2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Charles Murray is one of the best known researchers and writers on various public policy topics. He is oftentimes maligned due to the fact that many of his positions and arguments fly in the face of the popular wisdom and challenge some of our most cherished prejudices. In the case of education, those prejudices have been the source of countless "reforms" that have had very little, if any, impact on the actual achievements of students they were meant to help. The latest one of those attempts, the No Child Left Behind act (NCLB) was the immediate inspiration of a series of articles that Charles Murray wrote for the Wall Street Journal. Those articles have been expanded and turned into this book. Because of politically sensitive nature of the topic, Murray is banding backwards to try to make his assumption as uncontroversial as possible and avoid for the most part the minefields of race, class and gender. The four assumptions that he bases all of his arguments are the following:
1. Ability varies.
2. Half of the children are below average.
3. Too many people are going to college.
4. America's future depends on how we educate the academically gifted.
The veracity of some of these assumptions can hardly be questioned - the second one is just a tautology. However, most people don't look education or their intellectual ability rationally, so it is worthwhile emphasizing the obvious. On the other hand the last two assumptions are very politically unpopular, and Murray expends considerable amount of space in backing them up and presenting the best possible arguments in their favor.
Unfortunately, I am not too optimistic that this book will have much of an impact on people who really need to make hard political choices. The real hope for change lays elsewhere - in an increasing number of technological and social developments that will create new pressures on the traditional educational system. The advent of the internet and the growing amount of resources for learning outside of the established educational venues will create an incentive for more flexible and diverse educational experience. The globalization of work will create pressures on schools and colleges to become more open to changes that will bring them in line with reality. In a meanwhile, we have to be grateful that there are people out there like Charles Murray who are willing to write so clearly and persuasively about these issues.
This is also probably Charles Murray's most accessible book so far. It is written in a conversational/polemic style with no footnotes, graphs, or tables. It is a very straightforward read and could be finished in a single sitting. Overall, there is so much going for this book that I really hope it will be read by a very wide audience.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 August 2011
A book that comprehensively clarifies what astute parents already know/suspect. A book that should be read and understood by those in government and in education authorities who formulate education policy, and by parents who want to better direct their kids, so that heir kids are less likely to be misdirected into lines of education for which their kids are ill-suited, and thus be better able to achieve a lot more, than hey are too often encouraged to pursue.