Dear Deb, Sometimes I feel that we are having a discussion that is way too theoretical, while the world of American education is moving hard and fast in completely different directions. You may be comfortable with a school where the kids spend four years on biology, or four years (or is it one year?) taking apart cars and remaining ignorant of Shakespeare. It's a free country, and there are surely teachers and even principals who agree with you. But this is not the policy debate in Washington or the state capitals, it will not be part of the reauthorization of ...

Dear Diane, Re your list of the "musts" (math, literacy, history, the sciences, arts and phys ed). It seems easy until one notices what's been left out. (Not to mention whose history, which sciences, what math and so on. ) My friend Ted Sizer argued that since choices had to be made he'd drop phys ed and foreign languages. He got into a lot of trouble for saying it out loud. You left foreign languages out too—on purpose? Of course, life is long, so what we stuff into the years from 5-18 is just a sampling of what we might...

Dear Deb, Apparently your trip to China has in no way dimmed your energy or your imagination. Imagine filing two pieces almost instantly! What knowledge is of most worth? I don't think we would answer the question very differently. Despite some argumentativeness around the margins, we agree on "habits of mind," and we also (I think) agree that math, literacy, history, the sciences, the arts, and physical education are essential elements in education. You prefer to have the teachers in each school decide what the content of each year's curriculum is; I believe that it is valuable and indeed necessary ...

Dear Diane, I'm intrigued by the hard work theme. I don't know the data well, but I do know that employed Americans work harder than comparable employees in industrialized nations. I also know our public policy decreases the odds of parents staying home with their infants, having shared vacations, etc. I think of us as a nation busy being entertained and short on leisure. I actually became a teacher most of all because I wanted my summers free! (Just as I chose Antioch College in 1949—which just closed—because it was the only college I could find that had...

Dear Diane, With that Spencer question—"What knowledge is of most worth?"—lingering in my mind I took a quick trip to Boston for the 8th grade graduation ceremonies at my old school—Mission Hill. Lots of old-timers were there—former students, families and staff. The place is a magnet—drawing us back together for renewal and inspiration. With us also for the week were visitors from a K-5th grade school in North Carolina that several of us had visited in May—a school in crisis over its history as a magnet school for "open" education. Their reactions...

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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