Dear Deborah, Well, we do disagree about what should happen in “our houses of learning.” Maybe that is the core of our disagreement, maybe not. We’ll see. Your rumination on “the street” reminded me of one of my favorite figures in education history, and that is Junius Meriam of the University of Missouri. Meriam’s laboratory school at the university was featured in 1915 by John Dewey as one of the “schools of to-morrow” in his famous book of the same name. Meriam wrote a book called "Child Life and the Curriculum" (published in 1920), in which he described ...


Dear Diane, Perhaps the most revolutionary thing we can do, as educators, is provide examples of adults who use their minds freely and toughly, in the interest of raising smart, feisty youngsters! On a recent visit to Wesleyan, where my granddaughter is a student, some teachers and students played with the question of whether schools should provide young people with opportunities to act on their ideas. After all, teenagers have historically always been activists, not just scholars. I think probably yes—but, if so, don’t we need to be equally prepared to support the “actions” that we disagree with...


Dear Deborah, Maybe I should not have thrown George Counts’ famous challenge into the mix. I sometimes have to remind myself that most people—even most educators—know very little education history and never read about why Counts asked “Dare the schools build a new social order?” At the time (1932), Counts was in his most radical phase, openly admiring the Soviet Union; his address was delivered to the Progressive Education Association, which at the time was enraptured with child-centered individualism. Counts said, in effect, dare to indoctrinate children, dare to throw aside your anachronistic beliefs in individualized education,...


Dear Diane, Actually, I do not now nor ever have believed that teachers of K-12 schools could create a new social order. It's neither accurate nor healthy for us to think that's our job. A minor clarification: You write: “no matter whether schools are progressive or traditional (are there any such??)… " I was wondering if the parenthesis meant you weren’t sure there were any progressive, traditional, or either of the two! If you recall that was one of our very long ago and far away arguments—my contention that progressive education had barely ever been tried in urban public...


Dear Deb, We do agree: Violence is not the essential reason that schools are unsuccessful. We agree that violence is not caused by schools, and that in every community the schools are the safest environment that students are likely to encounter. That was not the point, however, that I was making. The point was that we live in a society where authority of all kinds has been eroded, that the media regularly and consistently undermines adult authority, and that schools are no longer safe from the intrusions of the street and the popular culture. No matter whether schools are progressive ...


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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