David Kirp

David L. Kirp, James D. Marver Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, is the author of Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America's Schools, from which this article is adapted.

Recent Articles

A Good Old-Fashioned Education

Flickr/Thomas Favre-Bulle

When it comes to education policy, inconstancy is the only constant. During the past generation, self-styled reformers have pitched such nostrums as vouchers, charter schools, high-stakes accountability for teachers, and a near-total emphasis on reading and math. Nothing seems to be working, though: American students continue to lag on international tests and racial and ethnic achievement gaps stubbornly persist.

Higher Expectations

What are colleges for? Research, economic advancement, or making students more interesting?

The rotunda at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville (Flickr/Kevin Harb)

The Great American University: Its Rise to Prominence, Its Indispensable National Role, Why It Must Be Protected, by Jonathan R. Cole, PublicAffairs, 616 pages, $35

Higher Education: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids, by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, Henry Holt and Company, 288 pages, $26

The Great School Delusion

An education reformer discovers that tests, standards, and other silver bullets are no substitute for hard teaching.

Our Two-Class System

The recession has worsened already widening inequalities of access and affordability
in higher education. Could it also trigger a new grand bargain?

The recession has been a double whammy for universities and parents, leaving colleges more dependent on tuition revenue while making it harder for families to pay the tab. Parents have lost their jobs, plummeting stock prices have decimated their college savings, and the home-equity loans that families used to rely on to finance their children's education have dried up. All of these forces have widened the gap between the haves and have-nots, and universities' own survival tactics have exacerbated the problem.

Getting Smarter About IQ

Simple advances, like adequate vision and dental care, can do more for the nation's children than theoretical debates about education inequality.

A third grade student attends a class on geology at Newcomb Elementary School in Newcomb, New Mexico. (AP Photo/The Daily Times, Marc F. Henning)

Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count by Richard E. Nisbett, W.W. Norton, 304 pages, $26.95

All hell broke loose 40 years ago when Arthur Jensen's 120-page article, "How Much Can We Boost I.Q. and Scholastic Achievement?", appeared in the Harvard Educational Review. Critics accused Jensen of racism and worse; noisy protests erupted at Berkeley, where Jensen taught. The flash point was race. Jensen contended that immutable, genetic differences accounted for much of the IQ gap between blacks and whites. And this genetic basis, he argued, spelled failure for Head Start, a program meant to close the gap.