10/28/09

Easier said than done

A friend of mine who used to be a journalist now refuses to read op-eds or blogs. I understand why. The author can say anything he or she wants without suffering any consequences for what happens later. Also, the author can call for an overhaul of entire systems and industries without worrying about how to get it done.

That's why a staff editorial in today's Korea Times is so refreshing. The KT staff outline many of the problems with "elite" schools that recruit top students.

The KT staff then concludes in staff editorial style:

"Therefore, policymakers and educators are required to overhaul the entire education system and the college admissions policy in order to hammer out more comprehensive measures to free students from private tutoring and narrow the education divide."

Oh...and the staff also added..."
It is easier said than done"

Congrats!

* * *

By the way, whenever I read staff editorials by newspapers advising politicians and citizens about what they should do, I keep in mind that many newspapers have closed down, are printing their papers in red ink, and are struggling with circulation declines. According to a recent story, U.S. newspaper circulation down 10.6%.

Seems that if newspapers want to fix problems that they'd start with that. But I guess, to quote the Korea Times, "It is easier said than done."

* * *

Andy Smarick has a well-researched and pretty smart piece arguing that the attempts to improve low-achieving schools has failed and continuing with the policy is misguided. He goes into some detail about it, but the main points are that (1) instead of trying to reform failed schools, it would be better to close them down and (2) to reopen closed schools as charters.

Wow! Talk about being easier said than done! I'd prefer to start my own newspaper!

* * *

I have been having an ongoing argument with a libertarian friend of mine. He opposes vouchers, tuition tax credits, charters, just about any form of school choice. What does he want? To blow up the whole public school system and start from scratch. We've argued about this over the phone, over lunch, on the radio, and probably in his dreams. I tell him that even vouchers scare many people, why in the world would they be interested in the complete unknown of starting over again.

I wish I had thought to tell him, "It is easier said than done."

* * *

Arguments for completely starting over sound good. They may even be correct most of the time. After all, whatever has been going on probably hasn't been working, that's why some people are calling for reform. There are interest groups embedded, making money off the way things are currently being done. Everyone may want a better mousetrap, but not if you are the mouse.

Just think about the teachers and administrators in the current system. They may love the hypothetical new jobs that they'd have in the hypothetical new system, but I bet they love their current jobs even more than hypothetical jobs. It is hard to pay for lunch with a hypothetical salary. It is hard to impress a woman with your hypothetical car when you're late for dinner.

I reminded my libertarian friend who wants to blow up the school system that after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision overturning Jim Crow that there were black educators worrying about what would happen to them! The entire system was going to be overhauled, segregation was being made illegal, black children would (theoretically, at least, for a decade) be able to attend local schools...and some black educators were wondering, but what about us?

* * *

Calling for overhauling systems is appealing, in the way it was during the 2008 presidential campaign when candidate Barack Obama was making pretty speeches saying that he was for change. He even had a pretty slogan, "Yes, we can," to go along with it.

It is hard to be against change in theory. How has that been working out for president Obama? Apparently, change was and is easier said than done, whether if you're a blogger, journalist, researcher, or president of the United States.

CJL