Friday, September 16, 2011

Stupid in America

Editor's note:  Some teachers may recall John Stossel's Stupid in America broadcast bashing NYC schools and unions back in 2006.  This time around he has a different story to tell which you can watch this weekend.   

Guest post from John Stossel

Exciting things are suddenly happening in education.  Inner-city kids do well on benchmark tests and are excited about learning. I tell fourth graders that school is boring, they yell at me, “No, it’s not!”  One boy said: “Reading is rockin’ awesome!”

I’ll report on innovations at the Success Charter Network and Harlem Village Academy in New York, and at the American Indian Public Charter School in Oakland, California.  “Let’s destroy the system… create a system that serves kids,” says charter school director Deborah Kenny.   

Hurricane Katrina made that experiment possible by destroying much of New Orleans.  Now 70% of New Orleans students attend charters, and they learn more.

Aside from such bright spots, most of education in America is still a mess.  The cost has skyrocketed, but performance is flat.

Why?  One big reason is that the government monopoly—the “BLOB”— makes it nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher. Former Washington DC school chancellor Michelle Rhee talks about her attempt to change that, including firing her own daughters’ principal, and the backlash that led to her losing her job.  

I’ll confront union leaders, like DC union boss Nathan Saunders, who opposes judging teachers by student test results.   “I know my kids are learning when I look in their eyes,” says Saunders. New Jersey union leader Joseph Del Grosso opposes charter schools:  “Over my dead body, they’re gonna come here.” 
Virtual education innovator Sal Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, is on the right track.   He’s a great teacher who now reaches millions of kids via the internet.   Some fifth graders who watch his videos do high school level math.   Before radio and TV, every big town had a best teacher and a best singer.  Mass media changed that, so now Lady Gaga sings to the whole world.   But education has stayed local and stagnant-- until now, when the web allows the world’s best teachers to reach into every classroom. 

Why don’t we have more innovation? Why don’t we have a vibrant market in education? Are we still Stupid in America

To find out, watch Stupid in America this weekend on Fox News. Tune in on Saturday at 10PM EDT / PDT, repeats on Sunday. 

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