Join Jim and Greg as they welcome steady progress in reopening schools, as nearly half of U.S. school districts are now open for in-person learning. While understanding the desire to exit Afghanistan, they’re wondering whether President Biden has learned anything from his botching of the U.S. departure from Iraq that helped trigger the rise of ISIS. And the short fuse of the Biden administration is on display again after left-leaning probability expert Nate Silver criticizes the decision to pause the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard and Cara talk with Jay Mathews, an education columnist for The Washington Post and author of the recent book, An Optimist’s Guide to American Public Education. Jay describes the three key trends in K-12 schooling that he views as cause for hope. They also discuss the tensions between high-profile, college prep-centered school reformers and the dominant pedagogical outlook found across many of the major schools of education. They explore teacher-driven school reforms, whether led by legendary figures such as Jaime Escalante in traditional public schools, or in charter networks such as KIPP, which have established high-caliber teacher preparation programs. Drawing on his decades spent covering K-12 education for The Washington Post, he shares observations about the quality and success of the U.S. Department of Education’s policymaking, and the strengths and weaknesses of federal education efforts in contrast to what he has observed in states, districts, and schools. They also talk about the most effective ways to spend the massive infusion of federal money school districts are receiving through COVID relief. Next, he offers insights on American journalism, print media’s struggles to adapt to a digital world, the impact on K-12 education coverage, and suggestions for improvement. As someone whose education background and early career focused on Asia, he offers thoughts on U.S.-China relations and the wider implications for America’s global competitiveness in K-12 school reform. He concludes with a reading from his new book.

Stories of the Week: Are unnecessarily severe middle school discipline policies and practices that disproportionately target students of color exacerbating the school-to-prison pipeline? Writing in The Wall Street JournalEducation Next‘s Ira Stoll explores the debate in Boston about changing admissions policies at exam schools, and whether outside organizations, such as the Red Sox baseball team, should weigh in on the issue.

Joe Selvaggi discusses a recently released survey from Pioneer Institute and Emerson Polling, “Massachusetts Residents’ Perceptions of K-12 Education During the Covid-19 Pandemic,” with Emerson’s lead analyst, Isabel Holloway, and Pioneer Institute’s Charlie Chieppo. Read the poll here.

Guests:

Member Post

 

That is what I should be. More than just a graduate student, or undergraduate student, or department head. Every week when the faculty needs a lunchtime lecture topic, Just Ask John. I got a million of ’em, many of ’em already drafted on Ricochet. I have already mentioned how both Ecuador and El Salvador jettisoned […]

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard and Cara talk with Professor Bettany Hughes, award-winning historian, BBC broadcaster, and author of the best-selling books Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore; The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens, and the Search for the Good Life; and Venus and Aphrodite: History of a Goddess.

Prof. Hughes shares insights from her most recent book about the ancient deity known as Venus to Romans and Aphrodite to the Greeks, and her impact on our understanding of the mythology and history of beauty, romance, and passion. She discusses Aphrodite’s mythical role in sparking the Trojan War, portrayals of her across Western culture, and enduring lessons. They then turn to the ancient Greeks’ contributions to the foundations of Western philosophy, poetry, and government, and why studying classics, including figures like Socrates, is vital for education in the 21st century. And they explore the timeless wisdom and cautionary lessons all of us can draw from studying ancient Athenian democracy, Sparta, and the civic life of Greek city-states, the West’s earliest models of self-government. She concludes with a reading from her book, Venus and Aphrodite.

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In the formerly beautiful city of Seattle, homeless camps have sprung up in some very unusual locations.  Like in the near vicinity of public schools.  The City government, and the School Board, have been duking it out, in the arena of “who is responsible for removing homeless encampments next to schools and on school property”. […]

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard and Cara talk with Dr. Susannah Heschel, the Eli M. Black Distinguished Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College, and the daughter of noted 20th-century Jewish theologian and Civil Rights-era leader, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. They discuss what teachers and students today should know about Rabbi Heschel’s life and legacy. Born in Warsaw, Poland, the descendant of preeminent European rabbis, Rabbi Heschel was arrested by the Gestapo, and later escaped to London. Prof. Heschel describes how losing many family members in the Holocaust shaped her father’s writings, and brought moral urgency to his American Civil Rights efforts. Prof. Heschel describes her father’s landmark study, The Prophets, for which she wrote an introduction, his profound view of the prophets as models, and his search for enduring “truth and righteousness in everyday life.” They discuss Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who evoked Old Testament imagery in many of his most memorable speeches, and who was accompanied by Rabbi Heschel on the Voting Rights march from Selma to Montgomery. Professor Heschel offers thoughts on what educators can learn from her family’s historic experiences facing adversity, and how citizens, teachers, and students alike can use personal stories, biblical wisdom, and ancient sources to inspire their civic action in our often divided country. She concludes with a reading from a favorite passage from one of her father’s books.

