Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich, a co-founder of The American Prospect, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. His website can be found here.

Recent Articles

Help the World Connect

The Wall Street Journal If you want to make a dent in the real problems of poor people around the world, don't fund another panel of experts to do a major report on global hunger, overpopulation, global poverty, global illiteracy, child labor or ethnic strife. Don't create a program, institute or project staffed by earnest young political scientists and economics postdocs. Don't convene a forum of leading thinkers, CEOs, journalists, and statesmen at a conference center in Aspen, Jackson Hole, Vale, Davos, Geneva or any other beautiful locale. This has all been done, sometimes usefully, but it's not what's most needed now. Instead, work from the bottom up. Do the 21st-century equivalent of what Andrew Carnegie did a century ago: Build public libraries for the world's digital have-nots. I don't mean giant marble-edificed, intimidating Greek-columned places downtown, housing millions of tomes. I mean small, quiet, safe, pocket-sized places in poor neighborhoods and communities like...

The Economic Stakes

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The Liverwurst Solution

G eorge W. Bush and Al Gore are talking the education talk, but neither is walking the education walk. By far the biggest obstacle to upward mobility in this prosperous nation is the lousy schools so many poorer kids attend. But neither candidate comes close to a solution. I think I have one--or the beginnings of one--but before I let it out of the bag, you need to understand the two main reasons poor kids attend lousy schools. First, there's not nearly enough money. Across America about half of school revenues come from local property taxes. Increasingly, though, Americans are segregating by income in terms of where they choose to live. Entire towns are now either rich, poor, blue collar, or middle class. That means poorer districts have lower tax bases, which translates into fewer dollars per pupil. Court-ordered state "equalization formulas" seeking to redress the financial imbalance haven't worked. A new analysis from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that most...

One Education Does Not Fit All

The New York Times Thomas Lepuschitz, one of 46 Austrians recruited by New York City to help ease the shortage of math and science teachers, told a New York Times reporter recently that he thought it strange that the state required even the slowest students to take math and science in order to graduate. It's different in Austria. "Our school system divides people who can do certain things and people who can't," he explained. "The people who can't are not lost; it's just a slower track." Mr. Lepuschitz has touched a raw nerve. Standardized tests -- increasingly linked to grade promotion, graduation, even teachers' salaries and the tenure of principals -- are the single biggest thing to have hit American education since Sputnik. Responding to the understandable demands for more "accountability," almost every school in the land is morphing into a test-taking factory. Both Al Gore and George W. Bush have touted proposals linking federal dollars to scores on standardized tests. There are...

How Selective Colleges Heighten Inequality

The Chronicle Review Not long ago, the president of a prestigious university (not the one in which I now teach) was explaining his strategy to me. "We're very selective, but we need to become even more selective," he said. "Our SAT's are rising, but not as fast as I'd like. We should be on par with…," and he named several institutions even more selective than the one he led. "We're going to market ourselves more intensively to high-school stars," he told me. I asked him about his new capital campaign, and how much of the money raised would go to awarding scholarships to needy students or expanding the size of the entering class. Apparently, none. "We're going to build a new student center, upgrade the dorms, and use the rest to attract some faculty and student stars," he answered. "That's what our competitors are doing. We can't afford not to." I nodded sympathetically. Still, it struck me that, if most college presidents were thinking the same way, the competition for the best...