Entries by Jamie Gass

How Massachusetts Showed the Way on Education Reform

By Jamie Gass & Charles Chieppo Read this op-ed in The American Conservative We are now nearly four decades beyond the publication of A Nation at Risk, a federal report that indicted the “rising tide of mediocrity” and initiated a well-deserved period of hand-wringing about K-12 public education in the United States. Massachusetts was the only state to respond to the call to create a school system that would be among the best in the world. Sadly, now even the Bay State is retreating from the policies that delivered its historic success. The landmark Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993, which was entirely state-led, pushed academic content and high standards over the Bush I and Clinton administrations’ agenda of K-12 […]

Guglielmo Marconi and the importance of innovation and choice in education

By Jamie Gass and Ze’ev Wurman May 1, 2019 This op-ed appeared in multiple regional news outlets including the Springfield Republican, MetroWest Daily News, the Lowell Sun, the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise, the Patriot Ledger, and more. “I seemed to have a special… aptitude for mechanics, physics, and chemistry,” wrote the brilliant early 20th-century engineer, inventor, and founder of global communications Guglielmo Marconi, “which were not taught at the school I regularly attended.” April marks the 145th celebration of Marconi’s birth in Bologna, Italy, and this year is the 110th anniversary of his winning the Nobel Prize in Physics. He was the first person to systematically use radio waves to communicate over long distances, develop wireless telegraphy, and is considered […]

As we mark 100th anniversary of Solzhenitsyn’s birth, we appreciate importance of historical literacy

Read this op-ed in The Springfield Republican, The New Bedford Standard Times, The MetroWest Daily News, and The Daily Caller. “Harvard’s motto is ‘VERITAS’…” the Nobel Prize-winning Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said 40 years ago in his “A World Split Apart” commencement address. “[T]ruth eludes us as soon as our concentration begins to flag, all the while leaving the illusion that we are continuing to pursue it.” Solzhenitsyn would have turned 100 this month. His celebrated works One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962) and The Gulag Archipelago (1973) demolished the Soviet Union’s utopian folklore and made him the world’s greatest literary figure during the Cold War era. Read more in the Springfield Republican.

A Whale Of An Education Battle Rocks New Bedford

“[A] whale-ship was my Yale College and my Harvard,” reads Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby-Dick, which was famously inspired by New Bedford’s whaling industry. In an acrimonious plot straight from Melville, New Bedford’s mayor is fighting the expansion of a high-performing K-8 charter public school named Alma del Mar (“Soul of the Sea”), located in the Whaling City. Currently enrolling 440 students, Alma is seeking two new K-8 schools, which would serve 1,188 more pupils. This month, state officials will decide if Alma can move forward to a February final approval that would accommodate the hundreds of children on the school’s waitlist. Charter public schools are part of the historic 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act (MERA), which has made our students […]

Remember Poland’s Working-Class Revolt Against Communism

This op-ed appeared in The Springfield Republican, The Standard-Times of New Bedford, The Providence Journal, and The Federalist. “The fall of the Berlin Wall makes for nice pictures,” said Poland’s Lech Walesa, the charismatic Gdansk electrician who co-founded Solidarnosc (Solidarity), the first independent trade union behind the Iron Curtain. “But it all started in the shipyards.” Labor Day is a good time to remember Walesa, who turns 75 in September and 35 years ago won the Nobel Peace Prize. He’s probably the most important labor leader of our era. Together, Walesa, Solidarity workers, Western leaders, and Pope John Paul II defied Soviet totalitarianism in Poland, playing a decisive role in ending the Cold War and expanding human freedom. American students should […]

Reading great literature like ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ helps students become great readers

This op-ed appeared in The Daily Caller, The Berkshire Eagle, CommonWealth magazine, and The Lowell Sun. “Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget,” reads “The Count of Monte Cristo” by French novelist Alexandre Dumas, “that all human wisdom is contained in these two words — `Wait and hope.’” Tuesday marks the birthday of Monsieur Dumas, genius of 19th-century romantic historical fiction, whose other masterworks include “The Three Musketeers” (1844) and “The Man in the Iron Mask” (1847-50). A versatile writer, he also adapted E.T.A. Hoffmann’s scary story into a sweeter tale that became the basis for Peter Tchaikovsky’s immortal ballet, “The Nutcracker.” Dumas’s nearly 300 published volumes have been translated into 100 languages, ranking […]

