Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality
Crown Forum, Hardcover, 9780307405388, 224pp.
Publication Date: August 19, 2008
With four simple truths as his framework, Charles Murray, the bestselling coauthor of The Bell Curve, sweeps away the hypocrisy, wishful thinking, and upside-down priorities that grip America’s educational establishment.
Ability varies. Children differ in their ability to learn academic material. Doing our best for every child requires, above all else, that we embrace that simplest of truths. America’s educational system does its best to ignore it.
Half of the children are below average. Many children cannot learn more than rudimentary reading and math. Real Education reviews what we know about the limits of what schools can do and the results of four decades of policies that require schools to divert huge resources to unattainable goals.
Too many people are going to college. Almost everyone should get training beyond high school, but the number of students who want, need, or can profit from four years of residential education at the college level is a fraction of the number of young people who are struggling to get a degree. We have set up a standard known as the BA, stripped it of its traditional content, and made it an artificial job qualification. Then we stigmatize everyone who doesn’t get one. For most of America’s young people, today’s college system is a punishing anachronism.
America’s future depends on how we educate the academically gifted. An elite already runs the country, whether we like it or not. Since everything we watch, hear, and read is produced by that elite, and since every business and government department is run by that elite, it is time to start thinking about the kind of education needed by the young people who will run the country. The task is not to give them more advanced technical training, but to give them an education that will make them into wiser adults; not to pamper them, but to hold their feet to the fire.
The good news is that change is not only possible but already happening. Real Education describes the technological and economic trends that are creating options for parents who want the right education for their children, teachers who want to be free to teach again, and young people who want to find something they love doing and learn how to do it well. These are the people for whom Real Education was written. It is they, not the politicians or the educational establishment, who will bring American schools back to reality.
Twenty-four years ago, Charles Murray’s Losing Ground changed the way the nation thought about welfare. Real Education is about to do the same thing for America’s schools.
CHARLES MURRAY is the author of two of the most widely debated and influential social policy books in the last three decades, Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950–1980 and, with the late Richard J. Herrnstein, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. He is the W. H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.
"Takes a moral sledgehammer to our one-size-fits-all education mind-set."
"It is astonishing to see plain common sense written about education, a topic I had thought long since drowned deep beneath an ocean of nonsense, venality, and lies."
—John Derbyshire, National Review Online
“Know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” said a well-known educator, albeit in a religious schooling context. Charles Murray is concerned with the secular world of education, nonetheless his message is worthy of evangelism: Tell the truth, and the truth shall make you free of foolish, cruel, and counter-productive educational policies.”
—P. J. O'Rourke
“Charles Murray, arguably the most consequential social scientist alive, has discovered a nifty formula for fame (or infamy): One, in lucid, graceful prose describe reality using evidence and logic. Two, propose policies that actually take reality into consideration. And, three, sit back and wait for the inevitable caterwauling and lamentations of those who insist reality isn’t real and who swear the crooked timber of humanity is nothing more than the malleable clay of utopian social engineers. Real Education follows this recipe perfectly. Even now, if you put your ear to the ground, you can hear throats being cleared for the caterwauling to come.”
—Jonah Goldberg, bestselling author of Liberal Fascism
“Charles Murray is one professional contrarian who cannot be written off–not since his first book, Losing Ground, led to a complete restructuring of America’s welfare system. At first Real Education, with its plan for identifying “the elite,” may strike you as an elaboration of his hotly contested views on IQ. But suddenly–swock!–he pops a gasper: a practical plan for literally reproducing, re-creating, a new generation of Jeffersons, Adamses, Franklins, and Hamiltons, educated, drilled, steeped, marinated in those worthies’ concern for the Good and Virtuous with a capital V–nothing less than an elite of Founding Great-great-great-great-great Grandchildren.”