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The Emperor Wears No Clothes


Dear Diane,

I don’t even trust myself to write standards (of the sort that can be specs for tests) for one school, one district, one state—much less the whole nation! I’m bound to have a better idea a week later.

And, given those who are considered the experts these days on matters of schooling, I cringe at the very idea.

I think it would be fair to argue that an institution that is funded by public monies must defend itself on the grounds that it serves, first and foremost, a public purpose—one which by its nature is held in common by all citizens, voters, and their offspring.

Here’s my suggestion. They must serve to prepare future voters to be knowledgeable and skilled citizens by the time they reach voting age—smart enough to preserve, protect, and improve the democracy of which they now are full members. We need a national “bar mitzvah” ceremony that seriously stops and takes stock of how well it has used children’s time (12-13 years of involuntary schooling) and the public’s money.

There is no reason the young can’t be offered “more,” or that we will all agree on precisely what “habits of mind” a voter needs to decide on matters of enormous complexity! But I’d have to connect the dots if I wanted to make it mandatory, not just accessible. There’s a difference, for example, between preparing future citizens to understand “the economy,” and preparing them for a specific job in it.

We cannot abandon democracy just because we are a long way from where we need to be, not to mention a long way from ever having discussed what it is, much less what it takes to nourish it. But that’s the direction—first and foremost—I want us to head in. That’s the argument I want us to engage in—school by school, community by community, state by state. Hopefully, we will come up with interesting and different answers. Meanwhile, we can also consider how we could go about assessing it down the road.

Here’s a shocking idea along such lines: It’s not mathematicians who need to decide how much and what kind of math we need! We need citizens with many different forms of expertise to weigh in on the kind/level of mathematical problems 18-year-olds should be able to make sense of. Then mathematicians can help us lay out ways to get there. If calculus is more important than statistics, let’s hear the argument.

If we give up on democracy every time it seems inefficient or even absurd (as Churchill put it), there would be no trace of it left on earth.

Yes, NAEP can, as you suggest, Diane, help us in the process by assessing K-12 students in a wide range of ways—and perhaps samples of other citizens of varying occupations—about what they know, make sense of and can demonstrate. To do that well we have to change the way we think of assessment. Instead of using a technology built on ranking, let’s use NAEP’s sampling as a way to provide better understanding of the problems. Having some portions that can be repeated for decades for comparison purposes is wise, but it should not be the be-all-and-end-all. And, as with all tests, we need to consider the ways it can be abused—the dangers—ahead of time. We need information as a tool for informing the public debate, not for enforcing solutions.

Yes, Diane, the Broader, Bolder proposal is a huge step in the right direction.

It’s not only in schooling policy that we face a dangerous fork in the road. Our disrespect for genuine expertise (the absence of any school people in the current policy debates) is mirrored in every field (even in the appointment of a financier to head GM!). So, too, the range of expertise. We confuse the role of citizen vs. expert, but even more dangerously we confuse the role of both in our capitulation to fiscally powerful private interest groups. This goes for policy discourse in many fields—not just education, but health, energy, and on and on.

The emperor wears no clothes—more charters, teachers paid for test results, and a national test are solutions that distract us. Not one of these is backed by “evidence”—even if we agreed that test scores were the purpose of education.

Next week, let’s imagine we could mandate a dozen or fewer books that rarely get read by anyone but teachers and educators but deserve a wider public audience?



Deb, what great opening sentiments! And yet, reading on, one wonders if you do not often confuse bureaucracy with democracy!

And a good topic for the July 4 weekend!

Last night I put together a little quiz for Independence day. It reflects some of the things I think I need to know in order to make informed decisions about what our priorities should be. Like it or not, the world has left us in charge of defending freedom. I'd rather Europe stepped it up a notch, and so says President Obama. While we wait, a few items to see what readers here know of our place in the world:

* Who is Ali al Sistani? What does he mean to US-Iran relations, and to world peace?

* Which sect of Islam more closely embraces the US view of the proper relationship between religion and politics?

