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Bad Students, Not Bad Schools Hardcover – April 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


"Author Robert Weissberg, in 'Bad Students, Not Bad Schools,' clearly makes the case that the neighborhood has more influence on a school than the educators."

--The Baltimore Sun

“In his book, Bad Students, Not Bad Schools, Robert Weissberg, takes a no-holds-barred crack at examining the status of the American educational system… [Bad Students, Not Bad Schools] opens the door to a needed conversation about the role of education in American society and an honest appraisal of the current system’s ability to achieve such outcomes… Whether you agree or disagree with Weissberg’s strong statements, his provocative arguments warrant further investigation.”

Contemporary Sociology

“Professor Weissbeg is a slaughterer of sacred cows, many of which deserve to be put down forthwith…The book is at its best in destroying the myth that good material conditions are essential for educational success, and that improving material conditions will necessarily lead to a rise in educational attainment.”

Anthony Daniels, The New Criterion

“Weissberg suggests that devoid of any sense of the diversity of students moving in and out of the nation’s classrooms, the myopic focus on achievement is a recipe for continued education failure. So too, the focus on equity–understood as a panacea in which all students receive the same opportunities and resources–harms those students who are academically talented as well as those who may struggle… This challenging book unapologetically confronts current education trends and their questionable results. Recommended.”

—J. A. Helfer, Choice

“Weissberg’s readable, controversial Bad Students, Not Bad Schools if funny, acerbic, bold, and slaughters more than a few sacred cows of what he calls the ‘failed educational industrial complex. . . .’ [H]e states what many others believe, but fear to speak aloud. That alone makes this an important book to read in order to understand the dark underbelly of public schooling. . . . This is a book which should be widely read and debated.”

—Robert Maranto, Journal of School Choice

"In this fine debunking book, Bob Weissberg hacks his way across the landscape of current American education like a marauding army,trashing bogus theories, exposing the futility of pointless 'reforms,' showing no mercy to the charlatans, rent-seekers, and fools who promise academic excellence for all. He even dares to argue that our educational failings are not of supply, but of demand, and are therefore not failings at all in any moral sense, just expressions of human liberty. Stuffed with facts, statistics, and research, this book is a relentless attack on the absurdities of educational romanticism, and on what the author calls the 'culture of mendacity' that has taken over educational theory and practice in the U.S.A."

John Derbyshire, author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism

“Robert Weissberg has written a book that blows the lid off the pieties and hypocrisies that have characterized the education reform movement for decades... Read his book. Despite its serious subject and weighty evidence Bad Students Not Bad Schools is a good read. Weissberg is a witty and engaging writer and his ideas merit consideration by everyone concerned about the future of American society.”

Rita Kramer,

"The extensiveness and sophistication of Weissberg's research is so subtle, illuminating (and surprising) that it is, unfortunantely, not possible to capture in a review. No doubt myriad professional articles will address his arguments, but all interested are urged to first read this fine book. There is, incidentally, much that simply engenders reading pleasure; Weissberg is a true stylist with a wit that makes the reader laugh out loud even as he winces at the information provided. But above all Bad Students, Not Bad Schools is a game-changer in the world of educational research. It has the ability to transform the delusions we “know” about education into truths we know about schools."

Steven Goldberg, Society

“According to Weissberg’s depressing survey… students bear no responsibility. If they are bored, educators and advocates insist, it’s because the textbook is boring. If they ignore the teacher, it’s because the teacher doesn’t heed their “perspective.” If test scores at a school remain abysmal, it’s because the curriculum isn’t relevant… [Weissberg] offers another reason… [T]hat “obvious truth” hovers over the system, and nobody dares to speak it. Millions of lazy, incurious, disruptive, unintelligent, and nearly illiterate youngsters flood classrooms every day, and none of the popular and hugely expensive initiatives and ideas peddled by “education mayors,” well-meaning foundations, and professors of education will change them.”

—Mark Bauerlein, Commentary

“[A]n important new book… [Weissberg’s] analysis is worthy of serious attention.”

—Allan C. Brownfeld, The St. Croix Review

About the Author

Robert Weissberg is professor of political science emeritus at the University of Illinois-Urbana. He is the author of Polling, Policy, and Public Opinion: The Case Against Heeding the “Voice of the People”; The Politics of Empowerment; Political Tolerance: Balancing Community and Diversity; Political Learning, Political Choice, and Democratic Citizenship; The Limits of Civic Activism: Cautionary Tales on the Use of Politics (Transaction, 2004); and Bad Students, Not Bad Schools (Transaction, 2010). In addition, his writings have appeared in many professional publications, including Society and the Weekly Standard.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 315 pages
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers (April 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 141281345X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1412813457
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #977,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I was born in New York City and attended public schools there until I was twelve. My family moved to New Jersey and I eventually graduated from Teaneck High School in Teaneck, NJ. I received an AB degree from Bard College and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Since 1969 I have taught political science at Cornell University, the University of Illinois-Urbana and am currently an adjunct professor of politics (graduate) at New York University.
I have written eleven books, the most recent are Political Tolerance, The Politics of Empowerment, Polling, Politics and Public Opinion, The Limits of Civic Activism and Pernicious Tolerance. Professional articles have appeared in the major political science journals plus more general publications such as Society and The Weekly Standard.

