Dear Diane, As I was watching the Democratic party presidential wanna-be's the other night, I thought about our misuse of language. Was that a "debate"? But worse, what does it mean to ask serious potential presidents to talk about important matters—in 30 seconds? So, in answer to: why educate? So that someday we might have a public that would be embarrassed to watch such nonsense and a media that knew better. I turned off the TV at last and started reading my cousin Judith Larner Lowry's book on restoration gardening in California—"The Landscaping Ideas of Jays". After reading...


Dear Deb, Now that our mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is readying himself as a potential candidate for the Presidency, it is clear that education will be one of his signature issues. Sadly, he knows no more about education today than he did when he became mayor in 2001, based on his latest plan to pay poor kids to get higher test scores. That strategy seems to me to be an abject admission of cluelessness: When you don't know anything about teaching or curriculum, then just pay for results. I understand your frustration about the historical amnesia that you encountered. It seems ...


Dear Diane, I was talking with a young man yesterday who is working at a new NYC high schools for students who have dropped out or are about to. He's very enthusiastic about the work and the school. He thinks Bloomberg and Company invented such schools, and that his is the first. Historical amnesia is, alas, widespread. In a piece on Bloomberg’s ambitions for the Presidency and another on the High School of International Business and Finance, NY Times reporter Sara Rimer suggests that Bloomberg/Klein are the first to worry about how to educate the kids at the ...


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...


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