Friday, October 21, 2011


I’m sitting on a beautiful bench with cast-iron hand rests in the shape of winged sphinxes, overlooking the Thames. The sun is above Westminster Abbey, and when the clouds give it a gap it turns the river into glaring gold. Having just finished my class on the Economic History of Latin America, I wandered down here to eat my lunch and type up the notes from our group presentations on our reading assignments. I succeeded in eating my lunch (a ham sandwich with mango chutney, a juicy English cucumber and a small piece of cheese), but only lasted about 30 seconds on my schoolwork. I have decided to blame it on the wind, which happens to be blowing quite briskly and won’t allow my notes to stay on my lap, or beside me.

I’m wearing my new forest green trench coat, which I purchased last week under the supervision of Clare and Arthur, my landlords but also my great friends. Arthur is an American who has lived long enough here to lose his American accent and wed Clare, a stunning, vivacious English girl from Kent. Arthur popped the collar of the coat when I tried it on, and I laughed and put it back down. Then he explained that here you actually pop your collar for practical reasons—to ward off that chilly, pesky wind. It is as the English are fond of saying, brilliant.

The first couple weeks of my program have been up and down. I’m adjusting to a new style of academia and learning in general, which is quite different from the system I’ve become accustomed to for the last 16 years of my education. Also, the first few classes gave me the impression that my program was far different than what I’d expected and that I would’ve been better off in a different one. I contemplated postponing a year, or even dropping out and joining the Romney campaign. But a few fantastic lectures and readings convinced me I’m in the right place for now, and that this is also the right timing. I’ve been attending…

There’s the sun again. I’m blinded by the alchemized river right in front of me, but the rays of light feel so good on my cold fingers. The London Eye is also fully in the sunlight and glistens against the backdrop of tired gray clouds. Behind it the gothic towers of Parliament are still in shadow. And now the sun has slipped away again, at about the same pace as the grey-headed man smoking an oversized pipe strolled by me, paused to look at the river and then crossed the road towards the tube station.

I’ve been attending career presentations almost every night. Consulting, Banking, Investment Research are all still on the table, but at this point I’m leaning heavily towards consulting. I think it will give me the variety of experiences I seek, reward my diverse skill-set, and help me learn to apply my creativity and problem-solving skills to enhance the performance of businesses, organizations and governments.

Time to succumb to the wind and put my fingers back in the pockets of this nice warm coat. Cheers.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Accountable Education Reform Hits a Snag


I've written a letter to the members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee about a recent change to the proposed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) reform that would ensure that all teachers are routinely evaluated. The changes would scrap these requirements and are in response to intense lobbying by Teachers Unions to (mostly Republican) Senators.

I encourage you to write these Senators. The StudentsFirst Campaign will make the process easy, and even have a form letter you can send if you are short on time. Check it out here.

Here's my letter:

Dear Senators,

I'm one of the lucky ones. I went to a great school and had great teachers because I lived in the right zip code. I have completed a degree in economics and am now working on my masters degree. In my recent coursework on the economics of education I carefully considered research from all sides of the educational spectrum in an effort to understand how we can make education better. Based on that research I have firm beliefs that measuring student and teacher performance is absolutely critical to getting better outcomes.

Like many policymakers, including the majority of you, I agree that we need to reform No Child Left Behind. But cutting teacher evaluations is not the right step forward. All students deserve the chance to be taught by evaluated, effective teachers.

As members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee I encourage you to restore the provisions on teacher evaluation originally placed in the bill by Senator Harkin.

Please do it for my siblings, my future children, and all the kids who aren't quite as lucky as I was to hit the zip code lottery.


K. Michael Monroe

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hare Krishnas and Free Lunches

I collected data while I ate the lunch I'd brought from home--Bombay mix with carrots and a granola bar. I was pleasantly surprised by the results. With an average donation of 75p, I think the Hare Krishna might be coming close to covering their costs.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


She's dressed in black.
Not deep in the cave of the Tube
But just a stone's throw from the
of the mucky Thames

Furiously attacking her sonata.
Tired-taut strings sing yet again
The ole Stradivarius not ole enough.

Above her cabs swerve like geese
fighting unexpected gusts of careless
cycles, double-deckers and joggers.

She can't see the young couple
boarding the tentaculous eye,
glowing deep-sea electric blue against
the gray-purple depths of sky,

Or the Union Jack above the spired needles of Parliament,
sounding out the last-of-the-season breeze,
where mum and hundreds of grandmums have flown before,

Or the jade-shining windows above Ben's big hands,
wondering why they must always be different,
when the rest of the tower reflects efficiently-dull fluorescent orange.

The snake-charmer at mid-bridge.
The bagpiper at quarter-bridge.
The drag-queen Elizabeth at bridge-end.
The hot-dog hawker.
The gaping tourists.
The trigger happy novice photographers.
Not to mind.

40 pence. 2 quid. She plays on.

Monday, October 03, 2011

First Day of School

I'm sitting on a chair in front of the LSE Library, listening to Bossa Nova and looking around at all the five to seven story buildings that surround our little university courtyard and cafe.

The past four days have been the finest days of the summer, some Londoners are telling us. It has been between 75 and 85 degrees during the day, and today a wonderful breeze is weaving through the crowded London streets carrying on it scents of bakeries, chain-smokers, fall leaves and old red brick. Saturday morning I swam across the River Lea and toured the sculpture wing of the Victoria and Albert Museum with Alex and our friend here studying art, Claire.

Sunday morning we strolled around the Serpentine in Hyde Park, and I relaxed on the green reading Billy Collins. We were joined in the afternoon by a few new friends and made chicken korma with naan bread and stir-fried courgettes (British for zucchini). We watched LDS General Conference late into the evening joined by our landlady and her husband who have traveled in from Kent to spend the week fixing up the flat a bit. We ate and watched, and ate, and watched until nearly midnight.

Today my first lectures have been given by Dr. James Putzel of the International Development department, recounting the basic outlines of development theory and how we will proceed through our courses. LSE owns a collection of buildings in a small 3-4 block area that surrounds the western side of the Royal Courts of Justice. About half of them are historic, stone buildings with toffee-colored wooden interiors. The other half are modern but slightly aged towers of glass and steel.

About 60% of my classmates are from countries other than the US or the UK; imagine the variety of dress, hairstyles and accents! Time for my next class, on the history of economic growth in Latin America.