Tuesday, February 23, 2010

WSJ.com - No (Tenured) Teacher Left Behind

WSJ.com - Opinion: No (Tenured) Teacher Left Behind


School reformers generally agree that the most important education resource is the teacher. But one of the biggest obstacles to putting a good instructor in every classroom is a tenure system that forces principals to hire and retain teachers based on seniority instead of performance.

California grants tenure to teachers after merely two years in the classroom. New York, like most other states, makes teachers wait a grand total of three years before giving them a job for life. In most cases tenure is granted automatically unless administrators object, which is rare.

This means that large numbers of ineffective teachers wind up with ironclad job protection. When low-performing teachers can't be fired, it's the students who suffer.





Thursday, February 18, 2010

WSJ.com - It's the Spending, America

WSJ.com - Opinion: It's the Spending, America


With voter anger at federal profligacy and states teetering on the verge of financial collapse, the moment is ripe for an historic reordering of American politics.

Finally, after a nonstop, nearly 80-year upward climb, government spending has hit a wall. It didn't seem possible but this is a big wall. It's the American voter.

This has been an unforgettable year in the history of American spending.

All the anxiety coursing through the country now is over the scale, size and scope of government, in Washington or where people live, in the states. The issue that Barack Obama's presidency has put squarely before the American people is how big is too big? How much is too much?




Wednesday, February 17, 2010

WSJ.com - Building Team Spirit

WSJ.com - Building Team Spirit


Nurses hesitate to challenge doctors even when doctors are ordering the wrong drug or operating on the wrong limb.


When it comes to safety, the aviation industry has it down to a science, compelling pilots to go through checklists before takeoff and relying on every crew member, regardless of rank, to work as a team and report dangerous lapses. But in hospitals there is no such fail-safe system, one reason that tens of thousands of American patients annually are harmed or killed by preventable infections, wrong-site surgeries and medication mishaps.

A few years ago, after seeing a toddler die from substandard care, Peter Pronovost, an anesthesiologist and critical-care specialist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, set out to change the way that hospitals function.

Too often, Dr. Pronovost writes, doctors "think they are infallible, communication between nurses and doctors is poor and accountability is virtually non-existent." He notes that doctors aren't trained to listen to nurses, family members or anyone else for that matter. "Medicine operates like a private club of self-styled deities where the entrance requirement is an M.D."

Dr. Pronovost proposes a two-fold strategy for bringing health care closer to the standards of aviation: simple, rigorous checklists designed to deliver proven treatments and procedures; and a cultural makeover aimed at tearing down the traditional hospital hierarchy that makes nurses afraid to challenge doctors even when doctors are ordering the wrong drug or operating on the wrong limb. Hospitals need a collaborative model, Dr. Pronovost says. Members of a medical team need to work like flight crews to redesign flawed systems of care.





Tuesday, February 16, 2010

WSJ.com - The Continuing Climate Meltdown

WSJ.com - Opinion: The Continuing Climate Meltdown


It has been a bad—make that dreadful—few weeks for what used to be called the "settled science" of global warming, and especially for the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that is supposed to be its gold standard.

First it turns out that the Himalayan glaciers are not going to melt anytime soon, notwithstanding dire U.N. predictions. Next came news that an IPCC claim that global warming could destroy 40% of the Amazon was based on a report by an environmental pressure group. Other IPCC sources of scholarly note have included a mountaineering magazine and a student paper.

Since the climategate email story broke in November, the standard defense is that while the scandal may have revealed some all-too-human behavior by a handful of leading climatologists, it made no difference to the underlying science. We think the science is still disputable.

All of this matters because the IPCC has been advertised as the last and definitive word on climate science. Its reports are the basis on which Al Gore, President Obama and others have claimed that climate ruin is inevitable unless the world reorganizes its economies with huge new taxes on carbon. Now we are discovering the U.N. reports are sloppy political documents intended to drive the climate lobby's regulatory agenda.

The lesson of climategate and now the IPCC's shoddy sourcing is that the claims of the global warming lobby need far more rigorous scrutiny.




Friday, February 12, 2010

WSJ.com - Trimming the Fat

WSJ.com - Opinion: Trimming the Fat


Rarely is there much good to say about the Obama Administration's health-care agenda, so its childhood anti-obesity campaign is a welcome turn. The American waistline is a genuine public health concern, and the White House's ideas may even do some good.

Nearly one of three children are overweight or obese, which is astonishing enough except that two-thirds of adults are too—and thus at risk for diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.

Mostly, the White House plan encourages parents to be better role models. Obesity is the result of caloric imbalance, and the only way to prevent it is healthier habits like a better diet and more physical activity.

