Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing American Schools Back to Reality [NOOK Book]

Overview

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 ...
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Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing American Schools Back to Reality

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Overview

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.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Murray, coauthor of The Bell Curve, believes our educational system's failures stem from the fundamental lie "that every child can be anything he or she wants" and that such "educational romanticism" prevents progress. Four "simple truths," he asserts, would prove better: children have different abilities, "half of the children are below average," too many children go to college, and America's future depends on the gifted. Murray takes care with his first point, discussing various types of abilities instead of the oft-maligned I.Q. measure; however, he does believe that test scores reflect ability. He argues that there are only a limited number of academically gifted people and these are America's future leaders, that only this "elite" can enjoy college productively and that the nongifted shouldn't be channeled by their high school counselors into training for that "college chimera," which wouldn't make them happy anyway. Further, he argues, if the Educational Testing Service created "certification tests" covering what employers want applicants to know, these would become the "gold standard" for applicants, rather than college degrees. This book is likely to stir controversy even if it appears that Murray is dressing up an old elitist argument-test scores reflect ability, so high-scorers should be offered a challenging education, while the below-average should be herded into vocational training. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Murray (Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980 ; coauthor, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life ) proposes four "simple truths"-ability varies, half of all children are below average, too many people are going to college, and America's future depends on how we educate the gifted-for parents, educators, and policymakers to confront. The current focus of the educational system, Murray contends, of educating all children to the same level and holding them to the same standards (i.e., No Child Left Behind) ignores these four truths and attempts to prepare most children to earn a B.A., though many of them are not suited for college and would be happier and more productive in different careers. He suggests that bachelor's degrees should be reserved for students with the ability and interest in careers requiring it and instead there should be a series of national certifications to show what a job candidate can actually do. Murray's argument is controversial but well researched. His book is highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-Mark Bay, Cumberland Coll. Lib., Williamsburg, KY

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307449368
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/19/2008
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 305,853
  • File size: 328 KB

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.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 11

1 Ability Varies 17

2 Half of the Children Are Below Average 31

3 Too Many People Are Going to College 67

4 America's Future Depends on How We Educate the Academically Gifted 107

5 Letting Change Happen 133

Notes 169

Bibliography 201

Index 211

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2008

    The truth at last!

    Every teacher in America knows this book is right on! Now if only the policy makers will read it!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 21, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    An Insightful Call to Arms

    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.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2009

    Set our children free!

    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?

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 3, 2011

    Highly Recommended, a thought provoking examination.

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Short, sweet, and really useful

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2008

    Also a teacher

    What a ignorant point of view. Only the smart deserve a chance? Those that do not measure up are not good enough?

    1 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2009

    Some Valid Points but America was not founded on European Style Elitism as Advocated in this book.

    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. <BR/><BR/>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. <BR/><BR/>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. <BR/><BR/>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.<BR/><BR/>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.<BR/><BR/>Sam Walton went to Univ of Missouri and then founded Wal-Mart.<BR/><BR/>Michael Fisher an extremely successful financier on Wall Street went to the Univ. of Oklahoma.<BR/><BR/>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.<BR/><BR/>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.<BR/><BR/>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?<BR/><BR/> 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. <BR/><BR/>I returned this book for a refund and would not recommend it to anyone.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 3, 2013

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    Posted July 21, 2009

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