I really do wish Thomas Friedman would go back to Lebanon. I really enjoyed From Beirut to Jerusalem when I read it in high school. So I’m constantly saddened by the dreck he puts out now (and that gets published by The New York Times!). His column from yesterday, “Obama’s Best-Kept Secrets,” is a good example.
The most attractive thing is to just make fun of Friedman for putting these two subjects — kids and cars — together. And that is ridiculous. It makes you wonder if he thinks that schools and students, like cars, are created of parts so standardized that they are easily interchangeable, that you can make a mold of a “good” school and squish the “bad” school into it and everything will be better. The warning light will turn off. Would that it were!
Friedman makes a much larger — and more harmful — mistake than just picking the wrong policies about which to write a column that would be published on the frontpage of the Sunday Review section of The New York Times. His mistake is in failing to do the miniscule amount of research that proves Arne Duncan and the Obama administration’s approach to education reform is just as lacking in empirical research backing as No Child Left Behind. High-stakes testing (accountability, standardization), school choice, increasing the number of charter schools, for-profit management, et cetera. These are all costly failed ideas. And there is plenty of empirically valid quantitative and qualitative research publicly available illustrating such.
The problem I have with so many of the reformers is that they don’t seem to realize they’re experimenting with our kids, and if these little experiments (school choice, charters, etc.) don’t succeed, our children don’t succeed. In fact, they actually lose a year for every year they’re stuck in a failing experiment. A failing experiment that is taking money away from public schools, where it could be spent improving the education and environment of every student.
If Friedman really supports the Race to the Top and NCLB (how could anyone still!?), he should keep it quiet, too.