Chinese Interpretation of Waiting for Superman

November 12, 2010

I love how even Chinese communists understand the problems with local government monopolies and teacher union control of schools.

Update — As Chan noted in the comments, this was probably made in Taiwan, not communist China.  No matter, I was just trying to be as over-the-top as the video.  Gotta love Adrian Fenty with a machine gun.

We Won!

September 29, 2010

I have no idea why a bunch of ed reformers are so gloomy.  Matt has already observed how Rick Hess and Mike Petrilli can’t seem to enjoy the moment when ed reform ideas go mainstream.  Now Liam Julian is joining the poopy parade, lamenting that the new crop of naive reformers are doomed to fail just as past ones have, and “it never works out.” And continuing the gloomy theme, Rick is worrying that school choice (in the form of vouchers) over-promised and under-delivered, losing the support of people like Sol Stern.

That may be, but as a graduate student observed to me today, choice (in the form of vouchers) may have lost Sol Stern, but choice (in the form of charters) just gained Oprah, the Today Show, and the Democratic Party platform.    Overall, he thought that was a pretty good trade, especially since he had to look up who Sol Stern was.

Let’s review.  It is now commonly accepted among mainstream elites — from Oprah to Matt Lauer to Arne Duncan — that simply pouring more money into the public school system will not produce the results we want.  It is now commonly accepted that the teacher unions have been a significant barrier to school improvement by protecting ineffective teachers and opposing meaningful reforms.  It is now commonly accepted that parents should have a say in where their children go to school and this choice will push traditional public schools to improve.  It is now commonly accepted that we have to address the incentives in the school system to recruit, retain, and motivate the best educators.

These reform ideas were barely a twinkle in Ronald Reagan’s eye three decades ago and are now broadly accepted across both parties and across the ideological spectrum.  This is a huge accomplishment and rather than being all bummed out that everyone else now likes the band that I thought was cool before anyone ever heard of it, we should be amazed at how much good music there is out there.

We won!  At least we’ve won the war of ideas.  Our ideas for school reform are now the ones that elites and politicians are considering and they have soundly rejected the old ideas of more money, more money, and more money.

Now that I’ve said that, I have to acknowledge that winning the war of ideas is nowhere close to winning the policy war.  As I’ve written before, the teacher unions are becoming like the tobacco industry.  No one accepts their primary claims anymore, but that doesn’t mean they don’t continue to be powerful and that people don’t continue to smoke.  The battle is turning into a struggle over the correct design and implementation of the reform ideas that are now commonly accepted.  And the unions have shown that they are extremely good at blocking, diluting, or co-opting the correct design and implementation of reforms.

Rick Hess correctly demonstrated how important design and implementation are almost two decades ago in his books, Spinning Wheels and Revolution at the Margins.   And it is always useful for him and others to remind reformers of the dangers that lurk in those union-infested waters.  But for a moment can’t we just bask in the glow of our intellectual victory — even if our allies are a new crop of naive reformers?

(edited for typos)

You Heard It Here First!

September 22, 2010

“Why Hitler Lost the War”

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Reviewing Oprah’s segment on Waiting for SupermanJay Matt [oops] just announced that the war of ideas is over and the unions have lost.

Hmm, where have I heard that before? Oh, yeah, that’s right – I’ve been saying it for a year and a half.

Permission to come aboard, granted!

The unions are primed for a major defeat. If you listen carefully, you can actually hear the voice-over from Mortal Kombat crying out “FINISH HIM!”

What the movement needs now is a fearless, dynamic organizational leader with a smart plan to get a truly universal voucher program (no more watering it down) enacted in a state in the next, say, three years, and who’s determined to spend the next three years doing nothing but putting that plan into action. There are states where that can happen. But it won’t happen unless somebody picks up the ball.

Or am I just waiting for Superman?

Oprah on Waiting for Superman

September 21, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

HT: Whitney Tilson

Are the stars lining up against the teacher union reactionaries? Four years ago, Oprah felt the need to allow the Savage Inequalities guy babble out his cartoon for purposes of cover, but she didn’t bother with any of that this time.  I’m starting to entertain the notion that Waiting for Superman might be a very big deal. The unions have lost the war of ideas, this film powerfully makes that point in an incredibly poignant fashion, and many union puppets will be looking for a new line of work in a few weeks.

Go see Waiting for Superman!

August 20, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

I had a chance to see a screening of Waiting for Superman yesterday hosted by Expect More Arizona. It was extremely well done, and very moving. When it is released in the theatres in September, I plan to march everyone I can drag to the theatre.

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