* What battle gave the US its independence? Who commanded?

* What is the US Chain of Command down to the forces in Iraq?

* At the start of the Gulf War, our army was about the worlds sixth largest. After the troops came home, we cut it by more than a third. How does our army’s size today, fighting two wars, compare to that of the 70’s and ‘80s?

* How many divisions did the US have on Sept. 11?

* When the US pulled out of Vietnam, we were winning the war. Can you name the title of one of these highly influential books on that national challenge?
-- The “war in the corridors” review by writer and President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations Leslie Gelb. The book details “the efficiency of the system in sustaining an increasingly heavy commitment based on the shared conviction of six administrations that the United States must prevent the loss of Vietnam to communism.”
-- The National Book Award winner which followed the military and USAID career of John Paul Vann, and therein much of the intricacy of the war on the ground.

* What is a combat brigade team? Does the current Defense plan provide for more or fewer in the future?

* The US’ newest bomber is 20 years old. How many do we have? We also fly the B52. How old are these airframes, and how many are in service?

* What US President effectively ended the scourge of Piracy for 200 years? How?

I'll re-post these on my blog if anyone would prefer to their their hand there.

Hi All... hope this finds everyone well!

Deb... love this idea!!
"Next week, let’s imagine we could mandate a dozen or fewer books that rarely get read by anyone but teachers and educators but deserve a wider public audience?" ( Deb )

Ed, thought i would join you on a list of questions:

What is the Nature of Poverty and Economic Hardship in the United States?

1.What does it mean to experience poverty?
2.How is poverty measured in the United States?
3.Are Americans who experience poverty now better off than a generation ago?
4.How accurate are commonly held stereotypes about poverty and economic hardship?

How Serious is the Problem of Economic Hardship for American Families?

5.How many children in the U.S. live in families with low incomes?
6.Are some children and families at greater risk for economic hardship than others?
7.What are the effects of economic hardship on children?

Is it Possible to Reduce Economic Hardship among American Families?

8.Why is there so much economic hardship in a country as wealthy as the U.S.?
9.Why should Americans care about family economic hardship?
10.What can be done to increase economic security for America’s children and families?

For me... when i reflect on the 4th of July i think of many different voices from our history. Here are 2 favorites:

Martin Luther King very clearly and consciously linked three concerns, what he called “evils” – racism, poverty
and war.

He said they were “intertwined.”

Thus, to examine war or violence (whether in Baghdad, Iraq or Phila, Chicago, Detroit....) without addressing
issues of poverty/income disparities and racial injustice is artificial....

2nd- Frederick Douglass...1852

"What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.

"To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.
There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

"Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival."

We have come along way since Douglas spoke these words on the 4th of July 1852!

The question....are we finished or does America have more work to do?

be well....mike

Ed and Mike,

You both make valid points but you need to stop using this blog as a vehicle for your set agendas. Ed's noteworthy militaristic ramblings and Mike's invaluable pleas for equity, while both worthwhile subjects, have little to nothing to do with charter schools, value-added assessments, performance pay for teachers, etc.

Far be it from me to referee these discussions but if it weren't for folks like Diana, Margo, Brian, Jason, Linda, John, etc, there would be zero connection to our hosts' topic at hand.

Come on guys!

Paul, Ed, and Mike:
School curriculum tells us what a society thinks is important. Some things are inevitably included, and others left you. Settling on what should be included and left out—and in our society this is done by school boards, legislatures and other democratically selected political bodies—is critical to understanding the nature of democratic habits.

The really tough part in democracy (or the habits of democracy) is not “winning” the vote, and then implementing the program. After all, it is easy to be a dictator. Rather, the tough part is in accepting defeat graciously, and then helping the “victors” implement a program which you may dislike and disagree with. You have to do this at least until the next election. Teachers of course do this all the time in K-12.

