Dear Diane, The level of trust required for any society to sort of work is an interesting question. Because you are surely right that we cannot literally check out everything we're told in the media. What I tend to do is trust the data on matters about which I have profound ignorance, and be skeptical about what I know well (because I can check it out). But I know there are risks in this survival habit. So the other thing I do—when I'm beyond my depth—is rely on "my" experts in each field—the folks in each field...

Dear Deb, Don't worry about our agreeing too much! If we are really going to "bridge differences," then we should constantly seek common ground. I like small schools, but I also like middle-size schools. About ten years ago, Valerie Lee of the University of Michigan did a study in which she asked what was the ideal size for a high school, and she concluded that the ideal school was small enough for kids to be known by the teachers, but large enough to mount a reasonable curriculum. The best size for a high school, she decided, based on a review ...

Dear Diane, We better be careful, or we'll too often think alike! In 1989 I wrote an op-ed for The New York Times entitled "Small is Sensible." I love big cities, I began, but not big schools. I still feel the same way—about both. "Critics worry," says a NY Times editorial (July 6th) that the "new small schools...handpick the most desirable and most easily educated students". True or false? "It may be true", the editorial continues. Still, "given the improvement," full speed ahead. Duh? The same issue is arising now in Boston. It worries me—because not only...

Dear Deb, You raise important questions about the trustworthiness of the data that government agencies release. I would hope that every math course, not just advanced courses, would teach students how numbers can be interpreted in different ways for different purposes. I have always thought that one of the truly impressive qualities of athletics was the honesty of the numbers. If the score at the end of nine innings in a baseball game is 9-2, you know who won the game. In a basketball game, the basket is set at a certain height, and the ball has to enter the ...

Dear Diane, The disturbing comments in your final paragraph deserve a wide audience. It is always hard to know when we are being alarmists, and when we are understating a dangerous trend. Maybe schools were once less worrisome because they simply played a much smaller role in our lives and life itself was a teacher of common sense. But all roads lead to Rome, so while it may appear that I'm switching subjects, Diane, it leads to the same place. I read the story a few weeks ago about Carol and Joe Reich's struggle to retain control over the public ...

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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