disrespectful of others. I agree that no social class has a monopoly on manners and behavior. The subject came up in the context of David Brooks' column about "The Harlem Miracle." Brooks made the point that the results ...


You and I, Diane, want an intellectually feisty citizenry, and that’s what we don’t offer the poor.


Dear Deborah, The columnists at The New York Times are deeply engaged in school reform these days. First Nicholas Kristof discovered that the key to high achievement is measuring student test score gains, then paying more to the teachers whose students gained the most. Then Thomas Friedman discovered that Teach for America was the key to national educational greatness, despite its small numbers. Now David Brooks has discovered "The Harlem Miracle," which is a charter school called Harlem Promise Academy, run by the Harlem Children's Zone. Brooks says that this school has closed the achievement gap. If anyone missed the ...


Dear Diane, I think it’s unlikely that the fans of mayoral control are open to persuasion. But thanks, Diane, for relentlessly pursuing them. We’re in for lots of nonsense in the name of reform. Arne Duncan is planning a contest for a new name to replace the unpopular No Child Left Behind. It’s the name, apparently, that he sees as the problem. Actually, it’s the only thing I like about the bill! Meanwhile Sharpton and Klein and Co. (EEP) are planning a rally in D.C. to end poverty (hurrah), by…"closing the testing gap.” And, ...


Dear Deborah, I watched with some amusement as the media tried to figure out how to report the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Margaret Spellings said that the results vindicated the success of No Child Left Behind. The story by Sam Dillon of The New York Times reported that the achievement gaps—which the law was designed to eliminate—remained unchanged, and the headline of the story was “’No Child’ Law Is Not Closing a Racial Gap.” So which is it? Were the results heartening or not? I’ll try to parse them here for...


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