The Post-Zakaria World

As I noted in my review, Fareed Zakaria is generally a good writer, generally derivative of Tom Friedman. Too bad he’s a shill for Obama.

The latest howler (Zakaria’s book has the unfortunate habit of getting increasingly ridiculous the more one learns) is that, in spite of Bush being the most pro-India President in United States history, he squandered political good will in India.

Of courese given Bush’s high approval rating in India, perhaps Zakaria is holding Bush to an unspecified and impossible to reach standard?

s for the nuclear deal, Indians’ blithe faith in its chances may stem from something else altogether. The Pew Research Centre found that Mr Bush’s approval rating in India was “still astonishingly high” at 55%. In fact, Indians were the only people sampled who rated Mr Bush more highly than they did Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy. So, perhaps they know something the rest of us don’t

Zakaria’s book can do some real good if it flatters an American left that’s in love with Obama, derisive towards Bush, and against American power, into supporting globalization.

But as a reporter of facts or trends, you just as well watch the Discovery Channel.

No Child Left Behind: The Quantitative Revolution applied to Public Schools

Earlier, I mentioned how the Quantitative Revolution is destroying academia (both the Marxists and the intellectuals), replacing the “ivory tower” with a scientific-academic-industrial-complex. While there is much to miss in the old way, progress is clearly served by subjecting the universities to the discipline of the market and hard numbers.

Another kind of quantitative revolution is overthrowing the traditional American public school. Traditionally, American schools were a weird hybrid of cultural assimilation, industrial socialization, and leftish fads. The public schools achieved the implied ends well, normalizing immigrants to American standards (often with disastrous results), preparing a large and young workforce for the intellectual laziness of large institutions (often with disastrous results), and encouraging the most observant students to turn against our history, our country, and our values (often with disastrous results).

The man who did – and is doing – more than anyone else to change this is President George Walker Bush.

Given the weirdly Old Left hue of public schools (national culture, industrial employment, illiberal value) — cutting edge for the 1930s — it was wise not to try to save it in a recognizable form. The old rulers of schools — superintendents, unions, and elected local officials – had formed an “iron triangle” of bureaucrats, workers, and politicians who were all supportive of the status quo. Defeating them required depriving the iron triangle of most of its power, turning the rulers of the classroom into more executers of a higher will.

This is what was and is being accomplished by the No Child Left Behind Act. In place of every idea that these people ever had came quality control, numbers that could be measured. What qualities are observed this year? What about next year? Why should the national government support a school if it does not meet quality requirements?

Thus the school traditions of the past are crushed by the need for numbers, reliable numbers.

While the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has some drawbacks, these should even out. NCLB obviously makes education less enjoyable for teachers, driving away the brightest and most ambitious. However the point of quality control is that you can get away with a much duller labor force. Instead of low wages and hoping to get high-quality employees, with quality control you can get low wages and employees capable of performing mechanistic tasks, such teaching to tests. Likewise, NCLB takes away time from exploratory learning which could help the most gifted. However, primary and secondary education should provide the skills needed for life, not compete with other institutions of learning. A gifted high schooler is much better off studying for CLEP or AP tests, or attending (physically or online) an institution of higher education

More proof of the NCLB’s effectiveness keeps rolling in. Stories in the past month on science and reading scores show improvement, especially among the poor, blacks, and hispanics, in places as diverse as , Florida, New York State, New York City, Washington, DC — actually, all across the nation.

Like many conservatives, I was scared of No Child Left Behind when it began. It was an anti-democratic, federal powergrab.

Fortunately, it’s worked. And it’s working.

All that’s need now is continuous tuning, making the measures better, free education of the burden of an education and ambitious labor force, and the eventual establishing of national standards which will make public education a uniform and worthwhile experience for everyone.

Update: This post foreshadows my discussion of how academia works, how science works, and normal science.

What should Obama flip-flop on next?

He’s already changed his positions on Iraq, NAFTA, FISA, China, campaign finance, abortion (thrice!), and now the chatter is over whether his opposition to offshore drilling is sustainable.

The Weekly Standard
When it comes to offshore drilling, a growing number of Obama’s Senate colleagues are distancing themselves from his steadfast opposition. They’re even starting to side openly with McCain’s proposal to allow it. First it was Sen. Durbin, the senior senator from Obama’s home state, who said yes to offshore drilling and no to Obama. Then reports emerged that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid might change his tune on allowing offshore drilling. Now there’s word that the rise in oil prices has inspired a change of heart in Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who had previously opposed such plans.

If you could tell Obama what issue he should abandon his previous claims on next, what would you say? I’ve previously suggested free trade with Colombia and affirmative action.

What do you think?