The Right Coast

February 11, 2004
Interview with Abigail Thernstrom
By Mike Rappaport

I recently watched on my Tivo an extremely interesting booknotes interview with Abigail Thernstrom, discussing her new book No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning. You can watch it here. Thernstrom comes across as soft spoken, intelligent and committed to improving education for minorities. She is a pretty good spokesperson for a position with which I strongly sympathize. Although I don't usually read books on education policy, I may decide to purchase it.

One aspect of the interview struck me, though. She stated:
    My kids watched very little television, because they had these terrible parents. They were allowed to watch on Saturday mornings, but by the time they got to Saturday mornings, they couldn`t even remember there was television and the only television was in our bedroom, and we went to bed early. There was a cost, of course, there was a cost to that, and I`m very aware of it and so are they. There was a disconnect from their peer group. They were, to some extent, socially isolates. Did they learn to be alone? Yeah, I don`t think that`s a bad skill. Learn to be alone. It`s hard to do that to your kids. And I`m not sure my kids would do that to their kids. So there are tradeoffs, but, you know, you`ve got to keep your eye on the prize, and the prize is doing well in American society. Doors are open.
I suppose it is not surprising that someone who would do this kind of thing would be interested in educational policy and be so committed to promoting minority excellence. Still, it seems quite excessive -- neither healthy nor necessary.