Educational CyberPlayGround ®

K12 Education Policy


Half of the United States population is clustered in just the 146 biggest counties out of over 3000 so maps under-represent people affected.
The Citizens of the U.S.
need to grasp the educational catastrophe that's been unfolding since the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and other groups took control of education policy in the 1980s and managed to pull the rest of the political spectrum with them.

the role of foundations in a liberal democracy

the power and influence of

4 major foundations
in education-reform policy

Book “Policy Patrons”

educRAT money
Bill and Melinda Gates, Eli and Edythe Broad, Ford, W.K. Kellogg unprecedented philanthropic engagement in public education reform during the Obama administration.
Democracy is usurped when private individuals use their fortunes to bend public policy to their own priorities.

There is NO Foundation accountability to the public. On the one hand, foundations are fundamentally private organizations that influence policy priorities outside formal democratic deliberations--a critique that has generated concerns about plutocracy.
“Policy Patrons takes us deep inside traditional and venture philanthropies to learn, in the unfiltered words of decision makers, about profound shifts affecting public education and the practice of democracy. Tompkins-Stange has delivered an eye-opening portrait of this fast-changing field.” —Dale Russakoff, author of The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools? “Through extensive and candid interviews with grant makers, Tompkins-Stange examines how several large foundations try to change education policy in the United States. Philanthropists rightly earn our admiration, yet they also deserve our critical attention. Policy Patrons delivers on both counts.” —Rob Reich, professor, political science, and codirector, Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, Stanford University


2016 The End of the Bush-Obama Regulatory Approach to School Reform and the new Trump agenda begins.

3/24/14 Federal Education Policy
about 250,000 students take advantage of vouchers and tax-credit scholarships. That's just a fraction of the 55 million public school students in the U.S., but 2012-2013 data shows it's up about 30 percent from 2010. Some states have built growth into their laws. In Florida, for instance, public subsidies are set to rise from $286 million this year to about $700 million in 2018 even without further legislative action, as long as demand remains high.

2016 Machine logic: our lives are ruled by big tech's 'decisions by data' Datification is the core logic of “the platform society”, in which companies bypass traditional institutions, norms and codes by promising something better and more efficient - appealing deceptively to public values, while obscuring private gain. Decision-makers play “the percentage game”, counting whatever could be counted and ignoring the rest, or the underlying problems, with “an utterly irrational confidence in the calculability of reality”.

12/4/14 EduShyster aka Jennifer Berkshire, interviews political economist Gordon Lafer in this post explains the role of corporate education reform in a broad economic and political context. WALTON

She asks Lafer whether Walmart is helping poor kids get a better education by swelling the coffers of the Walton Family Foundation, which generously funds charters and vouchers across the nation.

He replies:

First of all, the thing that correlates most clearly with educational performance in every study is poverty. So when you look at the agenda of the biggest and richest corporate lobbies in the country, it's impossible to conclude that they want to see the full flowering of the potential of each little kid in poor cities. LIARS
To say *I want to cut the minimum wage, I want to prevent cities from passing laws raising wages or requiring sick time, I want to cut food stamps, I want to cut the earned income tax credit, I want to cut home heating assistance. Oh but, by the way, I'm really concerned about the quality of education that poor kids are getting*—it's just not credible. You're creating the problem that you now claim to want to solve….Walmart has no trouble filling positions and operating with very high turnover because what's demanded of people who work there is so little. They're certainly not asking *where are we going to find more people who can do algebra and craft well-written paragraphs?
COLLEGE SCAM In fact, the big problem with the *send every kid to college* argument is that there aren't jobs for these kids after they graduate. You cannot find an economist who predicts that more than one-third of jobs in the US are going to require a college degree in our lifetime. The real question is not how can everybody be a college graduate, but how can people make a decent living. And here is where you see that the same corporate lobbies that are pushing education reform are doing everything possible to make that harder.

EduShyster pushed Lafer to explain how the corporate reform agenda made sense - especially the combination of budget cuts for the public schools combined with tax cuts for corporations.

