Steven Wilson on Anti-Intellectualism in K-12 Education

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Co-host Bob Bowdon talks with Steven Wilson, Founder and former CEO of Ascend Learning, a charter school network in Brooklyn, New York. They discuss the emergence of anti-intellectualism in K-12 schooling, the topic of a controversial blog post in which Steven raised concerns about the increasing politicization and radicalization of the curriculum. He argues that this troubling trend threatens our ability to arrive at a shared, rather than subjective, understanding of reality and to pursue objective truth. This could ultimately lead to a totalitarian-style suppression of ideas rather than their free exchange. He also laments the loss of bipartisan consensus about the beneficial role charter schools play as an experiment in innovation and healthy competition, and he calls on charter supporters to make a stronger case for these schools.

Stories of the Week: In Illinois, a bombshell report revealed 20,000 incidents of children being sent to “isolation rooms” supposedly reserved for violent situations, but actually used in many cases for students with disabilities. A new survey shows some high school-age students are more likely to say that the First Amendment goes too far to protect free speech – is this the result of cyber bullying? In Indiana, thousands of teachers participated in a “Red for Ed” rally at the state capital to demand higher compensation, resulting in 45 percent of public school students missing class.

Commentary of the Week: Senator Cory Booker, in The Wall Street Journal: “The Big Lie About Charter Schools: Democratic presidential candidates claim they take money away from public schools. That’s nonsense.”

Tweet of the Week: The Truth: @TheTrut38722721

@TheTrut38722721: “Homeschooling gets a bad rap. The more kids that are homeschooled the less need there is for unionized teachers paying into the pension fund. That’s why public educators are so against homeschooling.”

Newsmaker Interview Guest:

Steven Wilson is the founder and former chief executive officer of Ascend Learning and a senior fellow at Education Sector and formerly, Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is the former CEO of Advantage Schools and a former executive vice president of Edison Schools. Earlier, Wilson was special assistant to Massachusetts Governor William Weld and co-executive director of Pioneer Institute. He is the author of two books: Learning on the Job: When Business Takes on Public Schools and Reinventing the Schools: A Radical Plan for Boston. He is the board president of Building Excellent Schools and a graduate of Harvard University.

Story Links:

ProPublica Illinois/Chicago Tribune: “The Quiet Rooms”

Knight Foundation: “Taking Gen Z’s Pulse on Free Expression and Inclusion”

The Indianapolis Star: ‘We will fight’: Thousands of Red for Ed teachers rallied inside and outside Statehouse

Programming note: Co-host Cara Candal is off this week, participating in the Excel in Ed National Summit on Education Reform.

The next episode will air on Dec. 6th, with guest, E.D. Hirsch, Jr.

E.D. Hirsch, Jr. is the founder and chairman of the Core Knowledge Foundation and professor emeritusof education and humanities at the University of Virginia.