I found both Ed and Mike’s discussion of what should be included in a social science curriculum to be articulate and well-informed. I also think that their positions illustrate the questions that school boards and administrators wrestle with when asking about what social science curriculum to select. But I think that the big question for a blog exploring the nature of democratic habits is to ask how enthusiastically will Ed and Mike implement the parts of the curriculum selected which stick in their throats? How much latitude as professionals should they be permitted in presenting an alternative point?

So I guess that my question for Ed is, how would you deal with a curriculum which explored the nature of poverty, persistent inequality, and its implications for equal opportunity in American history? And for Mike, it is how would you deal with a curriculum which had as its center the role of military action in the American Revolution, freeing the slaves, defeating Hitler and ending the Cold War?

Tony Waters

Hi Diane and Deborah, I have been a follower of your dialogues for quite some time now but have never posted a comment. The discussion on national standards is once again coming up in educational circles but rather than being spear headed by teacher professional organizations, it is being led by the federal government. I recently received an email with the list of "experts" who have been named to various committees to address national state (state national?? what does this mean exactly???) standards. Except for a couple of notable names, Carol Jago for example, there is only one teacher (at the middle school level) on any of these committees. BTW, these committees are to address math and language arts national state standards. Where are the teachers???? To me, this smacks of the Reading First groups that gave us "research based" reading programs and nothing but failure for kids, teachers, and schools. And, who is Achieve anyway??? They seem to be dominating the rosters of these committees.
Thank you for these public conversations. I often forward them to other colleagues.

Tony, Happy holiday, or at least for my customers, so I'll too observe it by attempting brevity here!!

Curriculum: the above aren't so much proposed as a curriculum for hs students (though they could be considered for a couple days without costing them too much). Instead, they point out how uninformed professional education advisers are on matters of content re free peoples and their maintenance.

Paul's characterization of these questions as "militaristic ramblings" is much too typical. Its so easy to close our eyes and trot out the old Eisenhower quote, while never soiling our clean and pure minds with actually thinking on the real needs of a nation in our position.

A balanced mind knows how to look down to a certain level across a broad spectrum of national and local concerns.

Exploring two more domains:
- What is the current status of the Mars Rovers? Across the mission, what is the most fascinating thing about this program of human inquiry?
- Who (individual names) is responsible for the roads in your neighborhood? The parks? Pool? Policing? Groceries?

So, then, to Mike's questions. I have, myself, been asking these questions for years. But, they are mostly the wrong questions. The focus is all wrong. It leads to too many appealing, but false answers.

"Poverty" says Wikipedia "is the shortage of common things such as food, clothing, shelter and safe drinking water, all of which determine the quality of life."

Rather than study the lack of things, the useful course of study is the getting of these things!!!

That would be the curriculum direction I'd commend to you, Tony.

Toward that end, who among the citizenry can help us study the getting of such things? And,...what questions could we here ask educators to test their familiarity with the topic?

I offer two to start us off:
* What is the single most important thing to building a small business?
* Economic independence is something we celebrate tomorrow as well. What were the colonists seeking in terms of their economic status?

Hi All...hope this finds you well.

Elisa...i absolutely agree with your assessment of the current push toward national vouluntary standards!

I also agree that Achieve Inc. is leading the way and an organization that needs to be explored more carefully by anyone interested in education.
And, who is Achieve anyway??? ( Elisa )
Any one can start here: http://www.achieve.org/

I believe strongly that this is the wrong direction.

Paul... "have little to nothing to do with charter schools, value-added assessments, performance pay for teachers, etc." ( Paul )

I can see why you may feel this way. How ever, my pushing toward "equity" is an effort to get the discussion of balancing our public school districts by socio-ecconomic status on the table as an intervention to consider.... not simply something in the curriculum to teach kids as they sit in very segragated public schools!

In taking a look at places in our country that are doing this... it seems to have faster benefits then...charter schools, pay for performance,value-added assesments etc...


In 1976, to expedite the racial integration of the region, the Raleigh City Schools merged with the Wake County School System, combining the city and suburbs into one district. The district operated under a court-ordered desegregation plan until it achieved unitary status in 1982.

Between 1982 and 1999, Wake County implemented a voluntary desegregation plan in which each school was required to have a minority enrollment between 15% and 45%.

