ISA HOPKINS

Raconteur. Adventurer. Kimchi Enthusiast.

Challenging Convention

I know I keep talking a good game about this Harry Potter post and then going on about other things instead, but I promise, it’ll show up before 2011 runs its course.   In the meantime: this piece by Diane Ravitch, who should team up with Elizabeth Warren and run for president of the universe, is both angering and inspiring in all the best ways.  Ravitch is reviewing two new books about education.. Read More

Required Reading

To my mind, one of the most fascinating elements of contemporary conservatism is the antipathy towards urbanism.  Social conservatism’s central pillars are, after all, economic self-sufficiency and “small town” values — knowing your neighbors, family-orientedness, etc.  (This is a generous reading of conservatism, but one that conservatives themselves often claim.)  Similarly, much of the urbanist movement since the 1990s has been rooted in the philosophy of famed urban thinker Jane Jacobs, who abhorred.. Read More

Color in the Classroom

Louis C.K. (via Ta-Nehisi Coates) schools Leno on race relations.  Coates brings up an important point in his discussion: as easy as it is to look around in 2010 and feel satisfied with racial progress (not a wise attitude to take, but an easy one), it’s worth remembering that it really was not very long ago that the situation was very, very different — that many people alive today, and not all that.. Read More

My Beef With “Glee”

“Glee” is kind of a big deal right now.  They’re getting gushing write-ups in Rolling Stone, episodes of “The Office” devoted to them, and, oh yeah, outselling the Beatles.  The “Glee” Christmas album is predicted to be this season’s biggest hit.  There’s no show I find so simultaneously entertaining and enraging as this High School Musical for the slightly older set. First, what “Glee” does right: it captures beautifully the unironic joy of.. Read More

Direct Democracy Fail

One meme that seems to have made its way into the various national election post-mortems is that California escaped the Democratic bloodbath; that, in spite of the failure of Prop 19, we remain so staunchly liberal that we are replacing the Governator with Governor Moonbeam.   Really, though, what analysts forget is that the California electorate doesn’t need to express its populist anger by sweeping out incumbents every two years.  California already has.. Read More

Poverty & the Making of American Politics

With the midterm elections fast approaching, the time is ripe for reflections on the changes wrought in the political landscape since Obama’s election nearly two years ago.  Such thinkpieces tend more towards the negative — though some are more balanced than others — but, invariably, much mention is made of ye olde Tea Party, that purportedly populist uprising that has so usurped the sociopolitical conversation of late.  There are many theories of the.. Read More

A Dose of Healthcare Reality

(Aren’t healthcare puns the best??) This post, at The Incidental Economist, is the introduction to a ten-part series that I cannot recommend enough — each part is very short, direct, and easily digestible, so don’t let the length intimidate you.  Essentially, it is a point-by-point breakdown of the specific areas in which the American healthcare system is overspending (and, in one post, underspending) according to our GDP.  It is a useful and quantitative.. Read More

Conclusions & Miscellania

Because my “Getting Schooled” posts were so long, I wanted to take the opportunity for a concise summary of my points.  Basically, my issues with reform are this: 1.  The teachers’ unions are made out to be the biggest impediment to improvement, setting the well-being of children and the well-being of teachers against one another; 2.  The use of a single, deeply flawed metric — student standardized test scores — as the total.. Read More

Getting Schooled, Part II

As promised… a weekend follow-up to my Friday post about education reform.  The real centerpiece of reform efforts is the notion of “data-driven education,” i.e., that teachers can be objectively measured according to certain benchmarks.  While perhaps a reasonable principle, what this has meant in practice is an increased reliance on standardized testing.  Standardized testing in education is an abominable failure as a scientific method of data collection: different populations are measured against.. Read More

Getting Schooled

I have been meaning, since the start of this blog, to craft a lengthy essay about school reform efforts, and the conflation of “hype” with “evidence”.  I’ll go into more detail in a post this weekend, but fortunately, the evangelical zealotry of educational reform — reaching its zenith in the forthcoming documentary “Waiting For Superman” — is starting to get a critical appraisal from some quarters. Reform is, of course, needed.  But the.. Read More