Op-ed: Time is right to study Jefferson in our schools

By Jamie Gass and Will Fitzhugh “Students of reading, writing, and common arithmetick . . . Graecian, Roman, English, and American history . . .,” Thomas Jefferson advised about democratic education, “should be able to guard the sacred deposit of the rights and liberties of their fellow citizens.” Friday marks the 275th anniversary of Jefferson’s birthday. Given his world-changing achievements, this milestone is worthy of recognizing — and of being taught in our public schools. His contributions to the American civilization are incalculable; he was a revolutionary, statesman, diplomat, man-of-letters, scientist, architect, and apostle of liberty. Rather than forcing a titan like Jefferson to conform to our era’s often Lilliputian-style narcissism, we should study history by entering the past with […]

Op-ed: A Frankenstein’s monster attacks school literature

This op-ed appeared in The Springfield Republican, The Berkshire Eagle and The Daily Caller. BOSTON — “[N]othing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose,” wrote Mary Shelley, author of the classic horror story ‘Frankenstein’. “[A] point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.” The novel’s 200th anniversary this year is a fitting time to remember how Mrs. Shelley’s book has enlivened our understanding of human nature and modern science, even shaping popular culture and Halloween. Schoolchildren should know Mary Shelley’s name, the fact that her literary invention unleashed the science fiction genre, as well as her warnings about the perils of science run amok. Mary’s parents had been 18th-century English radicals. Her mother was the prominent, early […]

Op-ed: Copernicus Inspires Us To Seek Out A Challenging Education

This op-ed appeared in The Daily Caller. By Jamie Gass and Ze’ev Wurman “The massive bulk of the earth does indeed shrink to insignificance,” pronounced Renaissance astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, “in comparison with the size of the heavens.” February 19th is the 545th anniversary of Copernicus’s birth. His 1543 book, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, reversed humanity’s millennia-old misconception that the earth was the heart of the cosmos, and established the scientific reality of our sun-centered solar system. Called the “founder of modern astronomy,” Copernicus was orphaned as a child in Poland. His uncle, a Catholic bishop, steered him to the universities of Kraków, Bologna, and Padua. Education afforded him fluency in five languages and mastery of astronomy, mathematics, medicine, and law. Today, after the interplanetary observations […]

Op-ed: Education establishment ruining reform

This op-ed appeared in the Boston Herald on Wednesday, November 29, 2017.  The history of education reform in Massachusetts over the past quarter century could be a case study in playing the long game. A 1993 law provided a massive increase in state funding in return for high standards, accountability and more choice. Teachers unions, school committees, superintendents and others in the education establishment liked the money, but not the reforms. They kept fighting, and less than 25 years later, little but the money remains. The sad thing is that the establishment’s success at eliminating reforms has brought a steep decline in the quality of public education in Massachusetts. Once the 1993 combination of money and reforms took hold, state […]

Op-ed: Students should know the name Fannie Lou Hamer

This op-ed has appeared in WGBH News and The Berkshire Eagle. October 6 would be the 100th birthday of Fannie Lou Hamer, the black civil rights activist and vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). She made history during Freedom Summer 1964, storming the Magnolia State’s all-white delegation at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Atlantic City. “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Hamer would later famously say. Fannie Lou Hamer’s grit in the face of relentless rural poverty and violence in the Jim Crow South make her a heroine whom American schoolchildren should know. But decades of national data show just how little they actually do know about U.S. history, civics, and geography. History tells us that economic striving, great art, and moral leadership often spring from adversity. The Mississippi Delta has been called “the most Southern place on earth.” Extending from Memphis to Vicksburg, 220 miles long and roughly 75 miles across, the Delta encompasses more than 4.4 million acres. The Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers’ serpentine floodplains make it the richest, most […]

Op-ed: Let’s return to educational liberty

Read this op-ed in The New Bedford Standard Times, The Lowell Sun, The Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise, The Springfield Republican, The MetroWest Daily News, The Providence Journal, The Salem News. The Scituate Mariner, and the NH Union Leader. “[T]he Government of the United States … gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance,” President George Washington wrote to the Touro Synagogue congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, in August 1790. From Washington, D.C., to statehouses across the country, a robust public debate about private and religious school choice is occurring as K-12 education reformers are seeking legal means to expand educational opportunity and bridge socioeconomic achievement gaps in America. Massachusetts has the best K-12 public, charter, and vocational-technical schools in the country, but […]

