Music To Our Ears

by Robert Pondiscio
November 6th, 2008

Another potential data point in the argument for a broad, content-rich education: A Harvard-based study has found that children who study a musical instrument for at least three years outperform children with no instrumental training in several key ways, Science Daily reports.  Not just on tests of auditory discrimination and finger dexterity, but also on tests measuring verbal ability and visual pattern completion–skills not normally associated with music.

White House Full of Teachers

by Robert Pondiscio
November 6th, 2008

It’s common knowledge that President-elect Barack Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for over a decade.  We’ve also read quite about about the career of Jill Biden, the wife of the future V-P, who teaches community college English in Delaware.  But this almost certainly the first time that the President, his Vice-President, and their spouses all have direct experience working in education.  Michelle Obama works for University of Chicago Hospitals, while Joe Biden has also taught constitutional law for many years as an adjunct professor at Widener University School of Law.

Reasons To Be Cheerful

by Robert Pondiscio
November 6th, 2008

Checker Finn and Mike Petrilli at Fordham survey the new education landscape under Obama and find reasons to cheer.  “In a year when the Democratic nominee was practically guaranteed to win the White House, the most reform-minded Democratic candidate won,” they note.  “Barack Obama’s positions on charter schools, merit pay, and even No Child Left Behind point toward a thoughtfulness and willingness to buck the status quo that were strikingly different from the postures of his closest competitors.”  They also note that the unions were not major players in the victory, so in theory he’s not beholden to them and can pursue programs they may not support.

As the first African-American president, Obama will be uniquely positioned to use his bully pulpit to exhort parents, particularly minority parents, to uphold their responsibilities to foster their children’s moral and intellectual development. Done right, this could be a powerful complement to whatever formal policies he puts forward.

On the hand, given what else is going on in the world, “education is likely to loom no higher on Washington’s agenda than it did during the presidential campaign,” say Finn and Petrilli.  Meanwhile tout le monde has a take on who is going to be the next ed secretary.  Lots of interesting names, but this strikes me as a lot of anxiety looking for a place to affix itself, as folks with various agendas look for proof that the new President is on their side.