The Three Rhing Circus of "Education Reform"

There's still one born every minute!

Guess what?  When you make people’s jobs and bonuses contingent on the performance of their students on high-stakes standardized tests, they have a really strong incentive to cheat!  Check out the details of Michelle Rhee’s tenure as Chancellor of the Washington, D.C. schools as reported by USA Today this week:

Michelle Rhee, then chancellor of D.C. schools, took a special interest in [the Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus, a school in northeast Washington]. She touted the school, which now serves preschoolers through eighth-graders, as an example of how the sweeping changes she championed could transform even the lowest-performing Washington schools. Twice in three years, she rewarded Noyes’ staff for boosting scores: In 2008 and again in 2010, each teacher won an $8,000 bonus, and the principal won $10,000.

A closer look at Noyes, however, raises questions about its test scores from 2006 to 2010. Its proficiency rates rose at a much faster rate than the average for D.C. schools. Then, in 2010, when scores dipped for most of the district’s elementary schools, Noyes’ proficiency rates fell further than average.

A USA TODAY investigation, based on documents and data secured under D.C.’s Freedom of Information Act, found that for the past three school years most of Noyes’ classrooms had extraordinarily high numbers of erasures on standardized tests. The consistent pattern was that wrong answers were erased and changed to right ones.

Noyes is one of 103 public schools here that have had erasure rates that surpassed D.C. averages at least once since 2008. That’s more than half of D.C. schools.

Gee, who ever could have predicted this?  Let me just quote high-stakes testing apostate Diane Ravitch: Continue reading

Shunning as a recourse for bad behavior

Inside Higher Ed has an article today about some conversations on Philosophy blogs about philosophers’ frustrations with institutional and professional redress for sexual harassment and their open call to shun well-known harassers:  don’t invite them to give talks, don’t put them on conference panels or programs, and when approached by them individually, walk away and refuse to speak to them. 

Sexism and sexual harassment can be found in any academic discipline, of course. But philosophy is notable for lagging other humanities disciplines in reaching anything resembling gender parity in most departments. In 2007, the discipline debated its treatment of women after an analysis found that, in top-20 departments, women held only 18.7 percent of tenure-track positions, with two departments under 10 percent. For the past two years, the blog Feminist Philosophers has been drawing attention to conferences in the field at which all speakers are male.

Peggy DesAutels, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Dayton and chair of the American Philosophical Association’s Committee on Women, said that the recent public discussion of sexual harassment is long overdue. She said that the stories being posted on blogs are consistent with situations she has witnessed over the years or that she has heard directly from women who have sought her out because of her role in the APA.

This seems like a pretty modest and reasonable remedy to me.  Continue reading

"When our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act."

I heard the speech tonight while running.  My short reaction?  State Department: 1.  Department of Defense: 0.  I think it’s a speech that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, and human rights advisor Samantha Power are very comfortable with.

I thought the speech presented a convincing narrative for the intervention in Libya and a solid articulation of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy.  Do I love the prospect of another open-ended occupation of an Arab or Middle-Eastern country (or any other country, for that matter?)  Of course not.  But I don’t think it would be reasonable to expect an American president to restrict his foreign policy to stamping out the flaming bags of poop left on the doorstep by the previous administration.  And Obama was elected with more of a mandate for his foreign policy vision than any president since. . . John F. Kennedy?  (That’s my guess.  In the twentieth century, most Democratic presidents have been elected for their domestic policy agendas, with perhaps the exception of Woodrow Wilson’s re-election and Kennedy’s “missle gap” strategy.)

This was the peculiar genius and daring of the Bush/Cheney regime:  they were unafraid to use their power, consequences beyond re-election be damned.  They knew that it was a lot easier to start wars than to end them, and to tear apart cities and institutions than to rebuild them, so they always knew which side they wanted to be on.  (And they were also able judges of the Democrats and the media, whom they knew would be too wimpy and internally divided to mount a serious and principled opposition in the face of a full-throated cry for wars of vengeance.)

