American kids overworked, overscheduled and underperforming?

On Pearl Harbor Day 2010, America was hit with a bombshell.

Some say it rivals Sputnik, the 1957 Soviet satellite launch, in its alarming message about American education. Across the world, in 65 countries, 15-year-olds were administered a standardized test (PISA, or Program for International Student Assessment) measuring knowledge of reading, science and math. The winners in all three categories were students in Shanghai taking the test for the first time. Americans scored what can charitably be called in the range of average.

(See here for a chart ranking performance — Shanghai, as noted, at the top and Kyrgyzstan at the bottom). Korea — that would be South Korea — also did very well; we might try to figure out how to learn its secrets of success when the trade deal with that country wends its way through a fractious Congress.)


Legacy admissions

Liberals are quick to decry legacy admissions to universities (where the children of alumni — usually big-time donor alumni — are granted admission), silver-spoon heirs who take over their fathers’ companies, nepotism in the workplace — all on the grounds that what should matter most in all of these scenarios is merit, not connections, family trees and contributions to university coffers. Underlying all of this is the assumption that, were it not for these crucial connections, the people who benefit from them would never otherwise have been considered. In other words, liberals stereotype all such beneficiaries as unqualified but for daddy’s grace.


What is education reform?

These are interesting times for education reform in America today. A lot of politicians on both sides of the aisle are calling for it, but no one seems to know what “reform” really looks like.

The issue reached new levels of salience just a few weeks ago when “Waiting for Superman” — the new Davis Guggenheim documentary following five students and their futures in charter schools — opened to nationwide critical acclaim. 


March against the NEA, not with it

So the NAACP, La Raza and the teachers unions are organizing a march on the Mall next month.

Does anybody else see the terrible irony here?

Ben Jealous, the head of the NAACP, loves to point to the possible racists among the Tea Party. Jealous is zealous in his pursuit of Tea Party racists.


College censorship

A conservative student organization attending Palm Beach State College in Florida was recently denied the right to form due to rhetoric criticizing President Obama’s economic policy. The student police, who quickly kicked the group from a recruitment event, handled the situation eerily similar to Hitler’s secret police.

Daniel Diaz and Eddie Shaffer, state members of Young Americans for Freedom — the group victimized — were kicked off campus after college administrator Ms. Ford-Morris was appalled by the material they presented; material published by the Heritage Foundation.


California's latest spending outrage

It’s great to see that California, known for their uncontrollable government spending and large deficit, has the money to spend $578 million on a school just a year after they asked the government to bail them out. The school is the costliest in the nation and will be located in Los Angeles.



Three teachers helped spark something in me that made my education worth something.

I wasn’t a very studious student in grade school or high school. I didn’t have much in the way of study habits. But I got lucky because I had three teachers — one in grade school, one in middle school and one in high school — who helped me become very interested in the one subject that would help me get a decent-paying job once I left college.


Public-education crisis

Anyone who tells you that public schools are public because anyone can go to any school is lying.

You can only go to the schools where you can afford to live in the neighborhood; the school quality is part of the expense of that house.

In effect, our public school system remains separate and unequal.

Bottom line: The public school system is failing its students — particularly those of color.


Toy soldiers

When I was growing up, I was obsessed with toy soldiers.

I had armies of little Army guys and little German soldiers, whom I would array in various little battles. In place of a howitzer, a well-shot rubber band would often serve as the artillery, and proved the temporary death of a many a little German dude.

One of my earliest memories was getting a Fort Apache set for Christmas. It had little U.S. cavalry soldiers and little Indians, and it provided me with hours of fun.


Q&A with Michelle Rhee: Part III

In Part III of our interview with D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, she tells us how she stays fit, how her relationship with an NBA star and mayor of Sacramento works (the wedding is Sept. 4 in Sacramento wearing a Vera Wang gown, and her daughters "are way more into wedding planning than I am!") and why Joel Klein, chancellor of New York City schools, is her hero and mentor.

Institute for Education high school journalism interns Christina Valentine, Georgie Milanovic and Jenny Shore collaborated with me in this lively, informative Q-and-A. Enjoy our capital city's transformational chancellor, Michelle Rhee. We thought she rocked!