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What We're Reading | April 12, 2013

April 12, 2013 by Jacqueline Lowe

Texas should keep its school testing standards and Texas Considers Backtracking on Testing

Both of these articles, passed along by the Education Reform team, concern legislation pending in the Texas legislature that would have a dramatic impact on school accountability and testing standards for students. For example, the bill passed by the Texas House this month drops the number of standardized test that students must pass to graduate high school from 15 to five. This legislation has garnered national attention with The New York Times saying: “In this state that spawned test-based accountability in public schools and spearheaded one of the nation's toughest high school curriculums, lawmakers are now considering a reversal that would cut back both graduation requirements and standardized testing. The actions in Texas are being closely watched across the country as many states move to raise curriculum standards to meet the increasing demands of employers while grappling with critics who say testing has spun out of control.”

This op-ed in the Houston Chronicle argues against the legislation, saying: “Texas also has a "default" high school curriculum designed to prepare students for college-level work and modern careers - the kind with futures. Implemented properly (including elementary and middle schools that prepare youngsters for these high school rigors), the Lone Star State has embarked on an education regimen that will truly deliver the results that a 21st century economy requires and which individuals need to succeed in that economy. All of which will start to unravel - and return Texas to an era of educational mediocrity - if Gov. Rick Perry ends up signing the ill-conceived rollback measure that cleared the House March 27.”

 

The Republicans’ Self-Defeating War on Eyeshades and Why Thatcher Wouldn’t Succeed in Our ‘Lean In’ Culture

Catch up on recent articles by The 4% Growth Project’s Director, Amity Shlaes on Bloomberg View. The Republicans’ Self-Defeating War on Eyeshades takes a look at the Reagan idea “that the U.S. could outgrow its economic troubles if its leaders could ignore bureaucratic budget advisers”, and points out the difficulties of doing the same today with large annual deficits, a gross federal debt more than 90 percent of GDP threshold, and most importantly, growing entitlements. “Entitlements seem to grow with prosperity; not only because they are indexed to inflation or GDP but also because a prosperous country tells itself it can afford more benefits. This decade, the federal government does need to budget.”

Published after the passing of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, Why Thatcher Wouldn’t Succeed in Our ‘Lean In’ Culture takes a look at what it took for the Iron Lady to succeed in her career and in governing, and how that matches up with the latest advice from the Lean In movement lead by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. Shlaes points out several ways that Thatcher heeded Sandberg’s advice to women on her way to the top, but points out “the largest obstacle to today’s Iron Ladies: the emphasis on corporate or government process.”  “The result of the collaborative culture is that corporations or government institutions focus intensely on internal culture and pour their energy into achieving minuscule policy changes relating to workplace efficiency, gender or race.” Shales notes: “The one area in the U.S. where new Thatchers might arise is private companies, especially ones they themselves found. That is where they won’t be bogged down by process or political correctness. To these future Iron Ladies, one can imagine Thatcher advising: “The goal is not to lean in, though certainly that’s necessary. The goal is to move mountains.””

 

Heart of the Nation: 9/11 & America's Civic Spirit

John M. Bridgeland, former Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under President George W. Bush and current member of the White House Council for Community Solutions under President Obama, is the author of the book, Heart of the Nation: 9/11 & America's Civic Spirit. The book is a history of the volunteer tradition in America, and commemorates, ten years later, the extraordinary outpouring of support and service by all Americans after September 11, 2001.

Bridgeland recently wrote about his book and its mission in the Huffington Post: “That time when a patina of civility and civic interest covered the invisible hand of pursuing our own interests now seems distant, particularly in hard economic times. But that spirit can be rescued back. Perhaps one of the best ways to honor this anniversary of 9/11 is to renew our commitment to serving one another at home and abroad, to fulfill the promise of the bipartisan Serve America Act by putting 250,000 Americans in productive work to serve their nation now, and to teach our children that the spirit of service is fundamental to what it means to be an American.”

Listen to recent interviews with John Bridgeland about his new book: Charlotte’s Morning News with Don Russell (Charlotte, NC); The Source with Paul Anderson (nationally-syndicated); The Bill Martinez Show (nationally-syndicated); and WIOD News Radio 610AM (Ft. Lauderdale, FL). Follow John Bridgeland on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@civicenterpris

Up Next:

Growth is Green Matthew Denhart on April 11, 2013