The new book by sometime VDARE.com contributor Robert Weissberg, Bad Students, Not Bad Schools, has become even timelier following the recent popping of the test score bubble in New York City public schools.
Weissberg, a professor of political science emeritus at the U. of Illinois, wittily surveys in his conversational prose style a half century of educational research. He debunks the fluff that comprises most of this fad-driven field, while highlighting the replicable social science whose lessons go ignored.
Weissberg’s conclusion: the quality of students—intelligence and motivation—is by far the most important factor in whether a school is “bad” or “good”. ...
What makes Bad Students, Not Bad Schools particularly interesting is that in early 21st Century, New York City emerged as the glamor spot of school reform. The rich, the powerful, and the influential teamed up to fight the racial “gap” in school achievement allegedly caused by bad schools. And from 2004 onward, Weissberg was there, watching the idols of the hour up close.
Years before, as it happened, Weissberg himself had grown up in New York City. After a brief (but instructive) spell in 1953 at Booker T. Washington Junior High School on the border of the Upper West Side and Harlem—an expensive new school rapidly deteriorating under the assault from its less scholarly students—Weissberg’s mom yanked him out and headed for the Jersey suburbs.
That bad students can make a school bad is a lesson that tens of millions of Americans besides Weissberg have learned the hard way. Yet, when it comes to thinking about education, we’re not supposed to draw any insights from our own lives. In contrast, you can win fame and, if not fortune, at least a pleasant career by loudly proclaiming that bad schools make good students bad.
Weissberg documents the almost innumerable boondoggles tried out in the public schools in the name of closing the racial gap in achievement.
Over the last decade, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg epitomized the media / governmental / philanthropic complex that has come to dominate discussion of school reform. A Democrat turned Republican turned Independent, Bloomberg struck the press as the perfect non-ideological technocrat to bring “business-like” methods to the public schools to eliminate the gap.
August 30, 2010
From my new VDARE.com column:
Read the whole thing there and comment upon it here.