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The Will of the People: How Public Opinion Has Influenced the Supreme Court and Shaped the Meaning of the Constitution By Barry Friedman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 614 pp., $35)   In 1952, as the Supreme Court contemplated the set of cases that would eventually become known as Brown v. Board of Education, a law clerk named William H.

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The Sheriff

For the better part of an hour, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has been kicked back in the front cabin of Coast Guard One, the small but handsomely appointed plane on which she travels, chatting easily about the challenges of running the third-largest Cabinet department. En route back to Washington after three days of nonstop meetings in Mexico City--a whirlwind visit made more challenging by the fact that Napolitano broke her right ankle playing tennis last month and is still hobbling around on crutches--the secretary is in wind-down mode.

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From: Kevin Carey To: Diane Ravitch, Ben Wildavsky, Richard Rothstein, and Andrew Rotherham Subject: School improvement has to happen now, not at some magic moment when the conditions are just right. Also, surely we can find common ground on charter schools. Richard, I sometimes wonder why you bother to write about public schools. You seem to have very little interest in the practice of education itself.

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From: Diane Ravitch To: Andrew Rotherham Subject: We need to improve our education system—not tinker with models that affect tiny numbers of kids and can’t be replicated. You complain that, in my new book and in this symposium, I fail to provide the way forward or at least a few silver bullets. You say that I do not show the way forward. So let me give it a try. First, the punitive approach embedded in NCLB, in my judgment, has poisoned the atmosphere. Teachers feel fearful, beleaguered, and disrespected. A few months ago, a national survey found that 40 percent of U.S.

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From: Kevin Carey To: Diane Ravitch, Richard Rothstein, and Ben Wildavsky Subject: Looking for answers to the problems plaguing education? Diane Ravitch doesn't offer them.  Apostates always make a good story. So it's been no surprise to see Diane's high-profile repudiation of her ideological fellow travelers, chronicled in The Death and Life of a Great American School System, featured prominently in The New York Times and The Washington Post. The book is selling briskly.

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Pass or Fail

In my new book The Death and Life of the Great American School System, I argue that the current movement to fix schools will not improve American education. In fact, it may very well harm it. Today’s reformers--few of whom are educators--say that changes in incentives and sanctions and in the governance of schooling will lead to improved achievement. They believe that a stronger emphasis on testing and accountability and an expansion of privately managed charter schools will raise student performance.

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Iran Contrarians

Say what you want about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but “he knows how to work a room.” So claims Flynt Leverett, the contrarian Iran analyst who, with his wife Hillary Mann Leverett, paid a visit to the Iranian president in New York City last fall. During the sit-down at Manhattan’s InterContinental Barclay hotel with a group of invited academics, foreign policy professionals, and other Iranophiles, the Leveretts marveled at Ahmadinejad’s attention to detail as the Iranian took copious notes and strove to pronounce their unfamiliar names correctly. “He addresses every person by name.

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Neera Tanden, one of the Obama administration's top health care reform advisers, is leaving to become chief operating officer at the Center for American Progress (CAP), the liberal Washington think-tank with close ties to the Democratic establishment. Tanden, a longtime adviser to and confidante of Hillary Clinton, first joined the Obama team when he became the Democratic presidential nominee in the summer of 2008.

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Poor Eric Holder. The fact is that he is none too smart ... and none too versed in constitutional issues. Although Ronald Reagan did appoint him Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia! Ah, those were the days when Republican presidents appointed Democrats to judicial office and Democratic presidents appointed Republicans to same. Actually, aside from his graduation from Stuyvesant High School in New York City, "second rate" is what comes to mind when you hear Holder's name. Hey, Janet Reno wasn't so brainy either. Holder's mental equipment matters now more than ever.

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Back From Rome

First, I'm back. And back from Rome, at that. I'm not sure that modern Romans actually appreciate the antiquity amidst which they live, an antiquity that goes back eight centuries before the birth of Christianity. Which means that the Etruscans, the Greeks, and the Jews were there before, well before the Romans.

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