Lafer answered: I think the direction that the most powerful forces in the country is pushing is a bleak and frankly scary one — that at some level they want us to forget the idea of having a right to a decent public education, which is one of the last remaining entitlements, and make it more like health care, which is increasingly seen as a privilege. What's being done to schooling is, I think, devastating on its merits. It has ideological implications for lowering expectations for what you have a right to as a citizen or a resident. And it raises big, profound questions: How does your experience in school affect, not just your skill set for employment, but your sense of yourself as a person and what you think you deserve from life?

*corporate agenda*I think that for the real one percent, the big political challenge is *how do we pursue a policy agenda that makes the country ever more unequal and that makes life harder for the vast majority of people without provoking a populist backlash?* One of the ways of doing that is by lowering people's expectations, and one of the key places to do that is in the school system.

The good news is that the interview ends on a hopeful note. We can't abandon hope, because if we do, we are lost. We must believe that a political awakening will happen if we work hard enough to make it happen, and that the Robber Barons will be tamed. American history runs in cycles, historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., argued, and we must not give up believing that we can make change. Because we can.


Karen Cator, Director, Office of Educational Technology/US Department of Education holds a Masters in school administration from the University of Oregon and Bachelors in early childhood education from Springfield College. She is the past chair of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and has served on the several boards including the Software & Information Industry Association—Education.


Business Aurgument that doesn't add up:|
What makes standardized tests acceptable is the ridiculous notion that machines can measure brains (higher order thinking skills), but the campaign to discredit teacher judgment of student performance has been so successful there's no going back.

2012 A report from the National Education Policy Center concludes that the concept of local control has all but disappeared from discussions of education policy. The authors define local control as "the power of communities, made up of individuals bound together by common geography, resources, problems, and interests, to collectively determine the policies that govern their lives." In education, this has typically been elected school boards and their constituents. However, NCLB and subsequent federal policy has forced a surrender of local control, with localities accountable to state and federal officials. Local discretion is allowed for compliance, but constraints because of mandates are enormous. In this way, the authors find NCLB and its progeny, including policies advanced by the Obama administration, are fundamentally anti-democratic. The Race to the Top in particular promises federal funds for expanded testing, use of student outcomes in teacher evaluations, and expansion of charter schools. To remedy this anti-democratic trend, the authors recommend moving away from threats to withhold funding, supplanting these with a participatory model that offers support and incentives for school employees, parents, and community members to collaborate on resolving educational problems. States and local communities should adopt curriculum standards "that include a conscious and substantive focus on developing the deliberative skill required of democratic citizenship." The privatization of public education resources must also be curtailed. Read more:

Supportive adults are the real key to success - not whether it is a public, private, online, charter school or the use of technology

The California Charter Schools Association said an unprecedented 109 charter schools opened throughout the state for the 2012-13 academic year, bringing the total number of California charter schools to 1,065.

Lawsuits Put Texas School Finance System on Trial

-- The Broadband Imperative provides an up-to-date assessment of access to broadband by students and teachers (in and out of schools); current trends driving the need for more broadband in teaching, learning and school operations; and specific recommendations for the broadband capacity needed to ensure all students have access to the tools and resources they need to be college and career ready by 2014-15 and beyond. Broadband Imperative pdf provides an up-to-date assessment of access to broadband by students and teachers (in and out of schools); current trends driving the need for more broadband in teaching, learning and school operations; and specific recommendations for the broadband capacity needed to ensure all students have access to the tools and resources they need to be college and career ready by 2014-15 and beyond. Summary <> Access the Full Report

Making Schools Work By DAVID L. KIRP 2012
David L. Kirp is a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of "Kids First: Five Big Ideas for Transforming Children's Lives and America's Future."
AMID the ceaseless and cacophonous debates about how to close the achievement gap, we've turned away from one tool that has been shown to work: school desegregation. That strategy, ushered in by the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, has been unceremoniously ushered out, an artifact in the museum of failed social experiments. The Supreme Court's ruling that racially segregated schools were "inherently unequal" shook up the nation like no other decision of the 20th century. Civil rights advocates, who for years had been patiently laying the constitutional groundwork, cheered to the rafters, while segregationists mourned "Black Monday" and vowed "massive resistance." But as the anniversary was observed this past week on May 17, it was hard not to notice that desegregation is effectively dead. In fact, we have been giving up on desegregation for a long time. In 1974, the Supreme Court rejected a metropolitan integration plan, leaving the increasingly black cities to fend for themselves.
A generation later, public schools that had been ordered to integrate in the 1960s and 1970s became segregated once again, this time with the blessing of a new generation of justices. And five years ago, a splintered court delivered the coup de grâce when it decreed that a school district couldn't voluntarily opt for the most modest kind of integration - giving parents a choice of which school their children would attend and treating race as a tiebreaker in deciding which children would go to the most popular schools. In the perverse logic of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., this amounted to "discriminating among individual students based on race." That's bad history, which, as Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in an impassioned dissent, "threaten[s] the promise of Brown."
To the current reformers, integration is at best an irrelevance and at worst an excuse to shift attention away from shoddy teaching. But a spate of research says otherwise.

