Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Plains Pops: Stuff I Liked From Todays NYT Edition

This Joe Nocera editorial hits some important notes about the educational debate:
Teachers — many of them — will continue to resent efforts to use standardized tests to measure their ability to teach. Their leaders — some of them — will denounce the “billionaire hedge fund managers” who are financing many of the reform efforts. Reformers will continue to view teachers’ unions as the greatest roadblock to higher student achievement. How can such a poisonous atmosphere not affect what goes on in the classroom? Alienated labor is never a good thing. “It is not possible to make progress with your students if you are at war with your teachers,” says Marc Tucker.
Tucker, 72, a former senior education official in Washington, is the president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, which he founded in 1988. Since then he has focused much of his research on comparing public education in the United States with that of places that have far better results than we do — places like Finland, Japan, Shanghai and Ontario, Canada. His essential conclusion is that the best education systems share common traits — almost none of which are embodied in either the current American system or in the reform ideas that have gained sway over the last decade or so. He can sound frustrated when he talks about it.
This David Brooks analysis of Mitt Romney's disdain for the the 47% is also worth reading:
Romney, who criticizes President Obama for dividing the nation, divided the nation into two groups: the makers and the moochers. Forty-seven percent of the country, he said, are people “who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to take care of them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
This comment suggests a few things. First, it suggests that he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare?
It suggests that Romney doesn’t know much about the culture of America. Yes, the entitlement state has expanded, but America remains one of the hardest-working nations on earth. Americans work longer hours than just about anyone else. Americans believe in work more than almost any other people. Ninety-two percent say that hard work is the key to success, according to a 2009 Pew Research Survey
It says that Romney doesn’t know much about the political culture. Americans haven’t become childlike worshipers of big government. On the contrary, trust in government has declined. The number of people who think government spending promotes social mobility has fallen.
The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big-government lovers. They are Republicans. They are senior citizens. They are white men with high school degrees. As Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution has noted, the people who have benefited from the entitlements explosion are middle-class workers, more so than the dependent poor.
Finally, this Susan Cain analysis of Obama as an introvert contains an important conclusion:
Culturally, we tend to associate leadership with extroversion and attach less importance to judgment, vision and mettle. We prize leaders who are eager talkers over those who have something to say. In 2004, we praised George W. Bush because we wanted to drink a beer with him. Now we criticize President Obama because he won’t drink one with us. . . .
Would it be better if Mr. Obama palled around with more senators, attended more cocktail parties, cut a schmoozier figure? Sure. P.R. is part of a politician’s job. And as the personality psychologist Brian Little says, we all need to act out of character occasionally, for the sake of work or people we love.
But on the long list of attributes of a successful president — or of any leader — an outgoing persona is low on the list. The charisma of ideas matters more than a leader’s gregarious charms.





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