Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Look at the silly Monkey!

Sara Mead at the Quick and the Ed does a nice job of interpreting a GodAWful Brooks column (sorry, it's behind the prescripton wall). I recommned you read Sara's post in it's entirety. But I wanted to focus on an aspect of Brooks column. Sara summarizes it for us:

To paraphrase Brooks: "Golly, isn't it interesting that men's and women's favorite books are different? Completely ignoring any social or cultural reasons why this might be the case [like, I don't know, most guys I know would be subjected to serious abuse if their friends caught them reading Jane Eyre], I'm going to blame their brains. You see, modern science has shown us that men and women are not identical!!! Unfortunately, schools are still stuck in the mindset of the seventies--the dark ages before we realized that men and women are different--and insist on subjecting boys to a girly, "sensitive" curriculum that forces them to read books about girls and their feelings. What red-blooded young American male would put up with that? Clearly our schools are forcing boys to HATE READING."

The issue I want to highlight here is how this column is such a complete red herring and the criminal waste of prime op/ed space on a specious correlation with dramatically important education issues beign grappled with across the country. This is a masterful framing of several GOP narratives. For example, educators helping girls at the expense of boys (Damn Feminists) and my personal favorite, the contempt for the glories of Western Culture held by liberal elites as exemplified in Summer reading lists for high school students. (What are all these foreigners doing on my kids reading list? Who is Dostovyesky? He sounds Russian, he must be a COMMIE!)

Education policy issue and reform are increasingly driven by peer reviewed empirical studies and complex statisical evidence. In addition, we have arcane political issues in close to 13,000 separate educaiton jurisdiciton that touch on labor, Federal vs state and local control, and perhaps most important of all, the unqiue funding mechanisms in most states that ties property values to school funding. Sorting these issues out requires everyone from across the political spectrum to engage honestly in hashing these issues out. And the problem is not unique to Hacks like Brooks. I'm no more impressed with the NEA's arguments about mandatory testing than I am about the culture war driven whining about history teachers moving away from apocryphal stories about Cherry Trees and towards factual and realistic views of our past. Both are driven by narrow political agendas that don't put the students needs first, period.

Brooks and pundits like him possess the pulpit and the background to help readers sort out the issues and allow them to participate in the debate about how to improve our end product in education. Yet they are addicted to advancing the political agenda that makes this process so difficult. Instead of talking about improving teacher quality in low performing in low income schools, or how to fund student enriching activites like the arts, we end up pissing about the Farcical issues like Darwin vs Creationists. School board meetings across the country end up consumed by this horrible crap. But try to get people to care about the actual governance issues? Now that's the real challenge, and Brooks should be part of the solution. If you are going to devote your New York Times column to education, even from a conservative perspective, is is too much too ask to actually have real take? Look, even a voucher column, as long as it's honest, contributes.

But no, Brooks has to share the profound revelation that boys are different from girls in some neurological way, and that means they hate girly books. Or something. I doubt even he knows what he is trying to say. The point is: Who cares?? Our issues in education are too large and important to bitch about how your kids reading list is making him a sissy. Memo to you David: I'll take a sissy kid over an illiterate one every day. So if you cannot contribute to this debate in a meanigful way, then go back to your shilling for Karl Rove and shut the hell up.

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