The experience of an integrated education made all the difference in the lives of black children - and in the lives of their children as well. These economists' studies consistently conclude that African-American students who attended integrated schools fared better academically than those left behind in segregated schools. They were more likely to graduate from high school and attend and graduate from college; and, the longer they spent attending integrated schools, the better they did. What's more, the fear that white children would suffer, voiced by opponents of integration, proved groundless. Between 1970 and 1990, the black-white gap in educational attainment shrank - not because white youngsters did worse but because black youngsters did better.

Not only were they more successful in school, they were more successful in life as well. A 2011 study by the Berkeley public policy professor Rucker C. Johnson concludes that black youths who spent five years in desegregated schools have earned 25 percent more than those who never had that opportunity. Now in their 30s and 40s, they're also healthier - the equivalent of being seven years younger.
Why? For these youngsters, the advent of integration transformed the experience of going to school. By itself, racial mixing didn't do the trick, but it did mean that the fate of black and white students became intertwined. School systems that had spent a pittance on all-black schools were now obliged to invest considerably more on African-American students' education after the schools became integrated. Their classes were smaller and better equipped. They included children from better-off families, a factor that the landmark 1966 Equality of Educational Opportunity study had shown to make a significant difference in academic success. What's more, their teachers and parents held them to higher expectations. That's what shifted the arc of their lives.

Professor Johnson takes this story one big step further by showing that the impact of integration reaches to the next generation. These youngsters - the grandchildren of Brown - are faring better in school than those whose parents attended racially isolated schools.

Despite the Horatio Alger myth that anyone can make it in America, moving up the socioeconomic ladder is hard going: children from low-income families have only a 1% chance of reaching the top 5 percent of the income distribution, versus children of the rich, who have about a 22 percent chance.

Schools can't hope to overcome the burdens of poverty or the lack of early education, which puts poor children far behind their middle-class peers before they enter kindergarten.
Adherence to principle trumped good education, as students were sent on school buses simply to achieve the numerical goal of racial balance. Understandably, that aroused opposition, and not only among those who thought desegregation was a bad idea. Despite its flaws, integration is as successful an educational strategy as we've hit upon. As the U.C.L.A. political scientist Gary Orfield points out, "On some measures the racial achievement gaps reached their low point around the same time as the peak of black-white desegregation in the late 1980s."
And in the 1990s, when the courts stopped overseeing desegregation plans, black students in those communities seem to have done worse. The failure of the No Child Left Behind regimen to narrow the achievement gap offers the sobering lesson that closing underperforming public schools, setting high expectations for students, getting tough with teachers and opening a raft of charter schools isn't the answer. If we're serious about improving educational opportunities, we need to revisit the abandoned policy of school integration.
In theory it's possible to achieve a fair amount of integration by crossing city and suburban boundaries or opening magnet schools attractive to both minority and white students. But the hostile majority on the Supreme Court and the absence of a vocal pro-integration constituency make integration's revival a near impossibility.

