Checker Finn: Ed Reform as the Faber College Pan-Hellenic Disciplinary Council

July 18, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Checker Finn wrote a read-worthy lament for the state of ed reform for Hoover. Read the whole thing but this paragraph in particular caught my attention:

Exacerbating the disagreements on those questions is the self-righteousness that seems to have swamped this field in recent years. Education has never been a mirth-filled realm, but when I first got into it a lot of participants could still smile, occasionally giggle, even tell the odd joke—and the chuckles were, often as not, bipartisan. Today, however, practically nobody seems to have a sense of humor, at least not about anything bearing on ed reform. Is it because of our unfunny national politics? Because social media and 24/7 news mean that even a short chortle can be turned by one’s foes into evidence that one is making light of something? I’m not sure about the cause, but I can attest that it’s hard to make common cause with people who can never share a spoof or jest.

Practically nobody?!? It is alas a lonely task, but we continue to hold this last, best outpost of making light of things in ed reform-especially the deeply misguided and doomed to fail yet uhhh-gain sorts of things. We have been spoofing and jesting here at JPGB non-stop since 2008 and ed reform continues to provide plenty of material.

Checker makes an important point-social justice warriors make for poor dinner guests. It reminds me of this Charlie Rose debate about the 1960s when Barbara Ehrenreich droned on sternly while PJ O’Rourke’s related that his fondest 1960s memories involved LSD and picking up hippie women at protests.

Lighten up, Francis-we may as well keep a good sense of humor during what constitutes a protracted process of figuring things out.

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There Just Might Be Hope for this Marriage After All

April 1, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Sensible clarification from Checker and Mike on transparency in choice programs.

It is however April Fools Day…hmmm…

Stand down Mr. Worf, but remain vigilant.


Hemisphere Fallacy Sighting

October 21, 2010

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

In a new Flypaper post, Checker and Mike argue that the federal government takeover of schools implementation of common standards can follow one of three paths:

1.      “Let’s Become More Like France.” Here, we picture a powerful governing board—probably via a new compact among participating states—to oversee the standards, assessments, and many aspects of implementation, validation, and more.

2.       “Don’t Rock the Boat.” We keep the Common Core footprint as small as possible. An existing group is charged with updating the standards when the time comes, but everything else stays with states, districts, and the market.

3.      “One Foot before the Other.” This middle ground foresees an interim coordinating body that promotes information sharing, capacity building, and joint-venturing among participating states. By the time the Common Core needs revising, this interim body may evolve into something more permanent or may recommend a long-term governance plan.

In other words, our options are:

  1. Too big, strong, and heavy handed.
  2. Too weak, limited and complacent.
  3. Just right!

Guess which one they favor. No hints!

JPGB readers will recognize Fordham’s longstanding addiction to the hemisphere fallacy – making themselves look good by oversimplifying the landscape into two extreme errors held by the extreme extremists on either side of them, and the reasonable middle ground occupied by reasonable middle grounders like themselves.

Some people say the earth is flat and others say it’s round, so the reasonable middle ground is to say it’s a hemisphere.

Personally, I’d rephrase those three Fordham options as follows:

  1. So big and bold that the federal government takeover of schools becomes obvious, provoking an inevitable backlash from Americans who have repeatedly made it clear they don’t want any such thing.
  2. So weak and limited that the federal government won’t actually be able to take over the schools.
  3. Just strong enough to hand all schools over to federal control, but not so strong that the handover becomes obvious.

While we’re on the subject, Neal McCluskey notices something interesting in the new Fordham report:

All that said, there is one, small part of the report that I find quite satisfying. A few months ago, Fordham President Chester Finn called people like me and Jay Greene “paranoid” for arguing that national standards would be hollowed out by politics. Well, in the report, while it is not explicitly identified as such, you will find what I am going to take as an apology (not to mention a welcome admission):

How will this Common Core effort be governed over the long term?…This issue might seem esoteric, almost philosophical in light of the staggering amount of work to be done right now to make the standards real and the assessments viable. But we find it essential—not just for the long-term health of the enterprise, but also to allay immediate concerns that these standards might be co-opted by any of the many factions that want to impose their dubious ideas on American education. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to worry about this possibility [italics added]…

No, you don’t.

I’m not sure I would take it as an apology. If Checker wanted to apologize, he would. But he hasn’t.

Which leads me to wonder why he’s suddenly so anxious to make sure there’s something out there in print that shows him expressing exactly the same doubts we do. Something he could point to later, perhaps?


