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Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality

Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality

3.3 13
by Charles Murray

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"The most talked-about education book this semester." —New York Times

From the author of Coming Apart, and based on a series of controversial Wall Street Journal op-eds, this landmark manifesto gives voice to what everyone knows about talent, ability, and intelligence but no one wants to admit. With four truths as his framework, Charles


"The most talked-about education book this semester." —New York Times

From the author of Coming Apart, and based on a series of controversial Wall Street Journal op-eds, this landmark manifesto gives voice to what everyone knows about talent, ability, and intelligence but no one wants to admit. With four 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, but America’s educational system does its best to ignore this.

•Half of the children are below average. Many children cannot learn more than rudimentary reading and math. Yet decades of policies have required schools to divert resources to unattainable goals.

•Too many people are going to college. Only a fraction of students struggling to get a degree can profit from education at the college level.

•America’s future depends on how we educate the academically gifted. It is time to start thinking about the kind of education needed by the young people who will run the country.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Takes a moral sledgehammer to our one-size-fits-all education mind-set."
Washington Times

"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.”
—Tom Wolfe

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The Crown Publishing Group
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8.10(w) x 5.22(h) x 0.48(d)

Meet the Author

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.

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Real Education 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Have you been forced to be a star athlete lately? Have you been asked to play Mozart on the piano? What if you had to sit at the piano until the musical notes made sense to you? That is the same thing we're asking certain children to do when we say every student can excel at math, science or literature. Do we keep children after school because they aren't "good" at volleyball? Why is it so difficult to accept that some kids are born with the brain for math or science and other brains are not. We accept that about "physical" abilities. Murray's well-researched ideas about education, including the above, are spot on. Murray suggests we really look hard at our children's abilities before we set them off on a path of failure. It's not the soft bigotry of lower expectation but the hard bigotry of ignoring the individual. He's also correct about sending everyone to college. In a well-documented section on how well average or below average kids actually do in college, Murray shows we're leading them down a path of failure, loss of job experience, and a huge loss of money. We have a tendency to see children in groups. If we can get a certain group of kids into college, we've succeeded in proving the worth of our education system. What if 99% of those kids drop-out. Then what? Murray suggests we start looking at children for all the wonderful offerings they have for this world instead of forcing them all to try to be engineers. Murray is an expert in statistical analysis which is what this book uses to show how we're damaging the very children we think we're helping. It's difficult to argue with the facts. Aren't you all glad you know a good mechanic? Our plumber takes five weeks of vacation and picks and choses his jobs, he's that much in demand. He probably didn't score very highly on the math SAT either. How well did you do?
Guest More than 1 year ago
Every teacher in America knows this book is right on! Now if only the policy makers will read it!
Tunguz More than 1 year ago
Charles Murray is one of the best known researchers and writers on various public policy topics. He is oftentimes maligned due to the fact that many of his positions and arguments fly in the face of the popular wisdom and challenge some of our most cherished prejudices. In the case of education, those prejudices have been the source of countless "reforms" that have had very little, if any, impact on the actual achievements of students they were meant to help. The latest one of those attempts, the No Child Left Behind act (NCLB) was the immediate inspiration of a series of articles that Charles Murray wrote for the Wall Street Journal. Those articles have been expanded and turned into this book. Because of politically sensitive nature of the topic, Murray is banding backwards to try to make his assumption as uncontroversial as possible and avoid for the most part the minefields of race, class and gender. The four assumptions that he bases all of his arguments are the following: 1. Ability varies. 2. Half of the children are below average. 3. Too many people are going to college. 4. America's future depends on how we educate the academically gifted. The veracity of some of these assumptions can hardly be questioned - the second one is just a tautology. However, most people don't look education or their intellectual ability rationally, so it is worthwhile emphasizing the obvious. On the other hand the last two assumptions are very politically unpopular, and Murray expends considerable amount of space in backing them up and presenting the best possible arguments in their favor. Unfortunately, I am not too optimistic that this book will have much of an impact on people who really need to make hard political choices. The real hope for change lays elsewhere - in an increasing number of technological and social developments that will create new pressures on the traditional educational system. The advent of the internet and the growing amount of resources for learning outside of the established educational venues will create an incentive for more flexible and diverse educational experience. The globalization of work will create pressures on schools and colleges to become more open to changes that will bring them in line with reality. In a meanwhile, we have to be grateful that there are people out there like Charles Murray who are willing to write so clearly and persuasively about these issues. This is also probably Charles Murray's most accessible book so far. It is written in a conversational/polemic style with no footnotes, graphs, or tables. It is a very straightforward read and could be finished in a single sitting. Overall, there is so much going for this book that I really hope it will be read by a very wide audience.
LeahCarr More than 1 year ago
Real Education is, at it's heart, kind. Although I am certain that many people will miss this point. Murray makes a solid case for helping people succeed by not setting them up to fail. He does it in a manner that is compelling, and often, infuriating. Do read the book all the way through to the end-- if you put it down early, you may erroneously walk away with the notion that Murray is an elitist who thinks that only the best and brightest are deserving of education, when in fact he is saying nothing of the kind.
UncleDennis More than 1 year ago
Murray hits it out of the park on this one! Having hoped to find a hardcover version of the book (I like the more substantive hardcovers for their longevity and ability to absorb wear and tear), I settled for the paperback, but this just made it so much easier to take with me for lunchtime reading and blow through it in just a week or so. Fantastic, straight-forward, and thought-inducing writing, hitting on a few key areas where politicians and education experts dare never speak. Valuable to at least seeing another, different, perspective on how we can return some sanity to our secondary and post-secondary education systems, where so many students are "left behind" or just plain lost.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mr. Murray has a valid point that too many people go to college and we have too many colleges, professional schools etc... A college degree has become what a H.S. diploma was for our grandparents. As a career counselor said those who are in the bottom 40% of their high school class should not be in college.

