Zombie: Proposals for an Educational Renaissance

Zombie, as the final chapter of a 5-part series on US Education, has some proposals for an Educational Renaissance.

They basically boil down to:

(a) back to basics. Focus on children actually learning something (language, math, and sciences first and foremost, but also useful day-to-day skills), and eliminate ideological claptrap from left and right alike

(b) the more competition between schools, the better. Encourage this by school vouchers or tax credits, encouraging homeschooling,… I would personally add: do away with school catchment areas. One reason (as John Stossel discovered) why state-run and state-subsidized schools in, e.g., Belgium deliver better quality for less money per pupil is that parents can send their children to any public or state-subsidized school of their choice, regardless of where they live. This creates internal competition on quality between schools in the same system.

There is a lively discussion in the comments. Get thee there and read it.

/Now back to the salt mine…

Educational renaissance of New Orleans, post… Katrina?

Via Captain Ed at Hot Air, don’t miss this documentary about the renaissance of the school system in New Orleans after the rebuilding of Katrina.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P12pgeV8ZQM%5D

Granted, this school system basically had nowhere to go but up. “As one person relates in this Reason TV video, one school had a valedictorian who could not pass a graduation exam in six attempts despite getting straight As in high school.”

In the comments, this nugget from the pseudonymous “MayorDaley”:

Guess who was was instrumental in changing the schools of New Orleans? No other than Paul Vallas, Superintendent of the Recovery School District of Louisiana, and former CEO of Chicago Public Schools. In 2002, Vallas narrowly lost the Illinois democratic nomination to none other than Rod Blagojevich. Davild Wilhelm, Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama were Blago’s top strategists and secured a victory for Blago. How odd.

Somewhat surprisingly to some (not so much to me), school choice is not a strictly liberal vs. conservative issue: as commenter Khorum points out, none other than the filmmaker who produced Al Gore crockumentary is putting out a film “Waiting for Superman” about America’s failing public schools and what to do about them. And unions are actually trying to strong-arm Paramount into suspending its theatrical release. Many of the parents interviewed in the movie are politically liberal.

On a related note, if you have 40 minutes to spare, watch John Stossel’s “Stupid in America“. Unbelievably, John Stossel (not known for Europhilia), points out that Belgian schools do much better at much lower cost per pupil. You see, Belgium has no such thing as school zone assignment to pupils: parents can send their children to any state school (or state-subsidized school) they want. Even within the state school system (or within the Catholic school system, for that matter) this creates internal competition on quality. The phenomenon, known to any American or Israeli parent, of buying or renting a house in function of the school districts tends to come as a big shock to any Belgian (or most Euro) parents who relocate to the USA.