Russell Company: +
A. Abiel Low
All Boston Opium Drug Smugglers

2011 In a commencement speech given on May 18 at Teachers College at Columbia University (TC)

Linda Darling-Hammond related that when TC was founded in 1887 as the New York School for the Training of Teachers, it was intended to provide a new kind of schooling for the teachers of the poor in New York City, one that combined a humanitarian concern for helping others with a scientific approach to human development and learning. Then, as now, the creation of truly professional educators was subversive, Darling-Hammond said, since scientific managers were looking to make schools "efficient" in the early 20th century, managing schools with tightly prescribed curricula, teacher-proof texts, extensive testing, and rules and regulations. These managers consciously sought less well-educated teachers who would work for low wages and go along with the new regime. During that decade 100 years ago, nationally distributed tests of arithmetic, handwriting, and English were put into use. Their results were used to compare students, teachers, and schools; to report to the public; and to award merit pay -- a short-lived innovation due to the many problems it caused. At this same time, TC faculty were creating progressive schools that engaged students in intellectual inquiry, hands-on projects, and activity-based curricula. These schools practiced "democracy in action and provided a counterpoint to the factory model schooling that John Dewey called 'mechanical, dull, uninteresting, and hardly educative in any meaningful sense.'" In Darling-Hammond's view, this same counterpoint is more important now than ever before.

1692 Mme. de Maintenon begins transforming her school at Saint-Cyr into a convent school, the Institute de Saint Louis, after hearing scurrilous charges that it has become a training school for courtesans (see 1688; theater, 1689). "It is I who have spread the sin of pride through our house," she professes, "and I shall be very fortunate if God does not punish me for it . . . I wanted that the girls should have intelligence, that their hearts should be uplifted, and they are prouder and more haughty than is becoming in the greatest princesse . . . A simple Christian education would have made them good girls, out of whom we could make good wives; we have made beaux-esprits, whom we ourselves cannot endure" (see 1713).

-- WHY ? --


How Does Market Research Relate to Product Design?

It was the ability to get lost in your experience, to have a seamless, immersive experience. And you notice the computer is or lesson gets slow which means your experience is interrupted. So when that happens you come out of that experience and remind yourself, oh, I should /could be doing . ...... but what it means is that you think you will stop the experience you were enjoying up until you got distracted.
Learners, or Users or Students are looking for a state of "flow." And flow is a critical notion, because it crosses that border between your human experience of performance and your school or technology experience of performance.
An Interdisciplinary Education designed by Artists delivers flow.


The executive branch is not empowered to make laws

the executive and the legislative branches are not co-equal.


too busy saving kids to worry about Constitutional niceties, has said that he plans to attach "strings" to those waivers, so that states will have to adopt his priorities in order to gain flexibility. The executive branch has no authority to issue legislative timelines to Congress, and Cabinet secretaries have no authority to impose their will if Congress doesn't behave as they'd like. He has clearly signaled that he regards this as a back-door opportunity to promote his preferred approach to teacher evaluation, the Common Core, and such with or without Congressional permission. This is what has so infuriated observers (see Alexander Russo's roundup here). The law gives Duncan the authority to grant waivers, but not to use tha authority to compel states to adopt other measures as a quid pro quo. This scheme for back-door legislating of which Duncan seems so proud, and to which it appears ED's general counsel has (unbelievably) signed off, is as politically tone-deaf as it is Constitutionally offensive.

Did Education Department Officials Leak Market-Sensitive Info to Stock Traders?

DoED was “tipping hedge funds,” warning that, if proven, “some people ought to be going to jail in the Department of Education.” (Other FOIA'd documents show extensive consultation between DoED officials and short sellers, as the two sides shared opinions and discussed policy issues.) Asked whether the emails appeared to document an overly cozy relationship with short sellers and inappropriate disclosures of protected information by a DoED official, the IG had no comment. Officials reporting to Secretary Arne Duncan leaked market-sensitive material to short sellers following the widely-reported announcement of a new DoED rule governing companies in the lucrative, for-profit. Education sector, DoED Inspector General (IG) Kathleen Tighe will be the first and perhaps the only person to look into controversial claims that may implicate the office of Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Confidential DoED information and draft documents, including one produced by her own office, were transferred to Wall Street short-sellers seeking informational advantage in their bets on the future of the $35 billion for-profit education industry.
Another series of documents shows that in April 2010, Manuel Asensio, a short seller banned by U.S. regulators from the banking industry, FINRA explained its decision, saying, “his re-entry into the securities industry at this time would pose a serious risk to the investing public” got in touch with DoED. His apparent goal: to offer the Department and the IG advice on regulating for-profit education firms and, especially, to get changed a then-confidential IG report on Iowa-based Ashford University, owned by publicly-traded Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Asensio also wrote several letters to Secretary Duncan, some calling attention to Tighe's IG report. The changes Asensio was demanding would have had a predictable negative impact on the for-profit's bottom line and, presumably, its stock price.
Beyond the propriety of the Education Department's conduct, the phenomenon raises broader questions about the integrity of government decision-making in the face of relentless Wall Street scrutiny. One sign of Wall Street's strong interest in the government's influence over for-profit education came at an invitation-only, $4,000-per-person investment conference held in Manhattan not long ago, where a pair of well-known stock gurus and short sellers highlighted the sector, one arguing that government regulation would boost its fortunes, the other predicting a crackdown by regulators that could spell financial ruin. Publication of the new DoED rule granting for-profit education firms lighter regulation immediately drove up the stock price of certain companies, some by more than 25 percent, in one case adding up to $700 million in extra value to the giant Apollo Group, which owns Phoenix University. The Senate heard expert testimony arguing that so-called "career colleges" had produced an alarming accumulation of student debt.


