Failing The Test: Writing in the New York Times (August 11), Lynne Cheney, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, argues against “whole math,” the term critics use to describe standards set by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. “In a field distinguished by reliance on proof,” she writes, “an unproven approach is being taken in thousands of schools.” In some schools, Cheney reports, the use of whole math has provoked a backlash by angry parents. “Particularly in California, where schools have enthusiastically embraced the constructivist fad, parents have complained about students unable to do simple mental computations, about high school graduates who get A’s and B’s in whole-math classes and have to do remedial work in college.” Cheney wants to see “the whole-math experiment” shut down. “If we want our children to be mathematically competent and creative,” she writes, “we must give them a base of knowledge upon which they can build.”
A Voice For Vouchers: The debate over school vouchers has long pitted conservatives, who support the concept, against liberals, who don’t. But the lines may be blurring. That’s the conclusion of Samuel Freedman, who profiles the Reverend Floyd Flake in the September 1 issue of New York magazine. Flake, a Democratic congressman from New York City who is resigning this month to spend more time with his congregation, thinks vouchers have the potential to save inner-city schools. And he’s not the only prominent African American who believes it. “Now that Flake and an increasing number of black leaders and citizens are portraying vouchers as an alternative to educational disaster in the slums,” Freedman writes, “the cause has been resuscitated with an idealism that scrambles the usual lines of political combat.”
Schools Inc.: The privatization of public schools is alive and well, reports Phyllis Vine in The Nation (September 8-15). Despite the much-publicized failures of Educational Alternatives Inc.'s schools in Baltimore and Hartford, Connecticut, a number of other for-profit ventures, including some charter schools, are now under way. But critics say these schools are merely selecting the best students and leaving the others behind. “Creaming students most likely to succeed, poor management, unionbusting, conflicts of interest, and discrimination against kids who need special education (and sometimes discrimination against kids of color) all are on display in the for-profit school system,” Vine writes.