Op-ed: Jules Verne brings children summer adventures

Read this op-ed in the Salem News, The Lowell Sun, The Patriot Ledger, Brockton Enterprise, The Fitchburg Sentinel and Enterprise, The New Bedford Standard Times, The Springfield Republican, The Berkshire Eagle, and The Federalist.  “[M]y task is to paint the whole earth, the entire world, in novel form, by imagining adventures…” wrote the renowned, late-19th-century French novelist, Jules Verne. As vacation begins, decades of K-12 education research tells us that summertime is when the academic paths of higher- and lower-performing students most radically diverge. Simply put, students who read during the summer return to school much better prepared than their classmates. Monsieur Verne is considered the “father of science fiction” for his books “Journey to the Center of the Earth” (1864); “From […]

Op-ed: The Great Statesman Cicero Presides Over The Ides Of March Forever

“How I could wish that you had invited me to that most glorious banquet on the Ides of March!” the heroic Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero wrote to one of the Roman senators who stabbed perpetual dictator Julius Caesar to death more than two millennia ago. The Ides of March on March 15, 44 B.C., is among the most important dates in the political history of Western civilization. It marks the assassination of one of the world’s worst tyrants, who demolished Roman law by marching on his own city and ultimately was made a god. When young senator Marcus Brutus dealt the final blow slaying Caesar, he raised his dagger and acknowledged Cicero for helping recover liberty. Cicero’s inspiring oratory against tyranny established […]

Op-ed: Slaving history must not be forgotten

Read this op-ed in The New Bedford Standard Times, The Lowell Sun, The Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise, The Springfield Republican, The Berkshire Eagle, The MetroWest Daily News, and The Federalist. “In thinking of America, I sometimes find myself admiring her bright blue sky … and star-crowned mountains,” wrote African-American statesman and former slave Frederick Douglass. “But my rapture is soon checked … When I remember that all is cursed with the infernal actions of slaveholding …” February is Black History Month, but black history is American history and shouldn’t be relegated to one month annually. Given K-12 education’s general disdain for background knowledge and memorizing dates, most American high school students know little European, African and U.S. history or geography, including […]

Op-ed: Gulliver’s Travels and Common Core

This op-ed appeared in The Daily Caller and The New Bedford Standard-Times on October 27, 2016. by Jamie Gass “It is universally read, from the cabinet council to the nursery,” British dramatist John Gay wrote about Jonathan Swift’s 1726 satirical masterpiece, Gulliver’s Travels. October marks the 290th anniversary of Lemuel Gulliver’s towering stride onto the world’s literary scene. From parents and teachers to Hollywood cartoonists, everyone knows kids love Swift’s witty classic about the shortcomings of human nature. For nearly 300 years, his fantastical fiction has shocked and amused adults and schoolchildren alike. Due to monumental leadership from 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act (MERA) co-authors Tom Birmingham, Mark Roosevelt, and Bill Weld, and the state’s English teachers, literature was central to the […]

Op-ed: Poetry teaches more than rhyme

Originally posted beginning on Apr. 23, 2016 in The MetroWest Daily News, The Milford Daily News, The Brockton Enterprise, and on Diane Ravitch’s Blog. “[T]he best words in the best order,” is how Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who authored the lyric sea ballad The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798), defined poetry. April is National Poetry Month, a fitting time to remember that British Romantic poetry, a wellspring of our language, profoundly influenced the flowering of the American Renaissance. That antebellum age of spiritual idealism was charted by Bay State writers, including Emerson, Longfellow, Dickinson, Hawthorne, and Melville. Schoolchildren should know their names, and that these authors were shaped by Coleridge’s poetry. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a “sea […]

Guest Opinion: Don’t let Challenger disaster, space race become lost

(Note: This op-ed originally appeared on the anniversary of the Challenger disaster, in the news outlets linked at the bottom of this post. Post originally posted on Jan. 28, 2015.) BOSTON — Today marks the anniversary of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy. “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning,” President Ronald Reagan told the nation, “as they … waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’” The country grieved, especially Massachusetts, because among the crew members killed was Framingham native Christa McAuliffe, a U.S. history teacher and the first educator-astronaut. American rocketry began in Worcester through the imagination of physicist-inventor Robert Goddard, who built the […]

Gass: On Veterans Day, Learning from ‘Black Jack’ Pershing

This op-ed has appeared in The MetroWest Daily News, The Taunton Daily Gazette, The New Bedford Standard Times, the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise, the Springfield Republican, and The Lowell Sun. Read an excerpt below. “There’s no ‘glory’ in killing. There’s no ‘glory’ in maiming men,” said American six-star General John “Black Jack” Pershing, upon his 1924 retirement. “There are the glorious dead, but they would be more glorious living. The most glorious thing is life.” Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11th, the armistice anniversary of World War I, which President Woodrow Wilson hubristically claimed was, “The war to end all wars.” Visitors to the Massachusetts State House can see wall-sized, World War I commemorative murals in the hallways surrounding legislative […]

Op-ed: We must teach hard historical truths of Emmett Till’s murder

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year old black boy from Chicago who was killed by two white Mississippians for whistling in the presence of a white woman. “The news of Emmett’s death caused many people to participate in the cry for justice and equal rights, including myself,” wrote Rosa Parks, the first lady of civil rights. Read more in The Herald News of Fall River, the New Bedford Standard-Times, MassLive, MetroWest Daily, Real Clear Education, and The Patriot Ledger. 