That said, for Mr. Murray to espouse only those who attend so-called elite colleges should be the gold standard is espousing a "royalty" class, which is what our founding fathers rebelled against and is anti-American. The so-called elite college grads gave us the mortgage crisis, the trillion+ debt our government now has, they did not pay their taxes until nominated for a Cabinet post, the Unabomber went to one of the elite institutions and I could go on.

Those qualified to go to universitiies should not have the brand label syndrome of "elitist" institutions be a road block to their career aspirations. American success is based on self-reliance, risk taking and individualism, not the brand label status symbol mush advocated by Mr. Murray.

Advocating testing intelligence does not reveal how one will perform. All it does is put the emphasis on test taking and studying how to pass the exam not one's ability to apply their knowledge to the real world.

Albert Einstein was a terrible student because he was bored with school, if Mr. Murray's credo was in force then we never would be as advanced technologically as we are because Einstein would not have been allowed to continue his studies.

Sam Walton went to Univ of Missouri and then founded Wal-Mart.

Michael Fisher an extremely successful financier on Wall Street went to the Univ. of Oklahoma.

Two physics professors at the Univ. of Colorado won the Nobel prize in physics for their reasearch relating to their attempt to achieve absolute zero.

A personal experience: I had a roommate who was attending an "elite" medical school. He was in the top of his class grade wise. The school classes used multiple choice testing for exams. Yet when I asked my roommate to explain medical terminology or ideas he fumbled and gave answers that were terrible. He built his whole medical studies around passing multiple choice testing not understanding and learning the knowledge.

I do agree that our current education system is broken and needs to be revamped but what Mr. Murray advocates would not solve anything. It only rehashes what we currently have in a different language. A pig with lipstick is not pretty it is still a pig and a pig with lipstick is what Mr. Murray is advocating in his book. But what can one expect from a proponent of the Bell Curve?

Part of the current problem with our current educational system is too much of an emphasis on "testing" exactly what Mr. Murray advocates. He gives us shallow connect the dot crtiques/answers/solutions to complex problems relating to our current educational system.

I returned this book for a refund and would not recommend it to anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a ignorant point of view. Only the smart deserve a chance? Those that do not measure up are not good enough?