In 2000, Wake County adopted a new assignment policy that eliminated race from consideration in student assignments.

The new policy established the goal that no more than 40% of a school’s total enrollment could be comprised of students eligible for free-and-reduced-price lunch (FRL) and no more than 25% could be comprised of students performing below grade level on state exams.

The intervention in Wake County and other place Paul was to in effect attempt to make all our schools ...
"middle class schools".

To what extent does a school’s overall poverty rate affect student achievement?

Student achievement— has been clearly shown to fall as the poverty level of a school rises.

A consistent, forty-year body of scientific studies confirms that children who attend high-poverty schools face considerably higher risks of lower academic performance, whatever their individual academic potential.

In fact, middle-income students who attend high-poverty schools earn lower average test scores than do low-income students who attend middle class schools.

Since the publication of the Coleman Report in 1966, social scientists have reported that the socioeconomic composition of a school makes a difference in the achievement levels of individual students.

Paul, what i am asking.... is balancing school districts, an intervention that clearly has shown positive effects on studnt achievement, worth putting into the current conversation around school reform?

In my readings...this intervention... has shown more long term benefits than any of the other talk about standards, curriculums, pay for performance and charter schools etc...

Many states are talking about consolidation of school districts right now.... should balance by SES enter this conversation?

be well... mike

Sometimes it seems that test scores ARE the purpose of education which is in my view unfortunate. I believe there should be many instruments to measure progress. The problem with measuring progress only by a serious of scantron tests is that one is measuring test-taking skills, English reading ability as well as content knowledge. I personally prefer to know what students know, not what they can guess. For that reason I always include an oral participation grade (which includes citizenship and class attitude) as well as, essays and short KEYNETs or cultural literacy items (key names, events and treaties). One thing "experts" never point out is how easy it is to fake or cheat on scantron tests particulary when there are 45 or 50 students in a classroom designed to fit no more than 30. AP exams are more authentic instruments because:
1) they have an established curriculum which must be completed (but no single required text)if one is to be competitive.
2) the AP exam is a cumulative exam
3) it does not rely exclusively on scantron multipe choice items test include essays and sometimes listening and speaking portions as well. Altogether the parts of the test give a very reliable indication of the level of competency of the student.

And most importantly students who take AP exams -most pay a high fee ($84 or more) are motivated to try their very best AND they are rewarded if they make a passing or high score. It is not unusual for a student to get 12,24 or even 36 college credits for high school AP work. And of course even schools which (shamefully in my view) do nor award any AP credits, high AP (or IB International Baccalaureate) scores often result in scholarships.

So the AP is a voluntary national and international standard. Teachers and students can meet that standard ANY WAY THEY WANT. They can choose any textbook they like and they can choose any outside reading they like BUT they must, if they want to be successful, read widely. There is no question that the more AP tests one takes in the humanities the more acacdemic excellence is rewarded. There is no question there are correlations between AP European history, AP US history, AP English and AP Spanish literature for example. All of these tests have some themes and skills in common and the cultural literacy acquired in AP English will help one do will in AP Spansih literature (literary analysis which is essentially based on Greek, Roman and French models and terms is the almost the same in any Western language even to the point of using the same vocabulary.)

But let's look at the AP model as an example of VOLUNTARY NATIONAL STANDARDS.

If one were to push for VOLUNTARY NATIONAL STANDARDS one merely need to establish and incentive and reward for students who complete the curriculum work and do well on the testing.

Students could be given cash rewards or vvouchers for college or training schools. When I talk to students I ask them what is their greatest need and they say:
1) having a car for transportation
2) getting financial aid or tuition waivers.

Many students say it would be a very great incentive to attend school regularly and do well on standarized tests if they got something out of it.

