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Gary Houchens
Bowling Green, KY
I am a former teacher, principal, and district administrator now serving as Professor of Educational Administration in the School of Leadrship and Professional Studies at Western Kentucky University. I am Senior Fellow at the Pegasus Institute, serve on the Board of Scholars for the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, and on the board of directors for EdChoice Kentucky. From 2016-2019 I was a member of the Kentucky Board of Education.
Recent Activity
Last night I had the opportunity to give a virtual talk sponsored by the Kentucky chapter of Americans for Prosperity on the topic of "Unleashing Parent Power in Education." The talk itself isn't available to share, but I wanted to briefly summarize my comments, which I used as a springboard... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at School Leader
My latest article for The Chalkboard Review is a reflection on Kay S. Hymowitz's essay in the Winter 2021 issue of National Affairs on "The Cultural Contradictions of American Education." Largely middle-class parents drive this contradiction when they fixate both on children’s individuality and on training students with the values,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 19, 2021 at School Leader
Photo by Ed Malisky, from the Harvard Graduate School of Education Website. Update, 2/19/21: I was honored that Project Forever Free republished this tribute on their website. My heart was heavy when I heard about the recent passing of Harvard education professor Richard F. Elmore. Perhaps no other scholar has... Continue reading
Posted Feb 17, 2021 at School Leader
The American Enterprise Institute, one of the nation's oldest and most respected non-partisan, right-of-center think tanks, recently launched a new initiative called the Conservative Education Reform Network. I am honored to be one of the founding members of this network (Update, 1/26/21: the WKU College Heights Herald wrote a feature... Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2021 at School Leader
The 1776 Commission, established by President Trump's executive order last year to promote the teaching of "patriotic" history, issued its first (and most likely final) report earlier this week [link updated since the original has since been removed by the Biden administration]. The document is a powerful articulation of America's... Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2021 at School Leader
The Chalkboard Review, for which I wrote previously about my journey from socialism to conservativism, has published a new essay I wrote exploring whether university training is really needed for aspiring school principals. In short, my answer is that school principals definitely need training, and ideally universities have a uniquely... Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2021 at School Leader
Ridiculous. You cannot read anything in this post, or in anything else I have written, to reasonably conclude that I want "kids being taught not to think for themselves." I refer you to another post on this topic where I argue that inquiry learning is not a problem in itself, but rather in the way the questions are framed:
Yesterday the Bowling Green Daily News reported about a new curriculum being used in the Warren County Public Schools that has drawn "mixed parent reviews." The story doesn't quote any parents with specific concerns, but comments from Dr. Laura Hudson, director of instruction for the district's secondary schools, suggests they... Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2020 at School Leader
Chalkboard Review is a great new web-based publication dedicated to highlighting the diversity of thought among educators. I was happy for them to publish an essay in which I describe my own intellectual journey from brash young socialist teacher to conservative professor and education reformer, and the role working in... Continue reading
Posted Dec 8, 2020 at School Leader
Update, 11/20/20: I appreciate Beechtree News for publishing the post below as an op-ed. Many Kentuckians are shocked today after Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive order shutting down all public and private K-12 schools for the next two weeks in response to the increase in COVID-19 cases, along with... Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2020 at School Leader
I was proud to make my debut publication this week with Project Forever Free, a sister platform to Education Post. My contribution was a review of the first set of lesson plans posted by 1776 Unites: Civil rights activist and community organizer Robert Woodson’s 1776 Unites organization was launched early... Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2020 at School Leader
Earlier this week the online newspaper Kentucky Today published an opinion piece in which I argued that, after the recent blow-out election benefitting Republicans in the state legislature, the time has never been better to promote school choice: The Republican hold on Kentucky’s legislature expanded dramatically in this month’s election... Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2020 at School Leader
Over the last few months I've been pleased to publish a series of essays at The Imaginative Conservative website. Some of these, including "Memory and Hope: Restoring the Teaching of American History" and "What is Patriotic Education?" have been amalgamations of pieces originally published on this blog arguing for a... Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2020 at School Leader
The above is truly a bizarre comment as the entire two-part review is extremely complimentary of Gatto's ideas.