The Policy Train is on the Wrong Track

Diane Ravitch The National Research Council of the National Academies of Science just released a major report about the value of test-based accountability and incentives. It appeared right before the 2011 Memorial Day weekend. It says that the train is on the wrong track. It deserves careful attention. I hope that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, Gov. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan, members of Congress, and all the luminaries of corporate reform will read this report with care. So should every teacher and principal and parent who cares about the future of education in this country.
Particularly telling were remarks made by some committee members about their findings. Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at MIT, said: "We went ahead, implementing this incredibly expensive and elaborate strategy for changing the education system without creating enough ways to test whether what we are doing is useful or not." He added, "We're relying on some primitive intuition about how to structure the education system without thinking deeply about it." Kevin Lang, the chair of Boston University's economics department, said: "None of the studies that we looked at found large effects on learning, anything approaching the rhetoric of being at the top of the international scale." He said that the most successful effects of NCLB, according to the committee's calculations, "moved student performance by eight-hundredths of the standard deviation, or from the 50th to the 53rd percentile." Ariely of MIT said that the report "raises a red flag for education. These policies are treating humans like rats in a maze. We keep thinking about how to reorganize the cheese to get the rats to do what we want. People do so much more than that." Even worse, he said, was the idea that teachers could be motivated by bonuses: "That's one of the worst ideas out there. ... In the process of creating No Child Left Behind, as people thought about these strategies and rewards, they actually undermined teachers' motivations. They got teachers to care less, rather than more ... [because] they took away a sense of personal achievement and autonomy."
In another report, released on the same day, Marc S. Tucker, writing for the National Center on Education and the Economy, surveyed the practices of the top-performing nations in the world. He said that "much of the current reform agenda in this country is irrelevant, a detour from the route we must follow if we are to match the performance of the best.

Does any of this sound familiar?
Columbia University Teachers College
has, for more than a century, represented the heartbeat of the education profession in the United States and our deepest aspirations for a democratic system of education. When TC was founded by Grace Dodge in 1887 as the New York School for the Training of Teachers, it was intended to provide a new kind of schooling for the teachers of the poor in New York City, one that combined a humanitarian concern for helping others with a scientific approach to human development and learning. At that time, when most teachers had little more than a high school education (and were frequently taught primarily to follow scripted textbooks that were popular at the time), TC teachers—a group of extraordinary women and men of all races, who came from all parts of the country—were earning masters degrees and were prepared for a research-based practice that was informed by the educational research also planted in the college: in psychology and sociology, in the content areas and in pedagogy. They, along with administrators and researchers in training, were also expected to develop a deep understanding of the history, philosophy and purposes of education and to be grounded in a set of strong values and ethics that guide all professionals.
Then, as now, the creation of truly professional educators was subversive business. As scientific managers were looking to make schools “efficient” in the early twentieth century—to manage schools with more tightly prescribed curriculum, more teacher-proof texts, more extensive testing, and more rules and regulations—they consciously sought to hire less well-educated teachers who would work for low wages and would go along with the new regime of prescribed lessons and pacing schedules without protest. In a book widely used for teacher training at that time, the need for "unquestioned obedience" was stressed as the "first rule of efficient service" for teachers.
No wonder that obedience was prized, when the scientific managers' time and motion studies resulted in findings like the fact that some eighth grade classes did addition "at the rate of 35 combinations per minute" while others could “add at an average rate of 105 combinations per minute"—thus schools were to set the standard at 65 combinations per minute at 94 percent accuracy. One speaker at an NEA meeting in 1914 observed that there were “so many efficiency engineers running hand cars through the school houses in most large cities that the grade school teachers can hardly turn around in their rooms without butting into two or three of them.”
During that decade, precisely 100 years ago, nationally distributed tests of arithmetic, handwriting and English were put into use. Their results were used to compare students, teachers and schools; to report to the public; and even to award merit pay—a short-lived innovation due to the many problems it caused.