Right now in California we spend (read waste) millions of dollars on CST's that DO NOT COUNT FOR ANYTHING AS FAR AS THE STUDENT is concerned. For the first time the score is listen on the transcript but otherwise they count for nothing. If we want a test to count we should reward students for
1) taking the test in a timely manner. RIght now school have to spend a huge amount of money tracking students down even sending people to their homes to get them out of bed. Then they are dragooned to take the test. But all the school cares about is meeting its goal of 95% of enrolled students taking the test. You can imagine the scores of some of these tests. Many students fill in the dots in a design and NEVER EVEN OPEN THE TEST PAMPHLET TO READ EVEN ONE QUESTION. If you can find a bigger waste of time and money, you tell me.
2) for achieving a certain standard or proficiency. We should give patches, free coupons for pizza, gas and even a chance to enter a lottery for a free car. Student who do the right thing should be rewarded in very substantial ways. Parents and relatives of course do this now for many middle class students but if we value academic excellence we should do more than merely awarding letter grades (which are meaningless to most students).

I personally am skeptical of IMPOSED NATIONAL standards because I know these standards would be biased and destroy local control and imput of our communities. But voluntary national standards could be encouraged by providing real incentives and rewards for schools , teachers and students. Now AP programs, for example, rely mostly on the altruism and professional pride of classroom teachers. There is no academic reward in fact teaching AP is a pay cut for most teachers because it means much more work to prepare and much more work to correct. Also most AP teachers have multiple preps anyway.
The only real sideline or bonus for AP teachers is the chance to become an AP Reader but this is a very minor sideline.

As far as books are concerned it is always interesting to discuss books. My primary impression is most "teacher ed" programs major in non-books that is to say ephemeral instruments of indoctrination that are so tendencious and dull that few in the general reading public could ever be convinced to read them. Few if any of the books read in teacher training programs could be seriously considered 'permanent' books. As long is that is the case our educational patterns will continue to be chaotic, confused and inefficently administered. Teachers, administrators , school boards, districts and states have very little idea what their aims should be in education and so progress in fts and starts aimlessly. It seems only by chance do some students get a true education.

Of course, I think there is a canon which ALL educated people should be familiar with and of course many books deal with the rearing of children, the training of youth in civility and societal norms and the instruction of youth in formal academic disciplines.

Mike and Ed,

Both of your discussions are valuable. How could they not be? They're kids' driven, aren't they? I just get the impression they're not always related to Deborah or Diane's post, as in, on topic.

Ed and Mike:
I would challenge you both to go back to my original question which is, what is “professional” for a teacher to do when they do not agree with a national and/or local curriculum? And also to the point, what is the responsibility of the teacher whose party or side wins the curricular battle of the day to those who are on the other side of a particular battle?

I will give you an example, Ed, using your example of entrepreneurship. I think that such a curriculum while relevant to a small but significant group of our students is unlikely to be of interest to the vast majority of us who prefer seeking a wage job in a large organization. For this reason, I think it should be an elective, and not a required course, as you do. And I make this argument in faculty meetings, and at the school board meetings. After a series of open hearings, faculty meetings, union consulations, etc., the school board votes 4-3 to adopt the new entrepreneurship curriculum for a trial period of 3-5 years. Both of us then go back to our classrooms to implement this decision.

In such a scenario, what is my responsibility to share my views about the nature of entrepreneurship vs. the wage labor market with our students? What is your responsibility to share my view? What is our responsibility to each other as colleagues who are working together not just to implement this program for the next 3-5 years, but indefinitely into the future? In compromising and continuing to work together, I know we will both need to do things which we regard as inefficient and absurd. But as Deb points out, isn’t this what habits of democracy are all about, whether about a curriculum decision, or even implementation of a new testing program?


Hey, Tony, Glad to see you all at it well into the holiday weekend!

Oh!! How it pains me to hear you say "entrepreneurship... is unlikely to be of interest to the vast majority of us who prefer seeking a wage job in a large organization." No wonder 50% of them drop out, mostly due to boredom!!

OK, I'm waxing rhetorically extreme here. Still, again, it is the lack of coherently strong awareness of solid, true, content matter that is of woe here. And the kids sense it. So they drop out.

