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how many billionaires does it take to fix a school system? June 23, 2008

Posted by KG in education.
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great discussion on education reform from nytimes magazine:

Hess: I think these two camps tend to make the same analytic mistake. Ten or 20 years ago, the dominant givers in education were trying to work through districts. There was the Kellogg Foundation, the Packard Foundation, the Ford Foundation, all working from the inside. The biggest example was the Annenberg Foundation. In 1993, former Ambassador Walter Annenberg went to the White House and announced a $500 million gift to education. He said, essentially, “We need to drop a bomb on American urban education to shake things up.” Local foundations made matching gifts, so Annenberg’s $500 million was leveraged into more than $1 billion, invested in more than a dozen communities. And generally speaking, it was a substantial disappointment. There was very little change in an ongoing, meaningful way. You know, there’s a reason that Univac wasn’t able just to become I.B.M., and there’s a reason I.B.M. couldn’t just become Microsoft and Microsoft couldn’t just become Google. Organizations bake in the assumptions and the processes that made them successful. The way you hire your people, the way you reward your people, the internal practices you devise — they are all built around a certain set of assumptions and operations. When that larger world changes, it’s tough to retool. So when these reform-minded superintendents come in, like Alan Bersin when he arrived in San Diego or Paul Vallas when he got to Philadelphia or Joel Klein here in New York, they face enormous challenges. A school system is not an agile, nimble organization where if you can just hire the right people and start the right programs, you can turn things around quickly. You’ve got to work your way around outdated staffing processes, inadequate and bulky information-technology systems, abysmal and poorly conceived data-management systems. Alan Bersin was five years into his tenure in San Diego before teachers stopped putting transfer requests into a wooden box.

(more…)

scandals of higher education February 22, 2008

Posted by KG in books, race, reviews.
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new york review of books:

Michaels is fed up with the mantra of diversity, and it is hard to blame him. In the past, one obstacle that kept minority students out of college was patent racism—the asserted association between external physical characteristics (skin color, facial features, body type) and inherent mental capacities or tendencies.[12] Today, however, this kind of pseudoscience has been discredited, and the word “race” tends to be employed as a synonym for culture—an equivalence based on the dubious, or at least imperfect, premise that a person’s ancestry tells us something important about how that person experiences the world. The problem with “this way of thinking about culture instead of race,” Michaels says, “is that it just takes the old practice of racial stereotyping and renovates it in the form of cultural stereotyping.”[13] People of African ancestry are expected to prefer blues to Brahms. People of Asian ancestry are lumped together in the category “Asian-American” even though they might identify themselves primarily as Laotians or Christians. In any event, they are supposed to prefer engineering to poetry.

Michaels argues that nothing much has changed by substituting the idea of particular cultures for the discredited idea of race. For pragmatic as well as analytical reasons, he wants the left to forget about this kind of diversity, whether we call it racial or cultural (“diversity, like gout, is a rich people’s problem”), and focus instead on poverty. A satirical verse (quoted in another recent book by another English professor, Michael Berubé of Pennsylvania State University) nicely captures Michaels’s point. It might be called the Song of the Abject Affluent, and a lot of people at elite colleges are singing it:

I’m sorry for what my people did to your people
It was a nasty job
Please note the change of attitude
On the bumper of my Saab.

phil knight goes back to school December 3, 2007

Posted by AP in Uncategorized.
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i guess a billionaire going to stanford isn’t exactly news… but an interesting article nonetheless.

obama@google November 17, 2007

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, econ, environment, health, immigration, international, interviews, iraq, iraq war, media, news, politics, race, religion, science, tech, terrorism.
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i was forced to suspend my critical, skeptical, and cynical nature for a moment, as i found myself fairly impressed…

(most of the best parts come during the q&a)