Checker’s Selective Memory

October 14, 2010

 

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Checker just published a column on the incompetence of government. It’s a little bit weird; there’s not much connection to education policy here, and the piece doesn’t reach any conclusions or advocate any new policies. He just complains that government is really incompetent.

PEREGRUZKA: “OVERLOAD”

To which one can only reply: You’re just discovering this now?

Or is this one of those things like a coworker’s extension number, or your brother’s ZIP code – something you don’t need to know all the time, so you periodically remember it and forget it, remember it again and forget it again?

Like, say, you might remember it when conservatives are doing well in Washington, then forget it when liberals are doing well in Washington, and suddenly remember it again just before a wave election brings the conservatives back?


Arguing the Merits

August 11, 2010

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Last week I noted that Fordham had offered up the Gadfly as a platform for an argument, made by guest columnist Eugenia Kemble, that the next logical step after establishing national standards is a single national curriculum.

Well, my post has drawn a sharp response from Kemble. Of course, she disagrees with me on the substance (the merits of a national curriculum and the badness of teachers’ unions) but that goes without saying. More interestingly, she accuses me of not addressing her argument on the merits, but only being concerned with the significance of her piece having appeared in the Gadfly. The indictment has two counts. First, she accuses me of not offering an argument for my position that “common” standards adopted by the states are really “federal” standards (i.e. controlled by the federal government.) Second, she accuses me of practicing “guilt by association” by insinuating that if Checker publishes a union piece, he must embrace the entire union agenda.

To the second count I plead not guilty. I didn’t insinuate that Checker agrees with the unions about everything. I insinuated that his position in favor of national standards was having the effect – whether intended or not – of advancing the unions’ agenda in one respect. And that the appearance of Kemble’s piece in the Gadfly clearly demonstrates that those of us who have been saying this all along were right. And I stand by that insinuation.

But to the first count I plead guilty as sin. I did not address the merits of Kemble’s claim that it is possible – not just in some hypothetical cloudcoocooland but in the real world, right now, in the actual political climate as it stands now and under all the other conditions that currently prevail – to have “common” standards nationwide (thus “national” standards) that are not controlled by the federal government. On the merits of this claim I said nothing at all.

Here are some other claims whose merits I have never addressed:

  • The existence of the tooth fairy
  • The medical effectiveness of aromatherapy
  • The flatness of the earth (oh, wait)

Even Checker admits that national standards have been “entangled in a competition for federal money,” that it’s bad that “that same federal money [is] paying for development of new assessment systems to accompany the standards,” and that “it would have been lots better if President Obama had never hinted at harnessing national standards to future Title I funding.”

As Matt aptly put it: other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

But never mind. My real point was to highlight the fact that Checker has spent weeks calling us “paranoid” because we thought national standards would become the first step toward greater national control of schools, especially by unions; then offered up the Gadfly to a union blogger as a platform to argue that national standards should become the first step toward greater national control of schools.


Does Fordham Support a National Curriculum?

August 5, 2010

 

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

For weeks, Checker has been calling us “paranoid” for worrying that the national standards machine Fordham has helped create will be hijacked by the teacher unions.

Today, there lands in my inbox the new Gadfly from Fordham, featuring a guest editorial by Eugenia Kemble of the Shanker Institute. Kemble’s argument, in a nutshell: Now that we have national standards, the next thing we need is a national curriculum. That way we don’t just ensure that all schools set outcome targets and measurements in the one best way that’s right for everyone regardless of their individual needs; all schools will do everything in the one best way that’s right for everyone regardless of their individual needs. And we’ll have a benevolent dictator who will make sure that everyone will do everything in the one best way, and who will never abuse that power.

I paraphrase.

On Kemble’s list of the heroic, wonderful people she admires who have been pushing not just for national standards but a national curriclum are Bill Schmidt and Randi Weingarten at the AFT; teacher union shill Diane Ravitch; and . . . Checker Finn.

Inquiring minds want to know:

  1. Does the Fordham Foundation support a national curriculum?
  2. Given that Fordham is offering up the Gadfly as a platform from which Kemble can advocate using national standards as the first step toward broader federal control of schools, does the Fordham Foundation still consider it “paranoid” to be worried that national standards will be used as a first step toward broader federal control of schools?

I’ll hold my breath and wait for Checker to give us a clear, unambiguous answer.


Checker Finn, FREAK OF NATURE!

July 30, 2010

 

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Yet you can count the voucher programs on your fingers.

Wow! Checker Finn has TWENTY-FIVE FINGERS!

(P.S. Congrats to FEC on the rockin’ new website.)

[Update: Just realized I should have added a link to Matt’s outstanding demolition of Checker, below.]