Lets back up to 1776: In that day, the only men (north of the Mason Dixon line) with more than a couple people working for them were sea captains. Small business ruled! Bureaucracies just didn't exist.

Well, that isn’t just the past; it is the future as well. We only adopted large corporate organizations once the trains started requiring cooperative work and information flow across the miles, from city to city and state to state. The steel mills followed, then the textile mills, etc. But now, thanks to computer networks and robotics, we are in a reverse of that process. Customization is the key to making money—custom products and custom services. Starbucks, though the service and distribution model is replicated across the world, wants to know your name as you order your coffee. They want you their employees to befriend their customers. They want smart, educated people serving, so that the customer relationship grows deeper.

Look...the interests of the employee and the employer should be one and the same. This view that they are two sides at odds--this view is how union staff make their coin. Its not how the average person enhances their worth.

In a well run business, both employees and employer work as a team to serve the customer. Both have their unique function and respect the other. As both are successful at their tasks, the business grows and both become better off.

This view was adopted long ago by Nucor Steel. Nucor employees love their work. More to the point, they have jobs! All the other steel makers - those surrounding me here in the Ohio Valley, those heavily unionized behemoths where everyone's energy was expended fighting within the company, management vs workers, year after year? Those companies are mostly gone now. Their mills have been obliterated. Turned into shopping malls and labs and "entertainment technology" centers.

Nucor survives because its employees respect and understand the business as a whole, and vice versa.

So, Curriculum: The first answer, maybe, is that the secret to our country's strength is diversity. Diversity of ideas, methods, everything. So, if you're school is highly at odds with your idea of best teaching, there should hopefully be a school not too far away where the match is better.

I'd argue that the best path toward such diversity is charter schools and vouchers. Without those tools, we get what happened at Philadelphia's school of the future.

To review (what a great Independence Day story!), Philadelphia SD partnered with Microsoft, Temple U., and others to design a "school of the future". They then built it and operated it. The kids responded!! Not one dropped out the first year. Attendance soared. Student enthusiasm for school skyrocketed.

The school, though, was a normal district school. And all the ills of a big district began to toll on the school. The IT staff did not make the effort to keep the networks running. In a school with no texts! Then came the standards crowd. After only a year, the school was ordered back from its compelling, experimental curriculum, back to the district curriculum the students were dropping out from at a 50% rate.

OK, I'm pulling a ton of stuff in here. What I'm trying to say is, Yes!!! Let us give Democracy its head in our schools!

Let’s also be honest about what that means! Democracy is not one party rule!! We need a nationwide teaching corps that looks like America. We need a teaching corps that knows what America knows about business and economics and military issues.

We don't today have that. What we have is a group less informed than average on these matters, and thusly voting far to the left of the Average American. Americans sense this, and thus dis on teachers. And students drop out.

Full circle back to Mike's questions. The kids don't care about the statistics of poverty today. What they want is to know how to move to a future of less poverty, more wealth. That future is via business and professional jobs, jobs that require math and science (real science, not politicized pseudo-science), statistics and Capital Asset Pricing, labor cost accounting, pricing theory, plus all the things that might go to a nursing or analytical or sales job.

All that stuff...boring or not...is the key to these kids future independence!

Hi All.... hope everyone is well.

Tony i find myself in agreement with Deb on your question.

"I don’t even trust myself to write standards (of the sort that can be specs for tests) for one school, one district, one state—much less the whole nation! I’m bound to have a better idea a week later. ( Deb )

The idea of making lists of items that all kids should know and do at the same time makes no sense to anyone who watches kids. These lists keep getting more and more specific each year and it is a very old view of learning and teaching.

Standards...if at all...need to be broad and vague... they are end goals that should take all children to a place where they can demonstarte the ability to learn....and not through a silly test...

think Phd's defense as a way of justifying learning to you community.... not a national test by Achieve Inc. and friends.

