Why our children can’t read

I am the father of two grown sons who are thankfully out of the K-12 education system. I say thanks to because I found education to be inherently anxiety-inducing. Getting your kids back to school after years is no easy feat and my own ambivalent memories as a student didn’t help.

I’m pretty sure it’s always been that way, but today it just seems to be in a fever of horror. There is increasing (and inefficient) spending per pupil; the lack of meaningful choice for many, if not most, parents and students; lack of transparency and accountability; the long-term effects of COVID-related quarantines; the rise of highly politicized curricula on everything from critical race theory (CRT) to gender and sexual orientation; and back to arguments over library books.

Today’s guest is Robert Pondiscio, an education expert at the American Enterprise Institute who wrote How the other half learns, a fantastic book about Success Academy, a controversial and highly effective charter school system based in New York (see my 2019 interview with him about it). Moreover, he is actually taught at a low-income public school in the South Bronx.

Pondiscio will add another concern to our list of concerns: Schools are not teaching children to read in any meaningful way. He’s a strong supporter of all forms of choice and school reform, but says choice alone is simply not enough to help lower-income kids who can benefit the most from a really good education.

We talk about all of that, plus vigilance and a bunch of other related topics. Lwe’ll call this episode “Everything You Wanted to Know About What’s Wrong with K-12 Education, But Were Too Afraid to Ask.” It was first performed as Reason livestream on YouTube (watch here), hosted by my colleague Zach Weissmueller.

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