Stories of the Week: Which states are driving innovation in K-12 education, and which are struggling? Cara and Gerard discuss recent rankings, and some surprising results. The Kentucky Legislature passed a bill that would allow income-eligible families to access tax credit scholarships for private school tuition and other services, overriding the Governor’s veto.

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Prairie View A&M University looked really quite spruce. The state of Texas had clearly spent a lot on it. If it has a slogan, one that could be put on banners, it may well be something other than “No Matter What You Give Us, It Won’t Be Enough.” It has a Science Building. Across from […]

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Rob Long is on for Jim again today. Join Rob and Greg as they cheer states expanding their school choice programs as unions continue to keep public schools closed. They also discuss New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordering faster, preferential COVID tests for family and friends while the rest of New York waited much longer for results. They also shake their heads as San Francisco lefties state that whites and men will not be receiving welfare benefits. And they wrap up with their memories of the assassination attempt again President Reagan 40 years ago today.

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Seemingly overnight, a large segment of America has gone insane. We’re not talking about the culture of paranoia and safety that has metastasized in the wake of COVID-19 hysteria. We’re talking about the ideological shift, particularly on cultural issues, that has occurred since the start of the Obama Administration. To pick an easy example, it would […]

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Join Jim and Greg as they unload on teachers’ unions for rejecting CDC guidelines for schools and demanding even more money from taxpayers as they refuse to embrace in-person learning. They also rebuke President Biden for immediately demanding gun control legislation in the wake of mass shootings. They also welcome Sen. Joe Manchin’s opposition to such legislation but are cautious since Manchin could go wobbly at any moment on any issue. And they also have quite a bit to say after  Senators Tammy Duckworth and Mazie Hirono briefly vow not to confirm any future Biden nominees unless they are minorities or gay.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard and Cara talk with Dr. Eric Hanushek, the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. They discuss his research, cited by The Wall Street Journal, on learning loss due to the pandemic, especially among poor, minority, and rural students, and its impact on skills and earnings. Dr. Hanushek has projected that school closures will result in $25-$30 trillion of lost economic output in today’s dollars over the next century, and a 6-to-9 percent reduction in lifetime household income. He shares with listeners how he arrived at these estimates, their wider financial implications for America’s competitiveness, and how we can address it. They review the realities of K-12 education before COVID-19, with flat and declining NAEP reading and math scores over the last decade and persistent achievement gaps. Given that troubling trend, he recommends more effective use of our teachers’ specific talents and offering more individualized instruction to address variations in student preparation. He offers suggestions for how best to direct the influx of federal stimulus funds to school districts, and thoughts on the relative success of many charter and private schools in pivoting to ensure high-quality remote learning and in-class instruction.

Stories of the Week: School budgets have not suffered nearly as much as predicted due to the pandemic – in fact, some state revenues have even slightly grown thanks to federal relief funds and higher than planned sales tax collections. In Education Next, Christensen Institute cofounder Michael Horn laments school districts’ timid response” to remote learning, and opportunities to engage students in active learning and other innovative practices.

Host Joe Selvaggi talks with Pioneer Institute’s Mary Z. Connaughton about the value of transparency and Pioneer’s extensive work to provide greater access to legislative and policy information to hold elected officials accountable and build trust in our state government. Read Pioneer Institute’s Sunshine Week Transparency Resolutions.

Guest:

Homeschooling and ‘Socialization’

 

My kids starting homeschooling 30 years ago, when homeschooling really wasn’t much of a thing. A question commonly asked back then, and probably still today, was “how will they be socialized?”

In fact, they all came out pretty well, at least in that regard. (Decades of having me as a dad has left some of them with an … unconventional … sense of humor, but that’s another story.)

