A modest proposal, perhaps.
It’s been entertaining watching American public “discourse” since the election. (I use that word in its broadest, most ridiculous sense, since nothing that hinges so completely on self-absorption, rank ignorance and pathological dishonesty can be accurately characterized by such a noble word. But indulge me. I’ve been working on my irony lately.)
On the one hand you have conservatives fainting dead away that we’re now in the clutches of a “socialist” president. Never mind that these folks wouldn’t know a real socialist if he was gnawing their balls off. Never mind that most of these folks think “socialist” is the French word for Negro. Never mind that Obama demonstrably is to socialism what Joe the Plumber is to brie-sucking Northeastern intellectualism. As arch-conservative TV pundit Stephen Colbert says, “this is a fact-free zone.”
On the other you have the righteous outrage of the progressosphere, which feels six different kinds of betrayed by a president who promised them the moon and stars and has now left them to what looks like at least a four-year walk of shame. If I might borrow from an old fraternity joke, imagine the following scene from the Oval Office: Read more
Almost 50 days into his administration President Obama made his way around to what strikes me as America’s #1 long-term issue, education. The soundbite is pretty catchy: he wants to overhaul the system “from the cradle up through a career.”
A compelling sentiment, that is. Our educational system couldn’t be much more broken, and a righteous keelhauling overhauling is certainly in order. But the rhetoric doesn’t tell us a lot. Read more
Eric Haas and our friends over at the Rockridge Institute have a great Monday Weekly Workgroup feature that I encourage everybody to investigate. Today the subject is homeschooling, and that’s obviously one that’s going to matter to a lot of folks here. Several of us at S&R either are or were educators and it’s a topic our readers have demonstrated a good deal of concern for, as well.
Eric frames this week’s conversation nicely: Read more
The biggest challenge my EducationF1rst initiative faces is one of momentum: America is not, and never has been, an intellectual culture. We do not, however much we might protest, live in a nation that treasures teaching and learning. On the list of things that we care about, education falls well to the south of things like entertainment and sports. Worse, in Instant GratificatioNation there is little tolerance for long-term solutions. We want it, we want it now, and if you don’t give it to us you will be out of business.
On the learning front, America is an object at rest, and objects at rest tend to remain that way until acted on by some force. Read more
Hi. I’m Sam Smith, and I’m running for President.
The discipline question is one of the most difficult ones facing this campaign, and even as we construct the strategic platform plank we’re sobered by the tactical realities that must be faced.
Some schools are dangerous places. A lot more are significantly less effective than they should be because of disruptive students and the fact that we seem not to have the mechanisms to deal with them. A couple problem students can have a dramatic impact on the function of the classroom and the resulting learning by other students. The DS08 campaign does not believe anyone has a right to infringe upon the learning atmosphere, because in doing so they undermine the ultimate goal of universal opportunity. Read more
Hi. I’m Sam Smith, and I’m running for president on a platform that stresses education’s critical role in solving our nation’s problems and assuring a future of universal opportunity for all citizens. Today I’m introducing my platform plank on curriculum, a cornerstone concern for any productive educational system.
One size does not fit all. It goes without saying that we must emphasize education in mathematics and the sciences, as these skills provide the foundation we need to compete in a world of increasing technical complexity. Language, writing and communication skills, which have been sadly de-emphasized in the past 20 years, are also essential. Read more
Our nation’s current teach-to-the-test pathology is strong evidence of how our educational system has failed in deep, fundamental ways. However, President Bush’s No Child Left Untested debacle is a program that benefits nobody except his friends in the educational publishing industry. It’s bad for teachers and worse for students, who wind up graduating with no critical thinking skills, no ability to solve problems or unravel novel challenges, and an abject lack of skills necessary to succeed in college and the professional world that awaits them when their formal schooling ends. In essence, they learn to take multiple choice tests, a talent that’s of zero value in the real world.
However, we continue to insist on more and more testing so as to assure “accountability,” a cynical, silly misappellation that aggressively refuses to acknowledge the real problems facing our schools. Read more
As noted yesterday, a new national intelligence report has caught the Bush White House in yet another round of warmongering lies. No real surprise there. The revelation elicited a range of replies from a variety of predictably interested parties.
John Edwards opted for flat honesty:
The new National Intelligence Estimate shows that George Bush and Dick Cheney’s rush to war with Iran is, in fact, a rush to war. Read more
Hi. I’m Sam Smith, and I’m running for president.
Contrary to what some “reformers” seem to believe, the laws of economics apply to teaching. An extremely talented teaching candidate who’s bright enough to earn $80,000 in another field isn’t likely to settle for $25,000 to teach, especially when current policies have turned the job into a thankless slog. There are plenty of incredibly talented people out there who fit this description, but when push comes to shove theyâ€™re simply not willing to sacrifice their ability to earn a decent living. Read more
At present we have a public education model built on a lot of obsolete 19th Century assumptions about organization and pedagogy. In a sense, weâ€™re trying to pound the square peg of student needs into the round hole of bureaucratic entitlement and the agrarian and industrial impulses that shaped it. This stops the day I take office. Instead, we will re-envision the very structure and purpose of education, teaching, administration, compensation and reward.
A critical element of the EdF1rst restructuration will involve shifting of administrative functions (and their resource expenditures) from central offices to the schools and an attendant transfer of autonomy from bureaucratic centers to teachers. Read more
Put simply, education is the single most critical issue we face. Every dollar (wisely) spent today on teaching and learning is an investment in our future. While thereâ€™s no magic remedy for all our ills, education comes closest to being a panacea, because when you educate, youâ€™re crafting the minds that will solve all other challenges.
For example: a dollar spent on education is also a dollar spent on the looming energy crisis. Teaching cultivates the minds that will one day develop the sustainable, environmentally friendly fuel resources we need to assure the growth of our economy and our independence from unstable foreign suppliers.
A dollar spent on education is a dollar spent on preventing and curing disease, Read more
Hi. I’m Sam Smith, and I’d like your vote.
In January I launched Dr. Slammy in 2008, my doomed campaign for president. Then a few months later, forgetting that there are only 24 hours in a day, I got myself embroiled in this Scholars & Rogues project. Something had to give, and as a result I let the DS08 initiative slide.
As the presidential campaign has hotted up, though, it’s become clearer and clearer that America needs a candidate who’s willing to approach our problems with some genuinely fresh perspective. Candidates from both major parties are having a hard time differentiating themselves, and for good reason: there’s just not much difference between them. Read more