Arne Duncan has a Master's degree in Sociology and neither he nor President Obama has ever even attended a public school. Mr. Duncan was APPOINTED over the Chicago Public School systems. As far as I can tell, neither parents, teachers, or students can see anything constructive that he did. He rode in on the "Yes, We Can" wagon...and was never asked to explain what he personally had actually done besides find ways to save money.

June 6, 2011 What is a College Education Really Worth?
For the first time, a new report uses U.S. Census data to show links between specific college majors and long term wages. For example, it says that over a lifetime, Engineering majors can earn over $1,000,000 while Education majors earn over $240,000. The report also addresses racial breakdowns and gender divides in wages. To learn what people can draw from the data, host Michel Martin speaks with Anthony P. Carnevale, Director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, which released the report.

2011 ESEA Briefing Book
A new report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute identifies ten big issues that it says must be resolved in order for Congress to finish a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind.
The report, dubbed the ESEA Briefing Book, notes that most observers “remain skeptical” that reauthorization will occur in 2011, but says it is “likely” that at least one chamber will produce a bill this year. The report divides the ten issues into four categories: standards and assessments, accountability, teacher quality, and flexibility and innovation.
The ESEA Briefing Book offers recommendations for each of the ten issues it identifies in an attempt to move federal education policy in the direction of “Reform Realism,” which the report defines as “a pro-school reform orientation leavened with realism about what the federal government can and cannot do well in K-12 education.”
Toward this end, the report recommends a new federal role in education that is “much more limited” and tailored to the federal government's expertise and capacity.
Specifically, it calls on the federal government to expect states to

  • adopt rigorous standards and assessments and to maintain sophisticated data systems so that student achievement results and school-level finances are transparent to the public;
  • eliminate Adequate Yearly Progress and allow states much greater leeway in how they rate their schools;
  • allow states complete flexibility in deciding when and how to intervene in failing schools, determining the qualifications that teachers must meet, deciding whether to adopt teacher-evaluation systems, etc.;
  • turn reform-oriented formula grant programs into competitive ones whenever possible—with the exception of the main Title I program.

"To be clear, our vision for the federal role in education is a significant departure from No Child Left Behind," the report notes.

  • "It would mean a greater federal role in prescribing standards, tests, cut scores, and data systems, and much less federal say-so about sanctions, teacher quality, and everything else.
    It would mean greater transparency for student achievement and school spending and less accountability for raising test scores.
    It would mean more competitive programs and less formula funding."

This is the Obama administration's 'Blueprint,' and what the Republicans on Capitol Hill want.

I'd think a basic requirement for working on a public education policy would be an interest in the public and use of an education. I refer my to Richard Feynman's writings on being on the State Curriculum Commission for California, ie the School Book Board.

"This question of trying to figure out whether a book is good or bad by looking at it carefully or by taking the reports of a lot of people who looked at it carelessly is like this famous old problem: Nobody was permitted to see the Emperor of China, and the question was, What is the length of the Emperor of China's nose? To find out, you go all over the country asking people what they think the length of the Emperor of China's nose is, and you average it. And that would be very "accurate" because you averaged so many people. But it's no way to find anything out; when you have a very wide range of people who contribute without looking carefully at it, you don't improve your knowledge of the situation by averaging."

