What is the great the illusion of education? How do both the Left and the Right perpetuate myths that harm the most vulnerable participants in the system- the students? In this episode, EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomes author Fredrik de Boer to discuss his book, The Cult of Smart.
A terrific conversation ensues, featuring areas of both agreement and disagreement between Roberts and de Boer. Now we’d like to know what you think. Use the prompts below and share your answer in the comments, or use them to start your own conversation offline.
1- What are the different myths that the Left and the Right lean on with regard to education, according to de Boer? What do they have in common, and how do they diverge?
2- Roberts pushes de Boer, suggesting he gets close to saying schools achieve nothing. How does he respond? What does de Boer mean when he says that different schools make no difference?
3- De Boer asks a trenchant question: To what extent is educational mobility even desirable? How would you answer this question?
4- In discussing the “monolith” of American K12 education, Roberts and de Boer talk about the role of standards. Why does de Boer insist it’s a mistake to measure gains in learning? To what extent do you agree that standards are the opposite of innovation in education?
5- Both Roberts and de Boer emphasize their concern for those at the bottom- whether income distribution or academic achievement. Compare their suggestions regarding how best to help those with the lowest academic achievement. Who’s more convincing? What do you think can be done to help those at the bottom?