Dear Diane, A good narrative is worth a dozen treatises. For good and for bad, we are a species that needs a good story. It’s why simplified history has appeal—we always want to give it a good beginning, middle, and end with a useful moral lesson. We tend to seek, therefore, the “evidence” that supports our story line—and moral. It’s very hard to avoid, especially for those who are required to have a “story line” for every subject—such as presidents. In short, you can’t be President and not delegate, and you can’t delegate...


Dear Deborah, I want to go back and discuss President Obama’s big speech on education. At the time I heard it, I was surprised by some of his statistics about how terrible things are, but I didn’t have time (or inclination) to do the fact-checking on my own. I was too busy working on my book, trying to finish a chapter on a different topic. Just the other day, a friend sent me an item that was posted on FactCheck.org, which is published by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center. A group of diligent ...


Dear Diane, My own evolution, politically, has always been influenced by the realization that I might be in a minority! In fact, maybe some of us are born with that realization (even if shielded from it by a family surrounding in which we have a hard time imagining another reasonable viewpoint). But democracy appeals to me in part because there’s always another chance—maybe next year. It‘s also an incentive for trying to learn a little more and thus being more persuasive. My exaggerated belief in the power of education rests perhaps on the hope that reason can ...


Dear Deborah, My guess is that we will have a long time, not months, but years, to discuss national standards and a national curriculum. The question won’t go away. It is one of the items on Secretary Duncan’s “to-do” list. In 1995, I wrote a book on the subject and predicted that we would inevitably move in this direction, as it made no sense to have 50 different ways of measuring how we are doing in math and science. I believe that NCLB has sharpened the contradictions and laid bare the confusion of so many different “standards,” as ...


Dear Diane, But let’s not postpone our discussion about national standards for too long. It mostly boils down to my fear about official ideologies and centralized power over ideas. Plus, our old disagreement about intellectual “neutrality” and objectivity. I found your analysis of Obama’s education policy intriguing: pro-spending, but largely along lines Chicago, NYC, et al have pioneered. My disagreements are deep-seated. I want a public system of schooling that has local bases and biases—where we don’t all have to agree on what “social justice” teaching means. It’s a risk—but democracy rests on that ...


The opinions expressed in Bridging Differences are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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