John Derbyshire reviews Bad Students, Not Bad Schools, which looks at why America’s schools are failing us:

[Weissberg] takes no prisoners, exposing the corruption, trashing the faddish crackpot theories, and lamenting the decline of what was, fifty years ago, poised to become the world’s finest system of education.

What killed that hope was educational romanticism, the theory that, as memorably expressed by New York Times columnist Deborah Solomon, “Given the opportunity, most people could do most anything.”

The basic premise seems to be that, no matter how much money, or how many ideas we toss at our eduction system, unless students show up ready and willing to learn, it’s all for naught.

(H)uge numbers of lagging students were offered a free tutoring option, often in the school they already attend, but only about 10 percent signed up, and even then, most dropped out after a few sessions.

This is why charter schools have always been so appealing to me as a concept. If only 10% of our students, whether by nature of nurture, have a desire to learn more, why not let them escape the crumbling atmosphere of their less bright peers? Why force everyone to be mediocre equally?

There are obviously ways to improve students. Projects like Harlem’s Children’s Zone show, at minimum, that the issue is not one of nature, but nurture.