Dear Diane, To pursue the theme: Words are indeed elusive—I might even dare to claim that we are constantly “constructing” new meanings for old words, while also digging around to recover old meanings. Of course, some aspects of our occasional rants are the result of use of language that borders on misuse, even on occasional abuse—plain lies. But at the heart of our conversation is our conscious effort to avoid placing each other into neat boxes, thus parodying each other’s ideas, while doing a little rethinking about our own language as we go along. Example. I don’t...


Dear Deb, I am happy to join with you in adopting a bridging motto of “Neither guide on the side nor sage on the stage.” One of the things that brought me to admire you was your obvious passion about teaching, learning, and children. I said at the outset of our conversation that I would gladly entrust my children (who are now too old to entrust to anyone but their spouses!) and my grandchildren to your classroom. Somehow, though, I think that teachers you admire could work within the context of a common curriculum that described the parameters of what ...


Dear Diane, I don’t want to argue about the word “constructivism” because words can, I agree, be slippery. But I urge you not to parody that viewpoint. There are few—if any—schools (in the public sector at least) where teachers are just “guides on the side.” Never were! I’ve seen hapless teachers. But not purposely. I also think that you have misread Dewey’s "The Way Out of Educational Confusion”. Or should I say “differently read”? (joke) I think he meant it in the same way as Ted Sizer did in describing a mindless Honor’s English...


Dear Debbie, Words are slippery things. Take the idea of “constructivism.” Yes, I agree with you that we all “construct” knowledge as we encounter new ideas. We try to make sense of new ideas by fitting them to what we already know, using the vocabulary and experiences that we have already accumulated. If we have a meager vocabulary—or none at all, as when we visit a foreign country and are unfamiliar with the language—and if we have no experiences that are connected to the new ideas, then we will not be able to do much constructing of knowledge....


Dear Diane, I just read a column about Sol Stern in The New York Times on why vouchers aren't the answer. I'm glad he's given up on them; alas, he has joined you in viewing a standard curriculum reform as the answer. The dilemma for me is not who is right on curriculum or phonics but with the idea of imposing either solution. Democracy uses the tool of "majority wins" because sometimes only one decision is feasible: we either go to war or don't, build the highway or don't. But I'm a libertarian wherever I can be—like about the ...


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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