October 2008 Archives

Dear Diane, How many of our friends 10 years ago would have imagined that in 2008 you and I could almost be writing each other's columns? At least when it comes to NCLB, and quite a lot of other things—but not all! More or less amen, amen, and amen to every word you wrote on Tuesday. By the time folks see either of these columns we'll have discussed this in public at NYU (Monday) and I'll have moved on to Pennsylvania to try to add a vote here and there to Obama's column, and visiting an old friend (Ruth...


Dear Deborah, As this election nears a close, it is sad to note that very little has been said about education. In a way, that's a good thing, as we really don't want the president deciding what should happen tomorrow in our schools. I assume that more important tasks are at hand, such as the economy and foreign policy. On the other hand, the candidates have been unfortunately silent in letting us know what they plan to do about the abominable No Child Left Behind law. By now, even its defenders understand that the people who must implement the law ...


Dear Diane, I'm sitting here in the hotel lounge in Winnipeg with my third try at this blog, plus one I tried hurriedly before I left. So far I've lost them all somewhere. But, as in schooling, there's nothing more important than persistence. Well, maybe not. My colleague, Jane Andrias, who is up here with me in Winnipeg, reminds me that persistence—doing the same thing over and over—can also be sheer foolishness. It's interesting how we use the same words sometimes to suggest rather different ideas. My view of tinkering, and "hands-and-minds" on—like play and imagination—don't...


Dear Deborah, I loved your last column. I really enjoyed your references to craft and tinkering. I admire hands-on work, especially since the only work I seem to do these days with my own hands is to type and occasionally to make a salad or scrambled eggs. I would only caution that handiwork, as satisfying as it may be, can never take the place of knowledge, the sort of knowledge gleaned from books and study of the experiences of others. One’s own direct experience of the hands-on kind will take you just so far and no farther. We can’t...


Editor's note: Today, Bridging Differences returns to the conversation Diane Ravitch started Tuesday, before yesterday's entries on William Ayers. Dear Diane, There’s a connection, as you suggest, between the economic crisis we’re now in and our misbegotten effort to “reform” schools. Maybe it’s got something to do with our disrespect for knowledge. An odd thing for me to say? Not at all, but I realize that there are some (maybe even you?) who might think that my argument on behalf of “less is more” in terms of curriculum coverage is because I don’t respect knowledge. Quite ...


Editor's note: Due to their timeliness, the following posts by Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch on William Ayers appear today rather than on a usual publishing day for Bridging Differences. Dear Diane, You are right on almost all points. I forgive people more easily—it's a fault of mine that many friends complain about. For example, having been a passionate anti-Communist all my life, I find it possible to be friends with many ex-Communists who have not properly repented their pasts—although I do give them a little trouble now and then. I ignored the first round of statements...


Editor's note: Bridging Differences is publishing today because of the timeliness of Diane Ravitch's comments on Prof. William Ayers, whose association with Sen. Barack Obama has become a prominent campaign issue. Deborah Meier's reply will be published shortly. Dear Deborah, I expect we will both watch the last presidential debate. Maybe the Bill Ayers issue will come up, maybe not. Last night I received online a petition on behalf of Ayers, and I saw that you signed it. It says that he "participated passionately in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, as did hundreds of thousands of ...


Dear Deborah, Over the time that we have been blogging, we have found many issues on which we disagree—mostly having to do with externally set curriculum, standards, and tests—and many on which we agree—mostly having to do with autocratic school leadership and efforts to force a business model on the schools. Since I am writing you on a day when the world economic system is in disarray, I would like to focus on the relevance of the business model for the nation’s public schools. For the past 15 years or more, we have heard a steady...


Dear Diane, NYC’s success at claiming to be the new Texas miracle is depressing. I may delay responding to your response to my query about national standards. Or get at it more slowly! But it makes me do some tough thinking...so we might stick with it for a while once again. Speaking of tough, the Paul Tough book sticks in my mind a lot. The school he describes with such honest detail had one and only one standard: better test scores. Geoff Canada and his board were committed to proving that they could make substantial progress in closing ...


Dear Deborah, When Gov. Roy Romer spoke of national standards at our recent debate, I believe he was suggesting the development of national standards and testing on a voluntary basis, starting with about 15 governors working together to derive a common program. He did not say whether he would want “stakes” attached to national testing. In my own version of national standards and testing, I would like to see a system that had zero stakes (like NAEP), one where the federal government or some national entity administered tests, released information to the states, and then left the follow-up (the stakes, ...


Dear Diane, John Dewey spent his life warning us about false dichotomies. One of our readers, I notice, warned fellow readers of our column not to slip into the same trap. I thought of that after watching the Obama/McCain debate: some observers thought Obama was mistaken to remind voters that McCain was often right. I liked that. In face of the Obama/McCain debate, I’ve lost track of ours, Diane! The fun part of our formulaic debate last week in D.C. (at the Fordham Institute) was how hard it was sometimes to tell the “ayes” from the “nays.”...


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