Of course, hindsight is an infinitely wise judge, and how the “Obama Doctrine” is regarded by history will all depend on its effectiveness.  Continue reading

Krugman on Cronon

Paulie the K. weighs in on my man Cronon.

Those are some pretty nice words for Nature’s Metropolis (1991), a book that’s old enough to vote Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker out of office and almost old enough to have a legal beer with its author.  As commenter Kathie observed yesterday, Salon’s Andrew Leonard “mentioned that he just purchased two of Cronon’s books; when I checked at Amazon, those two books were ranked something like #45 and #51 — not bad for history publications!!”

Proving once again the old adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Geraldine Ferraro (1935-2011), bad girls, and good girls

It’s been quite a week for celebrity women’s deaths:  first Elizabeth Taylor, and now the first woman to run for Vice President on a major party ticket in the United States, Geraldine Ferraro.  I thought of the several obits I’ve seen that Joan Walsh’s was the very best, bar none.  She’s someone who gets both the New York political and national women’s historical context of Ferraro’s life, her 1984 candidacy, and her unfortunate remarks about Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign. (Just go read Walsh–do it!  Do it now!) 

And now, something I should have posted in honor of Elizabeth Taylor but seems relevant for Ferraro too:  Continue reading

Bill Cronon's Wisconsin e-mail FOIA'd, $hitstorm ensues

The Wisconsin Republican Party

UPDATED BELOW, with more links to bloggy commentary.

UPDATED SUNDAY MORNING:  a comment by a Wisconsin proffie got stuck in moderation–take a gander at it here.  Those of you who might be hiring faculty next year–alert your deans.  You might be able to recruit some top-notch former Badgers!

Yesterday, my university and blog-related e-mail accounts filled up with links describing the political $hitstorm that resulted from University of Wisconsin historian William Cronon’s op-ed in the New York Times on Monday about recent events in Wisconsin’s political history and his new blog, Scholar as Citizen.  (Enemies of liberty everywhere watch out, he’s got a blog, and he ain’t afraid to use it!)  The two-cent summary is that the Republican party of Wisconsin has issued a Freedom of Information Request for his e-mail account for every piece of correspondence since January 1, 2011.  Cronon describes each step down  the path to Crazzyville on his blog, but don’t miss Tenured Radical’s rundown and commentary, too.

This morning he reports that the New York Times has written an editorial excoriating the Wisconsin Republican Party’s use of the Freedom of Information Act to attempt to intimidate or silence critics.  It’s available online here, and will run in Monday’s print edition.

I commented over on his blog yesterday on the Republican Party’s response to Cronon’s complaint about their FOIA request Continue reading

Miss Betsey: A Memoir of Marriage, by Eugene Genovese, part I

Eugene Genovese is among the most famous American historians of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  A working-class Brooklyn kid with Italian immigrant roots and former Communist, his application of Marxist theory to the history of American slavery was pathbreaking and remains important.  A lifelong outsider with a chip on his shoulder, his professional calling card has been that he is a notoriously difficult guy to get along with.  He was perhaps equally famous for marrying Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, another historian originally trained in French history who became (like him) a prominent historian of the American South, and of southern women in particular.  She was by his account in Miss Betsey:  A Memoir of Marriage (ISI Books, 2009) nearly a saint in her patience and caretaking of him, besides being the better teacher, better citizen, better Catholic, and tougher agent provocateur of scholars of all intellectual and political stripes. 

Now, I know what those of you who know who Eugene and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese are might be thinking:  this is going to be hiliarous!  After all, they are perhaps the closest things to neoconservative historians aside from Gertrude Himmelfarb, and Fox-Genovese’s unique brand of feminism (and attacks on “radical feminists”) are legendary.  But I think you should prepare yourself for a largely positive book review.  Continue reading