Washington, D.C.

Inside Out
April 12, 2010

Gambier, Ohio—Ohio's U.S. Senate campaign offers an excellent preview of what this fall's midterm elections will be like: Everyone in the race wants to be an outsider, everyone pledges to break with politics as usual, and everyone is talking about jobs. Those running against Washington include Republican Rob Portman, even though he was elected to Congress in 1993 after working for the first President Bush and then held two high-level jobs in George W. Bush's administration.

Hot Shots
April 11, 2010

In the summer of 1996, during my short-lived American legal career, I clerked at a large Washington, D.C., law firm. Within a few days of my arrival, a partner dropped a 5,000-page bomb on my desk—the U.S. Air Force report on the plane crash that killed Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and 34 others in Dubrovnik earlier that year.

Killing in the Name
April 08, 2010

The following is adapted from a talk delivered at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., on March 19, 2010. One of the greatest ironies of the past decade's debates over political Islam has been that, on the whole, the most passionate and emphatic rejections of radical Islamism in this country came from President Bush and his supporters—that is, conservatives. This is peculiar because the various forms of radical Islamism represent the third major form of totalitarian ideology and politics in modern world history.

Is Education on the Wrong Track?
March 18, 2010

From: Ben Wildavsky To: Diane Ravitch, Richard Rothstein, and Kevin Carey Subject: Ravitch misunderstands the roles of charter schools, teacher professionalism, and bipartisanship in education reform. Diane, I appreciate your spirited rebuttal to my essay. I’m not surprised to hear you repeat what you say in your book--that you have no objection to the market economy per se (although you somewhat undermine your case when you toss around silly phrases like “corporate suits”). It is the entry of market principles into public education that bothers you.

Is Education on the Wrong Track?
March 17, 2010

From: Diane Ravitch To: Kevin Carey Subject: We don't yet have all the answers for fixing American education, but we know current reforms aren't working. So why keep supporting them? I am gratified by the astonishing response to my book, including your appreciation of certain chapters. Yet I didn’t write The Death and Life of the Great American School System to win plaudits from you or anyone else. I wrote it because I had to. I did not intend to “repudiate my ideological fellow travelers,” as you say, but to explain as clearly as I could why I had changed my mind about certain strategies.

Is Education on the Wrong Track?
March 17, 2010

This week, we've gathered some of top names in education policy to discuss the direction of school reform under No Child Left Behind and, now, the Obama administration. At the heart of the conversation is education historian Diane Ravitch's new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, which contends that testing and school choice--the hallmarks of recent reforms--are devastating schools.

Is Education on the Wrong Track?
March 16, 2010

On Monday, we kicked off a symposium about American education reform. Some of the brightest minds in education have come together to debate Diane Ravitch's new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, and its claims that the currentcraze for standardized testing and school choice are undermining student learning.

Is Education on the Wrong Track?
March 16, 2010

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.

The Conservative Health Care Freak-Out: It's On
March 15, 2010

A few weeks ago, I noticed that conservatives, having celebrated the death of health care reform, were starting to wake up to the fact that reform wasn't actually dead. They remained overwhelmingly confident -- Yuval Levin: "It will almost certainly fail" -- but slight doubts were beginning to materialize. I suggested that when the realization dawn that reform actually stood a strong chance of being enacted, they would start to flip out. You can imagine how this feels to conservatives. They've already run off the field, sprayed themselves with champagne and taunted the losing team's fans.

The High Degree of Difficulty for High Speed Rail
March 10, 2010

Christian Wolmar’s recent New York Times piece advocating a major Amtrak Acela corridor upgrade and an AP file datelined Buena Park, California are illustrative when it comes to the hurdles facing the nation in building high speed rail. In the Times, Wolmar argues that Acela should be made into a sort of demonstration project to truly achieve high speeds. That would involve straightening tracks, improving the catenary power supply, and eliminating grade crossings at substantial cost.