Best U.S. High Schools

The best high schools in the U.S. are at this link. There are charters and regular public. They are not in the “super smart” places you might guess. They are in Kentucky, Florida (2), Arizona (2), Texas (2) & Virginia.

Two on the list are Basis charter schools. They are criticized for having larger class size and not being completely transparent about finances, but who cares? When Lincoln was told that Ulysses S Grant was a drunk, he reportedly ask what brand of whiskey he drank so that he could send it to his other generals.

Whatever they are doing, we should study and try to copy and adapt to other schools. I think we have a bad habit when talking about social problems in general and education in particular. We look at the bad performers and losers and ask what keeps them down. A better tactic would be to look to successful performers and ask what they do right.

Leo Tolstoy wrote, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." This is not a mere literary truism. It is based on the idea that there are a an infinite number of ways to screw up, but a much smaller set of things to do right. That is it is smart to work from positive examples and avoid being tinged by bad ones.

In my experience, most negative people dislike positive ones. I think that tendency explains much of the losers' "bad luck." To them, a positive success is a kind of insult. It points to the fact that they are screwing up in ways the prefer not to change. There is also a lot of envy involved. Maybe we cannot avoid the deadly sin of envy in all our personal transactions, but we should base policy on copying and adapting the best.

I will also point out to my liberal friends that ALL the best schools are in "red" states that voted for Bush in 2004. I bring up that fact, since I recall the discussion here that people in those states were somehow not so smart. I pointed out that theirs was an invalid argument then and I always like to kick stupid arguments when they are down.

Posted by Christine & John at November 17, 2013 11:54 AM
Comment #374310

Schools are only one input to the creation of capable and responsible adult citizens. Our schools should be the best academically, regardless of income class demographics. There is however, far more outside schools at work in shaping young people into capable and responsible adults, like employment and living wages for their parents, real demonstrations of justice, and demonstrable lessons in ‘crime does not pay’ across our society. But, those resources are not yet available to all, just as the best academic schools are not yet available to all. Some are working on making it true, others are working on insuring it never will be. There are successes on both sides. United we are strong. Divided we are not as strong, or capable.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 17, 2013 5:07 PM
Comment #374313


I have been thinking a lot lately about the tradeoff between inclusion and excellence. We want both and can have both but they are sometimes in conflict.

It is good to have some excellence, even if not everyone can take part. Maybe some kids are luckier and smarter than others. Presumably they can make contributions commensurate with their skills.

I attended a talk by Jesse Jackson today. Even at his advanced age, he can be inspiring. But his vision is very different from mine. He is very inclusive. I appreciate that. He believes in rights. I am more tuned to excellence and believe in responsibilities. America needs both kinds of people. We are in endless conflict, but I hope and believe that it is productive.

My type of thinking, left to itself, would produce greatness and grandeur, but leave lots of people behind. Jesse’s ideas, and maybe yours, would bring everyone along for the ride, but the train wouldn’t get very far. We need both creation and consumption, inclusion and excellence, but expect that the conflict will never be resolved.

Posted by: CJ at November 17, 2013 7:57 PM
Comment #374349

CJ, where education is concerned, a rising tide should lift all boats. But, it doesn’t and won’t without concerted, planned, and exercised policy to insure that outcome. All you get without such an effort are Darwinian effects, which contradict the concept of society in its truest democratic sense. Reagan did have a few good concepts, and I just borrowed one.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 19, 2013 1:03 PM
Comment #374382


I believe that innovation starts in limited places and then spreads. In the long run, it lifts all, or maybe most, boats. In the short run, however, innovation creates more inequality as early adapters get more benefits. Of course, some innovation don’t work and in those cases the innovators suffer more. It is a price we pay and one I am willing to pay. I celebrate innovation & diversity. I dislike gray equality of results. It indicates a stagnant and unfair system.

Posted by: CJ at November 19, 2013 8:34 PM
Comment #374452

Yes, CJ, I understand you don’t believe in equality of results or equality in outcomes which is the definition of justice. I understand you believe in elitism and darwinian philosophy of to the victors go the spoils. But, we are the United States because a warring America failed keep the America united. The South lost, we remain the United States despite Rick Perry’s allusions to secession of Texas. Our goal is not to war and lord over each other, but, to insure the strength and vitality and contribution of all Americans toward the posterity of our United States. And that goal mandates that to the extent possible, we leave no Americans behind in our reach for posterity and prosperity. An alien concept to Republicans, I know, but, one that has proven to be enormously popular amongst the majority of Americans.

A handful of Republicans I see are now getting this, as they announce the belief that the GOP’s future rests on its ability to reach out and adopt policies that will appeal to that broad majority of Americans. Leaving them behind as exclusions from efforts to appeal to a minority base of narrow minded supporters is, by Republican’s own analysis of the last election, a losing strategy.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 21, 2013 12:34 PM
Comment #374508

RE - “Yes, CJ, I understand you don’t believe in equality of results or equality in outcomes which is the definition of justice”

I am not sure from your sentence if you mean equality of outcomes IS justice. If so, that is really just wrong. Justice would assume different outcomes based on different behaviors and situations. Treating like things differently is unjust; so is treating unlike things the same.

Re Darwin - actually that is not what I believe. I believe all of us should do what we are good at doing. I believe in the concept of a calling. I strive for excellence in my chosen areas. In places where I cannot be excellent, I let others carry on. I perceive that not everyone likes this and indeed I have little respect for such people. This would include some of the poor who don’t get off their asses and some the rich who seek only money and do not care about what they are doing. Seeking excellence, however, is not always the same as seeking success. I serve the task, not the master. Sometimes the masters get annoyed and I know it is not career enhancing.

I believe that MOST people can pursue excellence and that all good people will do that given proper chances and incentives. It is very inclusive, but also elitist. Our great America has many niches for excellence. And w/o the striving for that, BTW, people won’t be happy.

Posted by: CJ at November 21, 2013 7:34 PM
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