RealClearEd Today 05/27/2014: College Is Still Worth It -- Duh.

By RealClearEducation

Good morning, it's Tuesday May 27th. This morning at RealClearEducation we have news, commentary, analysis, and reports from the top of the education world. This week, Dan Willingham writes about a new study that offers data for what education researchers and educators already knew -- that the college-wage premium persists, and that the value of an education continues to show in wage gaps. The Practical Education Law Team's brief takes a look at a Fourth Amendment case in California, where school security officers suspected a parent of concealing a gun at a football game. Below you'll see just a few highlights of what's on our site this morning and there is also content organized into key issue areas on our sidebars.

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Today is Rachel Carson's birthday. The biologist-turned-conservation-hero was born on this date in 1907, she died in 1964. A marine biologist by training, Carson originally attracted public notice for her book The Sea Around Us. She followed that book, which won a National Book Award, with two other books about the ocean.

But it was her 1962 book Silent Spring that seared Carson into the public consciousness. Carson's work was controversial at the time and remains so, but its impact is beyond dispute. Carson not only catalyzed action on the regulation of pesticides but called attention to more fundamental conflicts inherent in how pesticides were regulated. Among other reforms this ultimately helped spur was the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Nixon administration.

Carson's primary advantage was evidence, which she wove into a compelling narrative. Concern about libel claims and attacks on the book led to expert reviews in advance of its publication to ensure it would stand up. It's hard to argue that adherence to evidence drives a lot of the education debate today. But Carson accomplished something else with her approach - a sea of change in how people think about an issue.

The evidence that our education system is not working seems beyond dispute. By a host of measures - graduation rates, post-secondary attainment, course-taking patterns, and standardized test scores - the system fails low-income and minority students. Its mediocre outcomes for other students are a longer-term cause of concern. Yet despite books, films, documentaries, and millions spent on advocacy, the public is still largely checked out of the issue.

Did Carson get traction because pesticides affected pretty much everyone? Large-scale environmental issues are one of the few policy challenges the wealthy cannot evade through private means. Or has no one come up with a sufficiently compelling narrative yet? In any event, even Nation at Risk didn't come close to the impact of Silent Spring. In other words, a lot of noise in the education sector but no Silent Spring.

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