Opinion Blog

Rick Hess Straight Up

Education policy maven Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute think tank offers straight talk on matters of policy, politics, research, and reform. Read more from this blog.

Policy & Politics Opinion

The Top 10 RHSU Columns of 2020

By Rick Hess — December 28, 2020 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

It’s almost 2021. I keep thinking, “You can’t get here soon enough.” As we prepare to put 2020 in the books, we have a chance to reflect on the strangest year I can recall. The shocks came fast and furious, from impeachment, to a once-a-century pandemic, to a massive wave of protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, to a summer of riots, to a president refusing to acknowledge his election defeat. Much of this found its ways into the world of education, most obviously through the school closures that—for millions of students—are now stretching into their 10th month. Amidst all this, I thought it worth taking a look at some of the most popular or most impactful RHSU posts from 2020.

As always happens when ranking the year’s top RHSU posts, there were a few that didn’t make the final cut but seemed to merit a mention. This year, they included Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, Betsy DeVos, and the Rage Gene (October 5, 2020), Pedro Noguera and Rick’s Excellent Adventure (September 28, 2020), and COVID-19 Has Capsized the Case Against School Choice (October 13, 2020). Now, on to the top 10 RHSU columns of 2020.

10. Four Mental Traps That Stop Schools From Getting More Bang for the Buck(September 21, 2020) - My newly released volume, “Getting the Most Bang for the Education Buck,” explores how to spend edu-dollars smarter. Today, I talk about the role of mindset in that process.

9. Sen. Lamar Alexander on the Congressional Response to Coronavirus (May 11, 2020) - “A one-hour flight to Washington doesn’t make you any smarter, and I don’t think we need to come up with a bunch of big ideas up here and send them back to states to implement—especially in education,” says Alexander.

8. Why Is School So Boring? (July 6, 2020) - Young kids are filled with curiosity, so I wonder why we design schools that seem intent on taking that hard-wired fascination with the world and stomping it flat.

7. Five Thoughts on the Coronavirus and Schools (March 16, 2020) - The coronavirus has upended our lives. Now, I know nothing about epidemiology or public health. But the impact on schooling has been enormous, and that is an area I know something about.

6. What Makes for an Effective Secretary of Education?(November 18, 2020) - Having enjoyed a front-row seat for the tenures of the past 5 secretaries of education, I have concluded there are a half-dozen traits that President-elect Biden should seek in his choice.

5. America’s Schools Are Named After Some Horrible People (July 1, 2020) - The segregationist naming of schools for those who took up arms against the nation to defend human bondage is not reflective of the values we want our kids to learn.

4. Four Things You Need to Know About Education Policymaking (January 27, 2020) - Before expecting to effectively shape policy in a world full of complexity and honest disagreement, learn about the world you want to change.

3. Bernie, Bloomberg, Booker, and the New Politics of Education(January 21, 2020) - For three decades, there was a quiet assumption that education’s growing economic import was pushing education politics toward the pragmatic middle—it turns out that this dynamic was surprisingly fragile.

2. Remote Learning: The Triumph of Hope Over Experience? (October 19, 2020) - Online learning is not a viable substitute for most learners most of the time. We shouldn’t kid ourselves that what’s being provided is a better option than it really is.

1. Participation Is Only a Part of Democratic Education (November 2, 2020) - Free nations also rely on norms and habits of mind that are less intuitive. Civics education needs to focus on these, too.

There you are. I welcome your thoughts and comments on the list. Meanwhile, let’s turn the page on to 2021.

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Boosting Student and Staff Mental Health: What Schools Can Do
Join this free virtual event based on recent reporting on student and staff mental health challenges and how schools have responded.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
Practical Methods for Integrating Computer Science into Core Curriculum
Dive into insights on integrating computer science into core curricula with expert tips and practical strategies to empower students at every grade level.
Content provided by Learning.com

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Law & Courts What Sandra Day O'Connor Did to Shape School Law and Civics Education
O'Connor wrote influential opinions on affirmative action, Title IX, and other education issues. Then she tirelessly worked on civics.
10 min read
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor listens as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pays tribute to O'Connor's advocacy work on behalf of civic education, impact on female judges and justice for women and girls worldwide at the Seneca Women Global Leadership Forum at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, on April 15, 2015 in Washington.
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor listens to a tribute to her advocacy work on behalf of civics education and women's role in the legal profession at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, on April 15, 2015, in Washington.
Kevin Wolf/Invision for Seneca Women via AP Images
States DeSantis vs. Newsom: How K-12 Schools Fared in the 'Red vs. Blue State Debate'
The Florida and California governors sparred over book bans, school closures, and parental rights during their Fox News debate.
5 min read
Left: California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a press conference in Beijing on Oct. 25, 2023. Right: Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis speaks at a Town Hall event at Tempesta's in Keene, N.H., on Nov. 21, 2023.
Left: California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a press conference in Beijing on Oct. 25, 2023. Right: Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis speaks at a Town Hall event at Tempesta's in Keene, N.H., on Nov. 21, 2023.
Left: Ng Han Guan/AP; Right: Kristopher Radder/The Brattleboro Reformer via AP
International What the Research Says It's Not Just U.S. Students. Civics Scores Have Dropped Around the World
Eighth graders are less engaged and knowledgeable about government than they were before the pandemic, a global study finds.
5 min read
vote ballot initiatives money 1371378601 01
LAUDISENO/iStock/Getty and EdWeek
Education Funding A Judge Just Ruled That Another State's School Funding System Is Unconstitutional
New Hampshire joins Pennsylvania on the list of states whose courts have ruled that it's underfunding poor school districts.
5 min read
Image of money symbol, books, gavel, and scale of justice.
DigitalVision Vectors