Join Jim and Greg as they applaud Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for refusing to spend “one red cent” of taxpayer money on Critical Race Theory on the Florida civics curriculum. They also hammer the naked hypocrisy and opportunism of Senate Democrats who constantly tried to filibuster the Trump agenda but now insist it’s an ugly impediment to democracy and equality. And they shred New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for wanting police to confront people who have committed no crimes but may have hurt someone else’s feelings.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard and Cara talk with Dr. Kathryn Tempest, a Reader in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Roehampton in London, UK, and author of Cicero: Politics and Persuasion in Ancient Rome and Brutus: The Noble Conspirator. They discuss the historical, civic, and moral lessons political leaders, educators, and schoolchildren today can learn by studying the Roman Republic and the lives of key figures from that era such as Cicero and Brutus.

Dr. Tempest reviews the legacy of Cicero, the distinguished statesman and orator, whose timeless works, influenced by Greek philosophy, have endeared him to extraordinary leaders through the ages, from St. Augustine to Churchill. She contrasts Cicero’s adherence to limited constitutionalism with the worldview of his nemesis, the colossal dictator Julius Caesar. She also delves into the complex relationship between Caesar and the enigmatic Brutus, whom Shakespeare called “the noblest Roman of them all” for his role in Caesar’s assassination on the “Ides of March.” Dr. Tempest traces the influence of these events on Enlightenment thinkers such as Locke and Montesquieu, and concepts such as the mixed constitution and separation of powers that are so fundamental to the American founding. She concludes with a reading from her biography of Brutus.

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Two things, just this month: “plan continuation bias” and “Anthropocene.” At least I think I can get a punchline out of the first one. Next time I badly need to go to the bathroom, the closer I get to any bathroom, the more apt I am to act with extreme prejudice in the accomplishment of […]

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard and Cara talk with Loung Ung, a human-rights activist; the author of the bestselling books First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, Lucky Child, and Lulu in the Sky; and a co-screenwriter of the 2017 Netflix Original Movie, First They Killed My Father. Ms. Ung shares her experiences living through genocide under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, which resulted in the deaths of nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s population. Loung talks about the experience of working with Angelina Jolie on the film version of First They Killed My Father, and the role that documentaries like hers and the award-winning 1984 film, The Killing Fields, can play in portraying the human stories behind historic events. They explore Ms. Ung’s life in America, and the support she received from her secondary school teachers in Essex Junction, Vermont, her professors at St. Michael’s College, and from local and religious institutions. The episode concludes with a reading from Loung Ung’s memoir.

Stories of the Week: A new poll shows that nearly a third of parents may continue with remote learning after COVID. According to a new report, only one in six Indiana college students who study education actually join the teaching profession. How can we remove barriers to entry, especially among people of color?

School Diary: How to Anger a Budding SJW

 
A small eruption of social justice warfare erupted today at the start of class. Thoughts, critiques, suggestions, etc…all warmly welcomed.My class was waiting to begin when a chatty Hispanic student- call her K- said: “well, I read this article in the Washington Post…but I shouldn’t talk about it now…”

K has been my student for a year and a half so I should have known better than to take the bait. Most of her tuition is paid by a fund that sends “promising” students from public schools to independent/private schools in the state. We know this because she speaks about it constantly, to everyone. She’s generally cheerful, inarticulate, and uninformed (“Ok, so this Helen Keller person… I don’t really know who she was, but anyhoo, so… my sister said that she was blind and deaf. And she couldn’t talk either? But how… like I don’t wanna be mean or, like….well mean I guess but I mean how is that possible? Like at the same time?”)

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard and Cara talk with Tommy Schultz, CEO-elect of the American Federation for Children (AFC). They discuss how COVID-19 school closures have increased the interest in alternatives to public schools, and what AFC’s polling shows on shifts in attitudes toward school choice options in both urban and rural communities. He shares predictions for school choice policymaking in the Biden administration and the largely Republican-controlled state legislatures. They explore the past successes of the left-right coalition in K-12 education reform that delivered charter schools, testing, and accountability, but has since splintered, and how the remnants of that coalition might respond to the teachers’ unions. Tommy offers insights into how advocates will need to communicate and mobilize state-by-state over the next five years to dramatically expand private school choice programs like vouchers, scholarship tax credits, and education savings account programs, which currently serve approximately 550,000 out of 56 million total K-12 students.

Stories of the Week: A new Pioneer Institute report on Boston’s only vocational high school (which also received coverage in The Boston Globe) calls for improved alignment between course and co-op offerings, and actual employment opportunities. New research from EducationNext raises concerns about over-diagnosis of Black and Hispanic students in special education programs. In some school districts, students are continuing remote learning, even while playing on sports teams – is this the right message to send about academic priorities?