The Top 10 RHSU Columns of 2020

Frederick M. Hess
3 min readDec 29, 2020

It’s almost 2021. I keep thinking, “You can’t get here soon enough.” As we prepare to put 2020 in the books, we have a chance to reflect on the strangest year I can recall. The shocks came fast and furious, from impeachment, to a once-a-century pandemic, to a massive wave of protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, to a summer of riots, to a president refusing to acknowledge his election defeat. Much of this found its ways into the world of education, most obviously through the school closures that — for millions of students — are now stretching into their 10th month. Amidst all this, I thought it worth taking a look at some of the most popular or most impactful RHSU posts from 2020.

As always happens when ranking the year’s top RHSU posts, there were a few that didn’t make the final cut but seemed to merit a mention. This year, they included Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, Betsy DeVos, and the Rage Gene (October 5, 2020), Pedro Noguera and Rick’s Excellent Adventure (September 28, 2020), and COVID-19 Has Capsized the Case Against School Choice (October 13, 2020). Now, on to the top 10 RHSU columns of 2020.

10. Four Mental Traps That Stop Schools From Getting More Bang for the Buck (September 21, 2020) — My newly released volume, “Getting the Most Bang for the Education Buck,” explores how to spend edu-dollars smarter. Today, I talk about the role of mindset in that process.

9. Sen. Lamar Alexander on the Congressional Response to Coronavirus (May 11, 2020) — “A one-hour flight to Washington doesn’t make you any smarter, and I don’t think we need to come up with a bunch of big ideas up here and send them back to states to implement — especially in education,” says Alexander.

8. Why Is School So Boring? (July 6, 2020) — Young kids are filled with curiosity, so I wonder why we design schools that seem intent on taking that hard-wired fascination with the world and stomping it flat.

7. Five Thoughts on the Coronavirus and Schools (March 16, 2020) — The coronavirus has upended our lives. Now, I know nothing about epidemiology or public health. But the impact on schooling has been enormous, and that is an area I know something about.

6. What Makes for an Effective Secretary of Education? (November 18, 2020) — Having enjoyed a front-row seat for the tenures of the past 5 secretaries of education, I have concluded there are a half-dozen traits that President-elect Biden should seek in his choice.

5. America’s Schools Are Named After Some Horrible People (July 1, 2020) — The segregationist naming of schools for those who took up arms against the nation to defend human bondage is not reflective of the values we want our kids to learn.

4. Four Things You Need to Know About Education Policymaking (January 27, 2020) — Before expecting to effectively shape policy in a world full of complexity and honest disagreement, learn about the world you want to change.

3. Bernie, Bloomberg, Booker, and the New Politics of Education (January 21, 2020) — For three decades, there was a quiet assumption that education’s growing economic import was pushing education politics toward the pragmatic middle — it turns out that this dynamic was surprisingly fragile.

2. Remote Learning: The Triumph of Hope Over Experience? (October 19, 2020) — Online learning is not a viable substitute for most learners most of the time. We shouldn’t kid ourselves that what’s being provided is a better option than it really is.

1. Participation Is Only a Part of Democratic Education (November 2, 2020) — Free nations also rely on norms and habits of mind that are less intuitive. Civics education needs to focus on these, too.

There you are. I welcome your thoughts and comments on the list. Meanwhile, let’s turn the page on to 2021.

This post originally appeared on Rick Hess Straight Up.



Frederick M. Hess

Direct Ed Policy Studies at AEI. Teach a bit at Rice, UPenn, Harvard. Author of books like Cage-Busting Leadership and Spinning Wheels. Pen Ed Week's RHSU blog.