"I'd argue that the best path toward such diversity is charter schools and vouchers. Without those tools, we get what happened at Philadelphia's school of the future." ( Ed )

Ed you and i are actually not too far off sometimes in some of our thinking!
I would simply argue that the best path to diversity would be to begin to re-think the artifical man made boundaries that exist between our most needy schools and the schools that surround them! I would also say this needs to be done locally.... not from Washington.
We both want diversity of ways and means of learning... i also want diversity of people and income levels.

What do you think Ed... can we almost agree on that? :)

As you know...the diversity i am interested in would be based on having no schools with over...say 35% poverty!

We could create a variety of public magnet schools that would allow choice with-in that structure for all kids.

The key in my head... keep the balance of poverty similar.

Gerald Grants book..Hope and despair in the American city... is a must read!

Check some of it out here:

I am not suggesting that we teach kids about poverty... i am suggesting that we do something about it.

"So, Curriculum: The first answer, maybe, is that the secret to our country's strength is diversity." ( Ed )

Agree here too with Ed...

Can America continue to allow some of our public schools to exist with levels of poverty well above 75---80---100% and call this EQUAL?

We have tried balancing the ecconomics of this seperate but equal philosophy in many places in America....

Can America have diversity with in its public school sytem that has both diversity of curriculums and programs and diversity of people?

Why not...what problems would occur?

How hve our southern states become some of the most integrated schools by race and by income in America...while our northern schools have in effect segragated themselves?

be wll..mike

Deb begins her essay that way, but then adds: "There is no reason the young can’t be offered 'more,' or that we will all agree on precisely what 'habits of mind' a voter needs to decide on matters of enormous complexity!" You can't run a school without cooperation, coordination, and compromise, i.e. politics, which means that there will inevitably be the absurdities and inefficiencies which Winston Churchill wrote about.

Ed, entrepreneurship is fine, but so is music, chemistry, trigonometry, French, English literature, education, history, art, sociology, and so forth. Most of us will spend most of our time working for an hourly or monthly wage and appreciate the freedom that this gives us to be creative in our own classrooms, offices, and workshops. I can admire great entrepreneurs and artists without wanting to be one myself. I suspect that most of the population feels similarly.

As a thought experiment, it might be a good idea to imagine a school in which all of us (e.g. Deb, Diane, Diana, Paul, Mike, Ed, Tony, John Doe, Gov't Bureaucrat, etc., etc.) were teachers together, and needed to respond to a curriculum established by a state board of education, and the testing regime du jour. We would need to create a school in which we our professional views were respected, while still delivering a coherent curriculum. Oddly enough, I think that the participants in this blog could probably come up with an exciting school in which this was done. But then would come the problem of articulating it with still more standards promulgated with the latest standardized test in mind.

Happy Forth of July!

OK Mike. We all agree. It's time this country abandoned the Plessy mantra of separate but equal and finally, that's right finally, after 55 years of the Warren Court's promise of "all deliberate speed" we took some concrete action.

Let's hear the legal, logical, and pragmatic plan of action that's going to bring this to fruition in the twenty first century, where everyone (that's the tough part, for the principle occupant residing at 704 Houser Street in Queens - and I'm not talking about Edith, either) buys into this grand scheme of equity.

And lest you forget, there are kids who won't even sit at the same school cafeteria table together because they'd rather sit with people of their own kind at their own table. Somehow, you've got to get all involved parties to buy into this and WILLING PARTICIPATE.

Go ahead. I'm reading/listening. The attempt was a disaster in Boston in the 70's and somehow, forty or so years later I'm still not sure this county is ready for this, but go ahead. I want to hear how you propose to pull off this grand plan. It definitely needs to happen but somehow, I'm still quite skeptical.

Hi All... hope this finds you well.

Paul... i certainly do not pretend to have all the answers on your question but do have some thoughts.

America has come a long way since Brown and what i would suggest first is having this topic once again entire the national dialog concerning school reform. In my opinion, school reform has been narrowed. Most citizens do not recognize how "re-segragated" we have become.

It took around 65 years to reverse Plessy with Brown.... we can do better then that!

"Somehow, you've got to get all involved parties to buy into this and WILLING PARTICIPATE." ( Paul)

Yep... that would be the idea and it is the idea that Deb talks about in a democracy.

