The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself, by Glenn Harlan Reynolds (Encounter, 121 pp., $21.50)
Everyone — certainly every reader of National Review — knows America’s public schools are a disgrace. He or she also knows that, barring a few elite institutions such as Harvard, our higher education is headed over a fiscal cliff. While Glenn Reynolds’s book is by no means the first to address these crises and offer solutions, it ranks as one of the best. Its author, a professor of law at the University of Tennessee and creator of the news-and-comment website Instapundit, recognizes that using the new technology of the Internet to solve the problems that beset our schools and universities might liberate today’s students from their current educational catastrophe.
Reynolds begins by surveying the dolorous statistics detailing that catastrophe. He points out that while education spending per K–12 pupil in America has climbed in constant dollars from $1,214 in 1945 to over $10,000 in 2008, scholastic achievement has largely flatlined since the 1970s, with U.S. students ranking 14th in the world in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in math. Not a stellar record for a world superpower.