Mike, the combination of your two comments here makes it clear to me that there’s not really that much difference between your views and mine. I’ve never once advocated for a “parroted and uncritical” view of American history. I encourage you to read what I’ve written over the last several months and see if you can find such a view on my part. Every time I write about this topic I say as much. See my post citing Patrick Deneen’s ideas about the critical patriot: Nor will you find me “absolving” our ancestors of any of their past sins. I think perhaps you assume things about my position that simply aren’t true. It sounds to me like you do actually believe in America’s Founding principles. You just believe that many of our ancestors failed pretty spectacularly to live up to those principles. And here you are correct. They did. You are also right that the rich and powerful got the first blessings of all those principles. They did. That’s usually the consequence of being rich and powerful. But it’s also true that a full reading of our national story is the steady and relentless expansion of those principles to be applied to more and more people. Why were we able to end slavery less than a century after the founding? Because the moral order written into our founding documents made slavery impossible in this republic, something that many of the founders precisely intended. Our progress has been messy and not linear but inevitable nonetheless, so much so that millions of people have come to this land and still do seeking the freedom and opportunity that is our national birthright. There’s still so much progress to make, but the very fact that we know what to keep striving for is because our core values have made us, as Wilfred McClay calls his beautiful new textbook on American history (review coming soon), the “Land of Hope.” That’s what I want to restore in our teaching of American history: temporal continuity. Which means memory (of both the bad and the good) and hope that we can continue to strive to be a City on the Hill. More here:
Mike, thank you for taking the time to comment in depth. I especially appreciate you acknowledging my sincerity. I can tell that you are also sincere in your concern about and commitment to justice. I have many thoughts but also would like to pose a few questions if you don’t mind? Your comment came in response to a tweet thread I posted about Robert Reilly’s book America on Trial. It sounds like you find America “guilty” in this trial, at least guilty of many sins, and perhaps believe that America was not, in fact, founded on ideals of equality and freedom for all. You also say that you nevertheless love America. Can you say just a bit about WHY you love America, if she is not, in fact, and never has been the beacon of hope that I believe she is? And also, what kind of political system would yield the kind of justice you think America has been systematically lacking? Are there examples that you would point to that are better alternatives? Thanks. If the comment box is too unwieldy for this feel free to email me instead:
Though he remains little known outside of Leftist and some social studies education circles, I first discovered Howard Zinn when I was an undergraduate in college nearly 30 years ago. Long before most Americans had heard of Bernie Sanders, and when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was still in diapers, I was a... Continue reading
Posted Sep 16, 2020 at School Leader
Last week I wrote about teacher training materials developed for the Kentucky Department of Education to implement the state's deficient social studies standards. Those training materials reflect a deep Left-wing bias and would effectively indoctrinate students into anti-American attitudes. Of great concerns is the fact that these training materials are... Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2020 at School Leader
On Monday I wrote about how the Kentucky Department of Education's training materials for helping teachers implement the state's inadequate social studies standards are deliberately designed to promote a left-wing bias in students. Two days later, a Lexington television station reported on how an online quiz given to a Fayette... Continue reading
Posted Sep 3, 2020 at School Leader
I disagree. The question itself implies that income inequality is a problem and that it should be reduced. That is an ideological assumption. Income inequality is a fact. Whether that is a problem or not is a worthy topic of inquiry. What if we framed the question in a number of ways: "Where does income inequality come from? What are its consequences? What would be the reasons for, and potential problems with, various strategies to address income inequality?"
Different sticks, but this horse is still very much alive!
In my previous post I discussed inadequacies in Kentucky's education standards for social studies. These are standards that, as a former member of the Kentucky Board of Education, I supported and helped to approve. But since then I've become convinced that these standards need more work, especially making them more... Continue reading
Posted Aug 31, 2020 at School Leader
Headlines from the summer of 2020 show cities burning from riots and looting, statues and the reputations of American heroes being defaced and torn down, and a ferociously intolerant ideology in full operation within the ranks of the media, academia, and politics. These events are not emerging spontaneously and are... Continue reading
Posted Aug 27, 2020 at School Leader
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced on Monday that because of lingering concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic he was "recommending" all schools remain closed to in-person learning until September 28. According to former Kentucky School Boards Association spokesperson and education media watcher Brad Hughes, as of 10 p.m. on Tuesday night... Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2020 at School Leader
Update, 10/1/20: A revised version of this essay has been published by The Imaginative Conservative. Most Americans are largely unfamiliar with critical theory (also sometimes referred to as critical race theory or critical social justice theory), but this philosophical perspective is now part of the professional, cultural, and political air... Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2020 at School Leader