Dear Deborah, Now we know that President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Arne Duncan as his secretary of education. This must be a relief to Linda Darling-Hammond, who heads Obama's transition team for education policy, because now the attacks on her can cease. I have been shocked by the editorial onslaught directed at Darling-Hammond in major newspapers and magazines. After you wrote your column, I read a few more editorials (most recently in The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, and The New Republic) drawing a distinction between LDH and "reformers" like Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee. I have been withholding ...

Dear Diane, Columnists who write about education can display amazing chutzpah. How about this headline in the Boston Globe: “How Obama can fix education”? Of course, it’s also the editors of our “finest” newspapers who are to blame for this view of education as an appliance. Or David Brooks, where we enter an Orwellian world in which the only serious “reformers” are those who offend teachers and their unions—and assume the worst about both. Thus Linda Darling-Hammond, after a lifetime of serious work at really cutting-edge, break-the-mold school reform in New York state and California, becomes a hack...

Dear Deborah, You quote John Goodlad, who asks “Whatever became of the idea that representative democracy is the essential starting point for public education?” This is an important question to raise today, as I suspect that our political elites have lost faith in this idea. Take, for example, the spread of charter schools. There are now some 1.3 million children in more than 4,500 charter schools in 40 states, plus the District of Columbia. Without getting into the merits or demerits of charter schools, it is worth noting that the impulse to “go charter” seems to align with ...

Dear Diane, What unites us I suspect is well said in an op-ed by John Goodlad recently. It ends this way: "Whatever became of the idea that representative democracy is the essential starting point for public education? One also might ask, 'whatever happened to the idea that public education is the essential starting point for addressing the well-being of our democracy?' Let the conversation begin.” I’ve been thinking about my suggestion for concrete alternatives. Actually, a number are already out there, but none probably in “legislative” language that allows us to pin down their costs, their dilemmas, etc.. ...

Dear Deborah, I wish, as you suggested, that we could have some influence on the national debate. Even when we don’t agree on the specifics, we at least have the humility to know we don’t have all the answers to the problems. For the next few years, much will depend on decisions soon to be made by President-elect Obama. If he chooses as the secretary of education one of the slash-and-burn superintendents who have recently been in the national news (think Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, for example), then the whole nation will be subjected to a new ...

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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