"It definitely needs to happen but somehow, I'm still quite skeptical." (Paul)

Well... that makes 2 of us...good start! I believe strongly that there are more out there!

I wonder if other folks begain to speak of this more.... how many others might be out there...like you and i.

Wonder what Deb and Diane think?

Here is a link Paul with a few decent ideas and a start at sharing information with others.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

be well and thanks for the dialog....


With Obama in the White House this would seem like the ideal time for something substantive to happen. It just seems like such an overwhelming task, I wonder if even he can make any meaningful headway.

The first step seems to be for the Black community to accept the fact that a problem (anemic academic performance) exists. If they see no problem with the status quo, it's never going to be appropriately addressed.

Hi All...

Paul...not so sure about Obama...
Duncan has not shown me much in a broader, integrative, vision for our public school systems.

The black communities that i am familiar with are well aware of the current situation.

We all need to carefully look at the current state of re-segragation in America and begin to think of ways that can be positive for all of our kids!

This is not a black, white or hispanic problem...it is America's problem and it is still with us.


Tony, Hope your weekend brought relaxation!
There is a difference between "admiring entrepreneurs" and 'understanding what entrepreneurism means to freedom'! Too many people who write on education and social issues do not have the basic language and concepts to intelligently discuss national policy. They enter discussions with a romantic but not practical language, and unfortunately, often their romanticism rules the day.

Consider Randi Weingarten.

So, in theory, I disagree with you. French and English literature and 'sociology' are nice-to-have's, but getting urban Americans to understand how private enterprise can improve their lives--is a must!

An example:
Mike keeps asking about Poverty. I've yet to see him here explore rent control laws, which uninformed voters accepted, but which do the urban poor great harm. He keeps asking why we have such segregation, well,...rent control laws are a big part of the "Why".

So is the insufficient education they are getting!

What you ask about implementing curriculum is interesting. I just saw a study of college students. Many smart, energetic grads would like to teach, but not in a state school!!!
I agree, Tony, the current standards process is awful. But, for our urban students, it is better than what we had before. At least some changes are being made.
Sometimes, thats better than nothing.


How do we desegregate Boston when 88% of the student population is African-American?

Of course, prior to Judge Arthur Garrity's busing order (I was in total agreement with the move) in the 1970's the percent of Black students in BPS was about half that. Unfortunately, as history will point out the results of Boston's attempted school busing order - white flight in droves.

So here we are again, almost a century and a half after the Civil War ended and slaves were given their freedom and the right to vote, we're still dancing around this polemic. Can it ever be addressed/solved? What are the ramifications for eliminating/minimizing the achievement gap if we cannot first solve this issue? Sadly, I suspect a portion of it is human nature and that doesn't appear to be leaving Dodge City anytime soon.

No, Mike. You need to develop some tangibles, something people can get their teeth into. I know ignoring it won't solve anything but simply throwing it out for discussion hasn't seemed to accomplish much either. God knows - how can this country continue to exist in this contrived dichotomy?

Hi Paul.... hope this finds you well.

Paul, i certainly hear you! Never suggested this would be simple or fast.

You raise a good point with our urban area's.... what would need to be done is to look toward the suburban districts that surround our cities.

Yeah, i know.... but that is why i said earlier...this is not simply a black or hispanic issue.

The south actually did this better then the north... also being done in and around Cambridge.

Gerald Grants book: Hope and despair in the american city is well worth the read. http://www.amazon.com/Hope-Despair-American-City-Schools/dp/0674032942

Grant also speaks to some of the issues Ed raises concerning housing and "red lining" in America.

To me Paul...ideas are powerful things.

I think these ideas need to become part of the conversation!

be well..mike

The trick with writing standards is to keep them short, simple, and to the point. Then when you are finished erase half of them and use what is left.

Alan J.Gerson, District 1 election canddidate overturned a Mayoral veto and the prevention of high rise development at the South Street Historic District ...

Please visit his website...


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