Soft Skills

Nothing sets my tiny public policy heart pitter patter faster than a new article by James Heckman in the American Economic Review. October’s issue brings an article by Heckman, Rodrigo Pinto and Peter Savelyev on “Understanding the Mechanisms Through Which an Influential Early Childhood Program Boosted Adult Outcomes.” In this latest paper, Heckman and his colleagues re-visit theContinue reading “Soft Skills”

Philosophical Careers

Early in my presidential career, a colleague intent on giving me a finer appreciation of higher education recommended I read some of John Dewey’s works. I dutifully purchased a couple of his books. They sat on my dresser, unread, reproaching me, until this weekend, when I picked up “Democracy and Education.” Written in 1916, Dewey’sContinue reading “Philosophical Careers”

Betting It All on College

This morning’s read of the Sunday New York Times started with Keith Bradsher’s “In China, Families Bet It All on College for Their Children.” Bradsher’s article highlights the sacrifices families make to send their children to college. Wu Yiebing and Cao Weiping have forgone vacations, trips to see family, and many material comforts to pay for theirContinue reading “Betting It All on College”

You Get What You Measure

“You get what you measure.” This trope guided discussions in many measurement plans in my corporate life. Once a company tracks a performance indicator, then employees start to change their behavior so that they look good in relation to the measure. Taken to extremes, poorly designed measures may have unintended consequences. The story outlined in Freakonomics aboutContinue reading “You Get What You Measure”


I had the good fortune last Thursday to have a conversation with Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed.  I took the opportunity to ask him if my hypothesis in my post Tough Call is correct. That is, can we help our students develop the social-cognitive skills alongside the critical thinking, literacy, numeracy and other skills we expectContinue reading “Mindset”

Is Algebra Necessary?

I finally caught up on my Sunday morning NYTimes reading and found this provocateur. Andrew Hacker, Professor Emeritus from Queens College, CUNY asks “Is Algebra Necessary?” He argues that we are spending inordinate resources (student time, financial aid, instructor time) trying to get students to pass algebra, a skill they will never use. Far betterContinue reading “Is Algebra Necessary?”

Graduation Bonus

A debate is raging right now about the correct approach to fix the struggling global economy. In Europe, the French and Greek electorate have just rejected German calls for more fiscal austerity and signaled their desire for more stimulus spending. We see a similar debate domestically as politicians advocate for more balanced budgets or more spendingContinue reading “Graduation Bonus”