11 November 2008

What I'm Reading

Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality, by Charles Murray. Murray is the co-author of the notorious The Bell Curve. Real Education claims that America's system of education rests on a series of falsehoods. The four "simple truths" that Murray argues would, if acknowledged, radically improve American education are: (1) academic ability varies widely, and is largely incorrigible; (2) half of the children are below average; (3) too many people go to college; and (4) America's future depends not on how we educate those at the lower end of the bell curve but rather on how we educate the academically gifted.

In preparation for a conference I am attending, I am also re-reading Edmund Burke's 1790 Reflections on the Revolution in France, F. A. Hayek's essays collected in Individualism and Economic Order, and selections from Russell Kirk, including from his 1953 The Conservative Mind and his 1954 A Program for Conservatives. These are fascinating, and enduring, works. One striking fact is that both Hayek and Kirk claim Burke as one of their intellectual forebears, yet Hayek claims to be a "liberal" and sharply criticizes conservatives, while Kirk claims to be a "conservative" and sharply criticizes liberals.

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