Massachusetts Charter Schools: “A Fire You Can’t Put Out”

This past week, at the urging of state K-12 education commissioner Mitch Chester, Deval Patrick’s Massachusetts Board of Education took a vote against Massachusetts’ nation-leading and achievement gap-closing charter schools. The vote reminds us once again how intellectually warped so much of K-12 education policymaking remains. The biggest victims of this BOE vote are the tens-of-thousands of underserved poor and minority children trapped in chronically underperforming urban school districts with no school choices and zero way out. The vote reminds us that despite the huge gains the country has made since the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education and the events in places like Birmingham, Alabama, in the early 1960s, as a people America still has, in the words of […]

To Be a National Curriculum, or Not to Be a National Curriculum: More Fordham-Finn Flip Flopping

Who says that Common Core ELA cuts classic literature, poetry, and drama? Our good friends at the Fordham Institute (see Checker & Co. as Gates Foundation vendor) must wake up early to start writing their dramatic “exemplar” texts and examples for America’s kids and policymakers. But here’s a dramatic exemplar of Common Core’s Surrealist art imitating life: Checker Finn as ed reform’s very own Hamlet. A new episode in the Common Core drama demonstrates once again the situational ethics involved with Common Core advocacy. Let’s take it from the top. [quote align=”right” color=”#999999″]As people in the K-12 edu-sphere now know, Fordham has had more costume changes than Madonna…[/quote] Back in 2011 (the Era of Good Feelings for the Common Core) one time […]

Common Core Math’s House of Hay

More than once, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has described himself as a frustrated architect. But nothing highlights our governor’s questionable architectural chops like his unwise decision to dismantle the nationally-recognized K-12 academic standards that were central to Massachusetts’ landmark 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act and replace them with weaker national English and math standards known as Common Core. A third-grader educated under Massachusetts’ state standards, might recall the fable (and lesson) of the three little pigs. And they would likely notice that Gov. Patrick is like the character in the fable who built his house of hay. Too bad for him and proponents of Common Core that it doesn’t take a big bad wolf, a monsoon, or even the growing […]

Fordham’s Petrilli Rodeo Clowning for ObamaCore, Gates $$, & the Great Society

Commentary magazine did a great blog about how Common Core is really ObamaCore and how right-leaners and left-leaners alike across the country are now in open rebellion over the growing federal takeover of K-12 education standards, testing, and curriculum. See below: Wherever you stand on the Common Core, an attempt to provide a set of nationwide education standards, it can’t be good news for the program that it has begun to so resemble the disastrous process and rollout of this administration’s last federal reform, ObamaCare. Yet the opposition to the Common Core has followed a familiar pattern. As the Heartland Institute noted in 2011, “The Obama administration made adoption of the Common Core a criterion for winning part of $4.35 […]

Worcester Telegram & Gazette: Missing out on timeless literature

Guest View: Southern literature never ceases to inspire This op-ed originally appeared in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and The New Bedford Standard Times. By Jamie Gass Jamie Gass directs the Center for School Reform at Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based think tank. August 09, 2013 12:00 AM “He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice,” Mississippi’s William Faulkner said of man upon receiving the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature, “but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things.” New Englanders can rightfully claim to have been America’s 19th-century literary hub, but no other regional landscape dominated 20th-century literature […]

New Bedford Standard Times: Otis’ fiery speech a clarion call to teachers

This op-ed originally appeared in The Lowell Sun, Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise, and the New Bedford Standard Times. By Jamie Gass Jamie Gass directs the Center for School Reform at Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based think tank. July 04, 2013 7:20 AM After witnessing the speech “Against the Writs of Assistance,” Massachusetts revolutionary John Adams wrote: “James Otis was a flame of fire; with … classical allusions, a depth of research, a rapid summary of historical events and dates, a profusion of legal authorities, a prophetic glance of his eyes into futurity. … American Independence was then and there born.” In our Statehouse, front and center above the stairway directly facing the offices of the governor, Senate […]