Tag: Charles Murray


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Rewind: The Dropout Nation Podcast: Building a Culture of Genius in Education


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As a further elaboration on Tuesday’s Dropout Nation commentary on the anti-intellectualism within traditional public education circles, listen to this Dropout Nation Podcast on the importance of fostering a culture…

As a further elaboration on Tuesday’s Dropout Nation commentary on the anti-intellectualism within traditional public education circles, listen to this Dropout Nation Podcast on the importance of fostering a culture of genius in education. Playing off John Taylor Gatto’s famed declaration, I discuss how schools and teachers should educate kids from the perspective that almost all children are geniuses. The emergence of high-quality alternatives to traditional public education, along with research on child development and teacher quality shows that all children can succeed if we foster a culture of genius in American public education.

You can listen to the Podcast at RiShawn Biddle’s radio page or download directly to your iPod, MP3 player or smartphone. Also, subscribe to the podcast series. It is also available on iTunes, Blubrry, Podcast Alley, the Education Podcast NetworkZune Marketplace and PodBean. Also, access it on Viigo if you have a BlackBerry.

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The Dropout Nation Podcast: Why We Need College Prep Curricula


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On this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, I examine arguments made by Charles Murray and others that American students don’t need high-quality college prep curricula — and explain why such thinking…

Dropout Nation Podcast Cover

On this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, I examine arguments made by Charles Murray and others that American students don’t need high-quality college prep curricula — and explain why such thinking is mistaken. As nearly every aspect of the American economy — and the global economy at large — has become knowledge-based, every job (including blue-collar positions) require strong skills in algebra, trigonometry and the kind of knowledge that used to only be required for college. College prep curricula is also fundamental for American society to keep its place as the economy and culture in which even the poorest can rise to the top.

You can listen to the Podcast at RiShawn Biddle’s radio page or download directly to your iPod, MP3 player or smartphone. Also, subscribe to the podcast series. It is also available on iTunes, Blubrry, Podcast Alley, the Education Podcast NetworkZune Marketplace and PodBean. Also, add the podcast on Viigo, if you have a BlackBerry, iPhone or Android phone.

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The Dropout Nation Podcast: Building a Culture of Genius in Education


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On this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, I elaborate on famed teacher John Taylor Gatto‘s signature quote that we should educate from the perspective that almost all children are geniuses. The…

Dropout Nation Podcast Cover

On this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, I elaborate on famed teacher John Taylor Gatto‘s signature quote that we should educate from the perspective that almost all children are geniuses. The emergence of high-quality alternatives to traditional public education, along with research on child development and teacher quality shows that all children can succeed if we foster a culture of genius in American public education.

You can listen to the Podcast at RiShawn Biddle’s radio page or download directly to your iPod, MP3 player or smartphone. Also, subscribe to the podcast series. It is also available on iTunes, Blubrry, Podcast Alley, the Education Podcast NetworkZune Marketplace and PodBean. Also, access it on Viigo.

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The Economic Importance of High-Quality Curricula


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A dominant debate in education reform is over whether or not students should have to take on high-quality, college-preparatory curricula or should be able to choose a vocational-oriented curricula that…

The argument over whether kids need high-quality curricula -- and higher education -- is redundant and moot in this day in age. Every child needs high-quality education. (Photo courtesy of Forbes)

A dominant debate in education reform is over whether or not students should have to take on high-quality, college-preparatory curricula or should be able to choose a vocational-oriented curricula that allows them to get jobs immediately. Defenders of the first group (including the Gates Foundation and Kevin Carey of the Education Sector) rightly point out that children need college prep curricula in order to avoid being part of the 50 percent or more of college freshmen who end up in remedial courses and thus never graduate. The other side (a motley crew that includes Charles Murray and defenders of traditional public education) argues that far too many kids are going to college anyway, that they are going for degrees in jobs that don’ t actually need higher levels of preparation, that the curricula is too challenging for most kids, and that they would be best apprenticing for positions.

This isn’t a new argument. In fact, it is as old as the debate over whether high schools should be college prep-oriented (as legendary Harvard University president Charles Eliot envisioned and successfully pushed in the late 19th century) or the comprehensive track-based system that has been predominant for the past 70 years. The racialist origins of the latter (that blacks and immigrants couldn’t succeed academically) notwithstanding, the argument remains active especially in the age of No Child Left Behind and modern school reform. For those who believe in vocational education — shop classes and the like — the emphasis on academic curricula to them is a bias against blue-collar work.

