Teachers Unions

If teacher’s want to be treated as professionals and to be given professional responsibilities, for their classrooms specifically and for educational policy generally, they must act like professionals in their dealings with school management and with the public. As long as they behave in their employment negotiations like interchangeable labor units, they can’t really expect to be treated as anything other than that in their classrooms.

Continue reading

The Office and the Occupant

The uproar over President Obama making a speech to school kids is ludicrous and, once again, undermines efforts to steer the liberals away from their most harmful and anti-liberty projects by making the conservatives, by association with such paranoia, look like idiots. The response, even to well-reasoned and principled opposition, is now the general-purpose dismissal, “Oh, it’s just those crazies again”; and a Republican party (and any Republican office-holder or aspirant) that wants to reclaim any moral authority and/or intellectual integrity should be up front in telling those people, “Get over yourselves! And stop claiming to speak for me!”

But I have to ask: Wasn’t the root of this paranoia established by the left during the Bush years?

The wingnuts complaining about Obama’s speech are failing to distinguish between the Office of the President and the man who occupies it. They so dislike and distrust the man that they can’t accept any action of the Office, no matter how proper and reasonable.

But wasn’t that precedent set by those leftist nutters who utterly refused to accept George W. Bush’s legitimacy — “He’ll never be my President!” — and who did everything in their power to undermine anything and everything he did just because he did it, even if it undermined the nation in the process? Did they not create the template of contempt for the Office that we are now seeing? Did they not set the pattern of refusal to respect the Office because they did not respect the man? And, if we are honest about it, was that not, in itself, a continuation of the pattern they set during the administrations of Nixon and Reagan (and, to be fair, embraced by the right during the Clinton years)?

Continue reading

Personal Responsibility

It seems in this, as in many things, we have seen a reasonable impulse lead inexorably to an unreasonable, and perhaps disastrous, outcome….

…As much as “conservative” talk of “values” and “social decay” has been derided as paranoia and prudery over the last decades, this is what they were talking about: that, compassion aside, if you consistently and persistently relieve people of responsibility for their own circumstances, then, over time, you inevitably create a culture in which people will not take responsibility for their own circumstances — and, in the end, you create a culture in which people not only will not do so but are incapable of doing so because no one has ever taught them how.

Continue reading

Where the Candidates’ Kids Go To School

Those who demand that all education resources must stay firmly and unaccountably within the public system — those whose official policy for fixing broken schools is that citizens must sacrifice their children now to the ideal and the (perhaps empty) promise of a more robust and egalitarian public school system later — are hard-pressed, then, to explain why they should be exempt from that sacrifice, themselves. Whether or not, in the long run, their policy preferences really will do the most and the best for our children’s education, voters are understandably, and perhaps rightfully, offended by leaders who would refuse to accept for themselves the sacrifices they demand of everyone else.

Continue reading

High School Exit Exams

I agree that the school system has probably failed them — but not by refusing to grant them a diploma; rather it has failed them by insisting that they are through with high-school merely because they have served their time and despite the fact that they can’t read and write English well enough to pass the MCAS exam. Justice would demand not an immediate — and meaningless — diploma but the opportunity for another year of intensive English instruction to overcome their deficiencies, followed by a well-earned and meaningful diploma which signified that they had, in fact, successfully completed the entirety of the high-school curriculum.

Continue reading

Liberty’s Kids and Liberty

The fact that complexities were over-simplified is part of the format and a necessary evil. However, at the end one of the characters, as a closing remark on the Constitution, read from its preamble. Nice touch — except that they left part of it (many would say the most important part) out. What they read was:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, …. , promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to us and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution of the United States of America.

What was left out, of course, were two of the primary purposes of government, ones which provide the necessary specifics for fulfilling what the Declaration of Independence considered the very reason for government to exist — the protection of individual rights. The missing phrases were:

… to ensure domestic tranquility, to provide for the common defense, ….

Continue reading

An Appearance of Discrimination

Proposition 209 in California abolished state-sponsored affirmative-action programs; affirmative-action in admissions for the University of California and the California State University had been eliminated earlier by a vote of the board of regents. The first reported results of the new policy were for law school admissions within the UC system, and they showed modest to drastic decreases in minority admissions; later results for other graduate and undergraduate programs showed smaller, but still significant, decreases. While those who unequivocally favor affirmative action insisted that the results proved the folly of proposition 209, I and others believe they are more properly viewed as an indicator of how ineffective affirmative action has been at addressing the problems underlying poor minority enrollment and achievement.

Continue reading

Mathematical Illiteracy

Adair Lara is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. In January of 1997 she wrote a piece about math, in which she implied that the study of math was a tortuous, pointless exercise. The column was lighthearted, and left room for a dissenting view, but for me it dredged up ugly high-school memories of the self-righteous pomposity with which the ‘liberal arts’ clique derogated the ‘math rocks’ and ‘science rocks’ as some inferior type of creature. There is a general attitude in our culture that to be mathematically illiterate is not only acceptable, but perhaps a source of pride — proof that you are a broad and open-minded thinker, not constrained to the ‘linear’ and ‘mechanical’ modes of thought required for mathematical rigor. As you might surmise, I disagree.

Continue reading