Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan University, makes his case for what he terms "pragmatic liberal learning," and why a liberal university education matters today in America. 


Reimer - Pixelvario /

Is college really useful if it only prepares students for their first job, when most of today's students today will have multiple jobs in their lifetimes.

The Tennessee State Legislature has voted to lift all restrictions on creating new municipal school districts throughout the state.

If Governor Haslam signs the bill, what will be the future of those schools in Shelby County?

Bard Cole / WKNO

This week on the Behind the Headlines Radio Roundtable, the panel takes a look at the Achievement School District and some of the progress that it has made in the past year.

Host Eric Barnes, publisher of the Memphis Daily News, is joined this week by panelists Chris Barbic, Superintendent of the Achievement School District, and Eleanor Boudreau of WKNO-FM.

In Nashville today, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush sat down for what was billed as “a candid conversation” on education. Jeb Bush has built a reputation as an education reformer. 

After stepping down as governor in 2007, Bush created the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which advocates for school choice and higher standards in public education.

“[Education] is the common denominator of a successful life,” Bush told Haslam.

After school in Allyson Chick’s third-grade classroom at Richland Elementary School, a young girl wrote “I love you Ms. Chick!” four times on a whiteboard while a teacher sat at Chick’s feet and talked over instruction strategies.

Chick was named Teacher of the Year by Tennessee’s Department of Education. It’s a competition she says is a bit like Miss America, or Miss Tennessee, for teachers, “I’m completely honored and floored and blown away,” Chick said. 

At Corning Elementary in Frayser, a group of kindergarteners gathered around their teacher Erica Allen. As they all clapped in rhythm, Allen asked her young students to read the word on a card she was holding. They chanted, “Can! Can! Can!”

The kindergarteners don’t remember this, but last year Corning was run by Memphis City Schools, and the school’s average score on the state’s TCAP exam was an F.

Mary McIlvaine Photography

Author Paul Tough thinks America’s schools aren’t doing a good job teaching character. Tough has covered education for the New York Times Magazine and This American Life. His latest book is How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character.

Tough was in Memphis to speak at a charter school run by the Knowledge Is Power Program, or KIPP, which aims to teach character skills—things like zest, self-control, and, yes, grit—alongside math and reading. 

Tennessee’s new Achievement School District kicked off the year with a party. In the parking lot beside Frayser Elementary School, kids danced, slid on slides, and bounced in inflated houses. There was even a rock-climbing wall and laser-tag.

Marketing is my beat. Not education.