But a list compiled earlier this month by Forbes should put an end to this counterproductive argument. The evidence is clear: All kids need a high-quality curricula that prepares them for higher education of all kinds, be it college, vocational college or apprenticeships.

The list, America’s Best Paying Blue-Collar Jobs, notes that just about all the top-paying positions that don’t involve working at a desk require some form of higher education. An elevator repairman and installer, for example, must apprentice for four years before being ready to take on a complex job that involves aspects of mechanical engineering, structural engineering and electrical engineering. Another position, rotary drill operators in the oil industry, usually need to have an Associate’s degree in order to get through the door. Electrical and electronics installers — including those who work on power plants and substations — also need community college education and will spend a few years working alongside veterans to gain experience. The only job that doesn’t require such experience (in theory) are long-hall truck drivers; even then, many of them go to technical school to learn how to drive big rigs and buses (if they don’t already have such experience from working at Greyhound).

In essence, all of these positions require some sort of higher education — not in the 19th century sense of just the Ivy League campus, but in a much-older sense of apprenticeships, technical colleges and yes, traditional private and public universities. This shouldn’t be a surprise. As I’ve mentioned on this site, welders need higher-level math skills such as trigonometry just to qualify for apprenticeships within the automotive industry, and machine tool-die manufacturers are often experts in algebra, calculus and other mathematical subjects. Highly-skilled blue-collar professionals need high-level math skills — and the underlying reading skills that help young men and women learn how to master the underlying symbols and knowledge that girds all of mathematics — as much as their white-collar counterparts.

The coming generation faces even more complexity. Thanks to the Internet and the advancement of data systems in every sector, mastering statistics  is now critical for journalists, marketers and many other white-collar and blue-collar professionals. Plumbers — often cited by opponents of high-quality curricula as the ultimate high-pay no-skill job — requires technical education (and strong underlying K-12 education) in order to make it. Even auto repair work — once grease monkey work in the minds of previous generations — is now a knowledge-based sector thanks to the widespread use of computers in engines and other sections of cars.

What all children need is a high-quality curricula, no matter where they live or what school they attend, in order to choose their own path in a much-more expanded concept of higher education that includes traditional college, vocational school, community colleges and apprenticeships.  So do our communities, especially the poor urban communities that suffer as a result of the failures of dropout factories and the rest of traditional public education; they cannot be revived without a core group of middle-class white-collar and blue-collar professionals to lead the way. So does society: Plumbers should be able to easily cite Chaucer in polite conversation, if they so choose; after all, Western Culture cannot survive and thrive without highly-educated people at every level and professional rank. If we all truly believe in lifelong learning, eliminating all limitations on that is crucial to encouraging all children to become well-studied adults.

It is no longer a question of whether children need high-quality, higher ed-driven curricula or not. It is a question of whether they will get it before we all pay the price. Or in short, the Kevin Careys and the Charles Murrays just need to stop arguing and get to work.

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READ: Friday Edition


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My apologies, folks. I’ve just finished a series of new projects, including a profile on the Gates Foundation’s work in education that runs today in Foundation Watch ( a link…

golden_appleMy apologies, folks. I’ve just finished a series of new projects, including a profile on the Gates Foundation’s work in education that runs today in Foundation Watch ( a link will be submitted on Monday). Meanwhile, onto all the news that seems fit to print:

Heather Mac Donald checks out the University of California, Berkeley study on the cognitive development of Latino children — and reaches her usual anti-immigrationist conclusions. Appropriate for her. My thoughts on this will come soon.

Andrew Coulson gives Charles Murray the business. He also invites rising education star Ben Chavis along for the ride.

Pennsylvania’s high courts sees fit to bring justice to thousands of wrongly-convicted juvenile offenders caught up in that state’s pay for freedom scandal. As I have mentioned in the past, juvenile justice is often anything but.

The latest comparison of state results to the National Assessment of Educational Progress is out. As more than a few people point out, states are gaming the system once again.