The ultimate solution is to give people direct financial incentives to be healthier, in the form of more personal responsibility for routine and preventable medical costs. National health care would do the opposite, so the best outcome would be if ObamaCare dies and the first lady's anti-obesity campaign results in some modest success.





Wednesday, February 10, 2010

WSJ.com - Milwaukee's Voucher Graduates

WSJ.com - Opinion: Milwaukee's Voucher Graduates


President Obama's fiscal 2011 budget calls for a 9% increase in federal education spending, and he has famously said that the money should go to "what works" in education. So he ought to take another look at Milwaukee, where the nation's oldest and largest publicly funded school voucher program is showing academic gains.

The Milwaukee voucher program serves more than 21,000 children in 111 private schools, so nearly 20% more graduates mean a lot fewer kids destined for failure without the credential of a high school diploma. The finding is all the more significant because students who receive vouchers must, by law, come from low-income families, while their counterparts in public schools come from a broader range of economic backgrounds.




Tuesday, February 9, 2010

WSJ.com - Democratic Climate Revolt

WSJ.com - Opinion: Democratic Climate Revolt


The Obama Administration has been moving full-speed ahead on anticarbon regulation, never mind waiting for Congress to pass a bill. But now opposition is building among senior Democrats, with two powerful committee Chairmen introducing a bill last week to bar the Environmental Protection Agency from declaring that carbon is a dangerous pollutant.

This is bipartisanship we can believe in. Such legislation would vaporize the EPA's "endangerment finding" for carbon and thus require the Administration to use democratic debate and persuasion if it really wants to reshape the energy markets and impose huge new costs on American consumers. What a thought.

"If Congress doesn't do something soon, the EPA is going to cram these regulations through all on their own," Mr. Peterson [Democrat] said. "I have no confidence that EPA can regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act without severe harm to all taxpayers."

Added Mr. Skelton [Democrat]: "Simply put, we cannot tolerate turning over the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions to unelected bureaucrats at EPA. America's energy and environmental policies should be set by Congress." Yes, they should be.




Monday, February 8, 2010

WSJ.com - Washington vs. 'Common Sense'

WSJ.com - Opinion: Washington vs. 'Common Sense'


'Let's try common sense," President Obama said in the State of the Union address, provoking a spontaneous burst of laughter in the House of Representatives chamber. The unintended humor exposes an important truth about Washington: Everyone knows that won't happen.

More troubling, however, was that the president's speech revealed why common sense is nonexistent. Mr. Obama wants new laws to tell us how to do things better—when the need is to overhaul old laws to restore freedom of choice and individual responsibility. Up and down the chain of authority, the accumulation of law and entitlements precludes sensible decisions.


Americans know what's wrong: Government has taken on a life of its own, dragging our country down to some horrible pit of quicksand where, increasingly, no one can make sensible choices.

Washington is broken. So are most state governments. The reason is the same. Government is out of control, schools are out of control, health-care costs are out of control, lawsuits are out of control—because law has supplanted the responsibility of people needed to keep them in control.

Fixing modern government, Peter Drucker once observed, requires returning to first principles. What's missing in government is the activating principle of all human accomplishment—individual responsibility.





Friday, February 5, 2010

WSJ.com - A Short History of American Populism

WSJ.com - Opinion: A Short History of American Populism


Ask anyone reasonably well versed in American history to name our most populist-minded president, and you'll likely hear the name of Andrew Jackson. He was the son of Scots-Irish immigrants, raised on the frontier, and he ran the first democratic (and Democratic) campaign…. But Jackson was not a "spread the wealth" populist. On the contrary, he opposed the American System of John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay to have the government build roads and canals and other public works. He killed the central bank and paid off the national debt.

Jackson argued that government interference in the economy would inevitably favor the well-entrenched and well-connected. It would take money away from the little people and give it to the elites.

That view seems to be shared today in what I have called the Jacksonian belt, the broad swath of America settled by the Scots-Irish from the Appalachian chains in Virginia southwest to Texas. The Obama administration argues that Democratic big government and health-care programs will help the little guys. Jacksonians today, as in the 1830s, don't agree.

Why has the politics of economic redistribution had such limited success in America? One reason is that Americans, unlike Western Europeans, tend to believe that there is a connection between effort and reward and that people can work their way up economically. If people do something to earn their benefits, like paying Social Security taxes, that's fine. But giving money to those who have not in some way earned it is a no-no. Moreover, like Andrew Jackson, most Americans suspect that some of the income that is redistributed will end up in the hands not of the worthy but of the well-connected.

Now the president and his advisers seem to be assuming that populist attacks on the rich will rally the downtrodden masses to their side. History does not provide much hope for this audacity. William Jennings Bryan, whose oratorical skills outshined even Mr. Obama's, got lower percentages of the vote each time he ran.