Many recent education-related writings are on the web, especially The American
These include:
The Futility of American Education Reform (March 24, 2009)

Demand, Not Supply Drives Educational Achievement (April 26, 2009)

The Long March of Kevin Jennings (October 6, 2009)

The Liberal Plot Against American Education (December 28, 2009)

Should the Worst Schools Get the Best Teachers (January 20, 2010)

Obama and Education: Pork You Can Believe In (February 3, 2010)

Uplifting the Poor One Lie at a Time (March 28, 2010)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

163 of 168 people found the following review helpful By Mike Berman on June 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In my 33-year career in public schools I've implemented one hare-brained scheme after another imposed by "well-intentioned" administrators, politicians and academic theorists. Finally, here is a book which exposes the total futility and impotence of the endless parade of one-size-fits-all cure-all programs which are foisted upon students, parents, schools and educators.

Thank you Professor Weissberg for having the fortitude, honesty and courage to confront the taboos and explain why expert solutions always fail. "Honesty" is the operative word. When parents seek out "good schools" or flee "bad" ones for their youngsters, how many face the truth about why schools earn these labels? Is it the bricks and windows which encompass them? Do you buy into the latest theories about teachers or administrators being responsible for a school's reputation? A careful reading of Bad Students, Not Bad Schools will convince any open-minded reader that full responsibility deserves to be shifted back where it always was: students.

The author bluntly identifies the real culprits in today's educational mess: lack of innate ability and sloth. If you run from the room when differences in IQ are mentioned, this book is not for you. If you think that The Bell Curve is junk science and low self-esteem explains student failure, I leave you to your delusions. If, however, you are a realist, this is a must-read. Robert Weissberg skewers the all the pet programs from both the left and the right that ignore ability and ambition.

Countless books may correctly identify "the problem" but never supply a real solution. Bad Students, Not Bad Schools is different and shuns all the politically correct clichés. What Weissberg offers is common sense at a time when common sense is in short supply.
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67 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Steven Goldberg on June 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Bad Students, Not Bad Schools, astonishing in both its honesty and its perceptivity, devastatingly demonstrates the scientific illogic and misrepresentation of so much of the "research" on education.

In exposing the fallaciousness of claims that smaller classes (or more money or ... put in here the latest claimed panacea) will much help solve our education problems, Weissberg demonstrates how difficult is the task of improving American education and puts us on the right track by helping us avoid the wrong ones.

Bad Students, Not Bad Schools is mandatory reading for all professionals concerned with education. But it is also of immense value for anyone concerned with the country's future. The book is not merely definitive, it is also a wonderful read.
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56 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Yale Kramer on June 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover
It takes someone from outside the educational establishment to see and say that that the Emperor has no clothes. Weissberg's book is like a breath of fresh air. Finally, someone tells it like it is. He explains to those with open minds and a serious interest in education--using empirical data from sociology, psychology, human development, economics--why and how the countless billions of dollars that have been spent on educating the children of the urban poor with little or no benefit have been wasted. He shows how misguided the Ed schools are and how they deny the realities of classroom chaos. He opens our eyes to various follies and cant touted by educational theoreticians to solve the problems of the schools. And finally he makes suggestions to help deal with the problems that cognitively bad (not morally bad) students present.

This book should be read by all teachers, school administrators, Ed school professors, and educational philanthropists like Bill and Melinda Gates. Not only is the book eye-opening but brightly written to boot.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Zorrito on July 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
'Bad Students Not Bad Schools' is a breath of fresh air compared to the toxic fumes of convolutin spewed out by the Education Departments of colleges & university, the news media, and BOEs all across the country.

Each chapter is a gold mine of insights, with my personal favorite being Chapter 5, "The 'War' on Academic Excellence."

Lip service is paid to academic excellence alright, but in fact it is under-funded at all levels and actually hated by the education establishment. [And although Robert Weissberg does not say so, I will. Much of this hatred towards academic excellence is becasue so few in the education establishment, even at its highest levels, possess it themselves.]

Other reviewers have pointed to the courage of Robert Weissberg in writing this book. This is with good reason. So much of what passes for public education & reform in this country is down right crazy. But, it is a form of craziness that is highly protected by taboos, powerful political correct mandates, and well-organized special interest groups like the NEA.

Bob Weissberg had the courage to write this 279 page, well referenced, book. See if you have the courage to read it.
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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Dan on January 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Painful Truths (4 stars). I admire Professor Weissberg for having the courage to honestly present what research has shown for decades, and what most people already know: group differences are aggregated individual differences; individual and group differences in academic skill are largely innate; therefore (although counterintuitive to many) schools actually have little impact on student academic skill/achievement. Teachers and administrators in "bad" schools receive far too much blame, and in "good" schools they receive far too much credit. Note to aspiring teachers: you will look much better in terms of your students' work and standardized test scores by being a mediocre teacher in a high achieving school than by being an excellent teacher in a low achieving school (i.e., where there is a critical mass of low ability students).

Painfully Presented (2 stars). Professor Weissberg has a rambling writing style that often lacks clarity. One gets the feeling he dictated the book stream-of-consciousness, didn't do much proofreading, and had an editor with other priorities. Here are some examples of stinker sentences taken verbatim just from the final chapter:

p. 267: "We also confess that achieving this aim may too arduous even if possible and this grim assessment hardly condemns Americans."

p. 268: "We have argued that today's claim that the last three components of right side fail to perform as advertised."

p. 272: "Yet, it is plausible that conventional, especially advanced mathematics is essentially a nineteenth-century endeavor and which is less relevant than computer programming skills only loosely related to 2+2."

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