Besides being apt with respect to choosing textbooks, this quote ought to be required commentary on the new pseudo-science fad being peddled by best-selling science writers, etc. called "Collective Intelligence". Malcolm Gladwell, and many others who are currently "hot" in the literature make the same claim: if you ask a lot of people and take some statistic like the Mean or the Mode or the Median, you will get the *correct answer* to *any problem*. [I should point out that at my home institution, MIT, there are those who are riding this meme, though I *hope* that they are a bit more intellectually honest. If not, shame on them.]
But there is a meta-point. You don't decide scientific or engineering truth by voting or averaging. You decide it by testing your hypothesis, using methods well-known. Not by "peer review" - I cannot see how anyone who has any sense thinks that "peer review" generates truth; when I was a kid, J.B.Rhine's work *proving* ESP was "peer reviewed". Astrologers peer-review themselves.
Yet the sloppy thinking promoted by the textbook publishers and the education committees probably got us to the point where Collective Intelligence seems like it MUST be true. Because it's "hot" and it's the "latest thing", I guess.
In addition to the Feynman piece, Charles Pierce wrote an article for Esquire some years back that seems quite prescient now. Though the Texas School Board controversy is worrisome in and of itself, in a larger sense it seems more indicative of a peculiarly American brand of populist anti-intellectualism that occasionally sweeps Our Great Nation under the rug and is once again rearing its ugly, empty head. I mean, how else can one explain the popularity of Sarah Palin, to cite but one tired example?
Entitled "Greetings from Idiot America" Pierce's article states:
The rise of Idiot America is essentially a war on expertise. It's not so much antimodernism or the distrust of intellectual elites that Richard Hofstadter deftly teased out of the national DNA forty years ago. Both of those things are part of it. However, the rise of Idiot America today represents -- for profit mainly, but also, and more cynically, for political advantage and in the pursuit of power -- the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people whom we should trust the least are the people who best know what they're talking about. In the new media age, everybody is a historian, or a preacher, or a scientist, or a sage. And if everyone is an expert, then nobody is, and the worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert.

The High Cost of Teachers Salary
WHEN we don't get the results we want in our military endeavors, we don't blame the soldiers. We don't say, “It's these lazy soldiers and their bloated benefits plans! That's why we haven't done better in Afghanistan!” No, if the results aren't there, we blame the planners. We blame the generals, the secretary of defense, theJoint Chiefs of Staff. No one contemplates blaming the men and women fighting every day in the trenches for little pay and scant recognition.
And yet in education we do just that. When we don't like the way our students score on international standardized tests, we blame the teachers. When we don't like the way particular schools perform, we blame the teachers and restrict their resources.
Compare this with our approach to our military: when results on the ground are not what we hoped, we think of ways to better support soldiers. We try to give them better tools, better weapons, better protection, better training. And when recruiting is down, we offer incentives.


5/2011 Center on Education Policy finds that the share of public schools that did not make adequate yearly progress (AYP) in raising student achievement under NCLB reached an all-time national high of about 38 percent in 2010. This marks a rise from 33 percent that fell short in 2009. Despite this, the percentage of schools missing AYP has changed only slightly over the past five years, and would have to more than double to reach the Obama administration's projections of more than 80 percent failing to make AYP next year. Between school years 2005-06 and 2009-10, the national percentage of schools missing AYP rose from 29 percent to 38 percent, but in two of the interim years, the percentage declined. In 12 states and the District of Columbia, at least half of public schools did not make AYP in 2010, and in a majority of states, at least one-fourth of schools fell short. The report includes tables with AYP trend data for every state, and shows wide differences in the percentages of schools not making AYP in 2010, ranging from about 5 percent in Texas to about 91 percent in D.C. The report cautions, however, that AYP results are not comparable between states because of variations in states tests, cut scores for proficient performance, demographics, and other factors - like cheating by administrators.

Where a poor, deaf, patient widow sits
And awes some thirty urchins as she knits;
Infants of humble, busy wives, who pay
Some trifling price for freedom for the day.
At this good matron's hut the children meet,
Who thus becomes the mother of the street;
Her room is small, they cannot widely stray;
Her threshold high, they cannot run away;
With band of yarn she keeps offenders in,
And to her gown the sturdiest rogues can pin.