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The Read


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If it’s happening in the dropout nation, you can find it here. Updated continuously throughout the day (asterisks are next to new and updated items): Getting only half the story:…

Helpling with homework and attending the PTA is no longer the only part parents must play in their children's academic lives. They must also help in shaping their curricula -- and must have the tools and support to do so. (Photo courtesy of needsfoundation.org)

Helpling with homework and attending the PTA is no longer the only part parents must play in their children's academic lives. They must also help in shaping their curricula -- and must have the tools and support to do so. (Photo courtesy of needsfoundation.org)

If it’s happening in the dropout nation, you can find it here. Updated continuously throughout the day (asterisks are next to new and updated items):

  • Getting only half the story: Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is clearly no fan of the school voucher program being proposed by Georgia State Sen. Eric Johnson. Why? From his perspective… Actually, make that after talking to “teachers and administrators,” Bookman concludes that the single most important solution to student academic failure is parental involvement. And vouchers won’t, from his perspective, won’t help children with “uninvolved parents.” Bookman, however, should actually spend time with parents — both poor and middle-class — who are extraordinarily involved in shaping the academic careers of their students, who have found working with school bureaucrats and teachers to be, at times, rather unpleasant.
  • One of the issues not addressed by most education commentators is the reality that the school experience — that is, dealing with administrators and teachers who, due to gaining a number of graduate degrees  in education (whatever their value in terms of improving instructional training and subject-matter competency) can be, at best, intimidating. And from my own experiences with some teachers, there are a fair share of teachers out there who are just plain arrogant. If pu
  • This isn’t to say that there aren’t parents who just simply ignore their children’s educational — and ultimately, economic and social destiny. Nor is to say that civic society must play a strong role in helping poor parents (and even middle-class ones) make good school choices — a major issue in school choice that my fellow libertarians often fail to address — by creating advisory centers and parent education clinics. Nor can one say that private schools can, in the main, always do a better job of educating students than public schools; given that traditional public, public charter and private schools pull from the same schools of education — many of which are woefully inept in preparing teachers for real-world instruction – students in all three sectors may be getting shortchanged. But parents should have the right to shape their children’s academic destinies — and get the opportunities to do so. More than ever, this nation’s dropout crisis requires parents to play strong, active (and untraditional; no mere PTA participation and field trip malarkey) in guiding their children into productive adulthood.
  • An example of the struggles* faced by parents — especially poor ones — who want to improve the academic careers of their children can be found today in the AJC in a guest column by Lydia Glaize. Read on.
  • Perhaps you shouldn’t have gone to MIT — or Harvard: Charles Murray joins the ‘college doesn’t matter’ crowd in his latest piece in the Wall Street Journal. I can understand the argument Murray is making. But I would argue that all high school students need to attend some form of higher education — be it academic, technical or otherwise — immediately after they graduate high school (whether they need to finish is a different story). And given the demands of the knowledge-based economy, they will need to develop their own plans for lifetime learning once they get into the workforce. More importantly, as Kevin Carey might ask, can Murray — a renown author and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute — ever say he regrets going to college?
  • Two-thirds lost: Village Voice legend Nat Hentoff takes a thoughtful look at one of the most stubborn problems facing New York schools chief Joel Klein: Reversing one of the nation’s worst graduation rates for black males. And unlike another New York icon (yes, you, Sol Stern), he actually takes a more balanced view of Klein’s successes and challenges.
  • Meanwhile: The new graduation rate for the Big Apple is released, along with state numbers. If you believe the state numbers, 56 percent of the city’s graduating Class of 2007 garnered sheepskins.
  • And you can find another version of my piece on H-1B visas and school teachers at EducationNews.org.
  • Broader ain’t bolder. Or in Boulder*: Ken DeRosa and Jay Greene each give critique Broader, Bolder Coalition supporter (and UFT bigwig) Leo Casey’s defense of the anti-No Child Left Behind Act’s agenda. Your editor’s take: Although I will agree that there are numerous social issues that need to be dealt with, either through a civic society approach or a better attuning of the welfare state, schools really can’t fully address or mitigate those issues. They can, however, strengthen standards and curricula, improve their inadequate data systems, embrace more rigorous, information-driven instructional methods, recruit more effective teachers and spend more school time on instruction — none of which is done adequately now. Most importantly of all, they can elevate the expectations they have for all children, instead of the patronizing and shameful educational treatment of poor children embraced by Broader, Bolder. ‘We can’t educate these screwed-up children’ isn’t a mantra — or formula — for success.

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