Dear Diane, It’s helpful in some way to know that I “have to” write once a week for some audience—including first and foremost you. It makes me set aside snippets here and there to possibly write and think about. I put an old essay that Florence Miller and I wrote together about a book you and Chester Finn wrote 20 years ago onto my Web site. (“What Do Our 17-Year-Olds Know?”). I posted it in Florence’s memory—since she died a few weeks ago. She had a sharp wit, and I heard it in that piece. I...

Dear Deborah, Well, we have been blogging for more than a year now, and there was bound to be a screw-up sooner or later. The only question was: who would be first to do it, you or me? The answer is in (drum roll): It is me. My previous post (“Reports, Reform, and Hype,” June 24) was actually a response to your last post (“Blaming Teachers,” June 30). I think this happened because you were so energetic that you replied to me so fast, at lightning speed, leading me to answer an unpublished post of yours. So, I can’t ...

Dear Diane, You've caught me remembering what wasn't there. I reread A Nation at Risk, and—you are right-- it didn't claim that teachers were the enemy within. It even gave a few kudos to hard working teachers. It's interesting (to me) that I should misremember it. So how did we get from 1983 to 2008? I think that, in some ways, the argument put forth by A Nation at Risk is part of the problem. First. The enormity of the crisis that they perceived and the sole focus on schools as the cause and solution eased the way into ...

Dear Deborah, I can’t believe that we are debating the message of A Nation at Risk in 2008, a quarter century after it appeared! We have been agreeing so much lately that it is useful that we remember that we do have plenty of differences. That way, we can continue to try to bridge them. This is one issue where we definitely disagree. The reason that the commission that wrote Nation at Risk focused on schools was because the name of the commission was “The National Commission on Excellence in Education.” Its charge was to “present a report on ...

Dear Diane, "We live in interesting times." A statement generally said more in sorrow than joy—and that's how I've felt this week over the coverage of the two contrasting reports to which you referred. Probably not many folks will read either, but many will notice the gist of each. David Brooks's interpretation is the oddest. It's probably the first time in my life I've been labeled part of the status quo on education! I've almost given up on the word "reformer" anyway—given the company it too often puts me in—so that wasn't the shock. It was the straight-out...

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