My oldest child is applying to colleges, so there’s been a lot of talk around my house this year about the underlying purpose and real value of education. My family’s ideas on that subject have always been a little off-center; we home-school all our kids through the early grades. But the mental energy we’ve expended on the topic of education is not unusual. Education is a major obsession for most middle-class American parents. So it’s no surprise that, for the past 20 years or so, education policy and school reform have also been near the center of national political debate.