The Washington Post’s Jay Mathews on An Optimist’s Guide to American Public Education

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on
LinkedIn
+

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard and Cara talk with Jay Mathews, an education columnist for The Washington Post and author of the recent book, An Optimist’s Guide to American Public Education. Jay describes the three key trends in K-12 schooling that he views as cause for hope. They also discuss the tensions between high-profile, college prep-centered school reformers and the dominant pedagogical outlook found across many of the major schools of education. They explore teacher-driven school reforms, whether led by legendary figures such as Jaime Escalante in traditional public schools, or in charter networks such as KIPP, which have established high-caliber teacher preparation programs. Drawing on his decades spent covering K-12 education for The Washington Post, he shares observations about the quality and success of the U.S. Department of Education’s policymaking, and the strengths and weaknesses of federal education efforts in contrast to what he has observed in states, districts, and schools. They also talk about the most effective ways to spend the massive infusion of federal money school districts are receiving through COVID relief. Next, he offers insights on American journalism, print media’s struggles to adapt to a digital world, the impact on K-12 education coverage, and suggestions for improvement. As someone whose education background and early career focused on Asia, he offers thoughts on U.S.-China relations and the wider implications for America’s global competitiveness in K-12 school reform. He concludes with a reading from his new book.

Stories of the Week: Are unnecessarily severe middle school discipline policies and practices that disproportionately target students of color exacerbating the school-to-prison pipeline? Writing in The Wall Street JournalEducation Next‘s Ira Stoll explores the debate in Boston about changing admissions policies at exam schools, and whether outside organizations, such as the Red Sox baseball team, should weigh in on the issue.

Guest

Jay Mathews is an education columnist for the Washington Post and washingtonpost.com. His column appears once a week. He has been with the Post 50 years and is the author of 10 books, including five about high schools and a New York Times bestseller, Work Hard. Be Nice, about the birth and growth of the KIPP charter school network. He is the biographer of Jaime Escalante, the most influential U.S. teacher of the last 40 years. His book, Question Everything, explores the nation’s largest college prep program, AVID. He recently authored, An Optimist’s Guide to American Public Education.

The next episode will air on Wednesday, April 21st, 2021 at 12 pm ET with guest, Professor Arnold Rampersad, the Sara Hart Kimball Professor Emeritus in Humanities at Stanford University, and the recipient of the National Humanities Medal for his books, Life of Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison: A Biography.

Tweet of the Week:

News Links:

Suspensions, handcuffs, jail — middle school discipline falls heavily on vulnerable kids

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2021/04/08/middle-school-discipline-still-falls-heavily-most-vulnerable-kids/7125491002/

WSJ/Ira Stoll from Ed Next: The Red Sox Speak Up for Racial Engineering in Boston Schools

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-red-sox-speak-up-for-racial-engineering-in-boston-schools-11617920491

Get new episodes of The Learning Curve in your inbox!

Recent Episodes

Emory Uni. Prof. Mark Bauerlein on “The Dumbest Generation” & the Digital Age

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-host Cara Candal and guest co-host Prof. Robert Maranto talk with Dr. Mark Bauerlein, Senior Editor at First Things, Professor of English Emeritus at Emory University, and the author of The Dumbest Generation Grows Up. Dr. Bauerlein shares his views about the kinds of content American K-12 students should be reading for preparation for college and meaningful lives.

Parent Advocate Virginia Walden Ford on Civil Rights, School Choice, & the D.C. Voucher Program

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-host Gerard Robinson and guest co-host Derrell Bradford talk with Virginia Walden Ford, education advocate and author of Voices, Choices, and Second Chances, and School Choice: A Legacy to Keep. She shares her experiences growing up and desegregating high schools in Little Rock, Arkansas in the mid-1960s, and the lessons she carried forward in her school choice advocacy in Washington, D.C.

U of SC Prof. Jennifer Frey on National Catholic Schools Week & Flannery O’Connor’s Fiction

As we celebrate National Catholic Schools Week, “The Learning Curve" co-host Cara Candal talks with Dr. Jennifer Frey, an associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina and fellow of the Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America. Dr. Frey shares why Catholic education is so vitally important in the lives of families, schoolchildren, and communities, with its commitment to nurturing an appreciation for “the true, the good, and the beautiful” among students from all faith backgrounds.

Andrew Campanella on National School Choice Week

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Andrew Campanella, the president of National School Choice Week. They discuss why 2021 was called the “Year of School Choice,” and the implications of more academic options for K-12 education reform across America.

AEI’s Ian Rowe on School Leadership, Civic Education, & Upward Mobility

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Ian Rowe, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on education and upward mobility, family formation, and adoption.

Stanford’s Prof. Clayborne Carson on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Civil Rights Vision & Legacy

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Dr. Clayborne Carson, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Centennial Professor of History Emeritus at Stanford University and the Founding Editor of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Journalist Bari Weiss on Fighting Anti-Semitism & the Cancel Culture

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Bari Weiss, former New York Times op-ed editor and writer, and author of How to Fight Anti-Semitism. Bari shares what motivated her to write this book, its reception, and key lessons for teachers and students alike. She also explains why we’re now seeing a rise in anti-Semitism, how educators can best combat it, and the connection she observes between the current upsurge in anti-Semitism and cancel culture.

Institute for Justice’s Michael Bindas on the SCOTUS Oral Arguments

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Michael Bindas, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, who represents the lead plaintiffs in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Carson v. Makin.

Dr. Marc Seifer on Nikola Tesla, Pioneer of the Modern Electrical Age

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Dr. Marc Seifer, author of the acclaimed biography Wizard: The Life & Times of Nikola Tesla. He reviews what teachers and students should know about the life of Nikola Tesla, the world-renowned engineer, physicist, and inventor who is more widely known nowadays for the electric car and clean energy companies named for him.

Urban Institute’s Dr. Matthew Chingos on the Year of School Choice & the Student Loan Debt Crisis

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Dr. Matthew Chingos, who directs the Center on Education Data and Policy at the Urban Institute. They discuss the “Year of School Choice,” the welcome 2021 trend of states across America expanding or establishing private school choice programs; as well as the student debt crisis in higher education.

Author Nicholas Basbanes on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow & the Spirit of American Poetry

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Nicholas Basbanes, author of the 2020 literary biography, Cross of Snow: A Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He shares why poetry - from the Epic of Gilgamesh and Homer to Dante, Shakespeare, Longfellow, Emily Dickinson, and Langston Hughes - may well be the most influential, enduring form of written human expression.

Rutgers Prof. Paul Israel on Thomas Edison, Inventions, & American Patents

This week on “The Learning Curve," co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Prof. Paul Israel, Director & General Editor of the Thomas A. Edison Papers at Rutgers University, and author of Edison: A Life of Invention, the definitive biography of America’s greatest inventor. Professor Israel describes Edison’s public and private life, as well as the impact of his world-changing inventions, such as the hot-filament light bulb, the phonograph, and the motion-picture camera.