Dear Diane, I was speaking in North Carolina recently. In describing Central Park East's "Five Habits of Mind" I used, as an example of the "what if" habit: "Supposing we had lost the Civil War"—A lady in front of me laughed and said, "but we did". Thus proving the value of another "habit of mind"—being able to place one's self in another person's shoes. Even if, as it says in the Mission Hill mission statement, it's a viewpoint one despises. Do I imagine that all teachers, schools and districts, if left to their own devices, are likely to...

Dear Deb, As you know, Mark Twain (or Disraeli or someone) once wrote that there are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics. Everyone in education, or so it seems, has learned how to present them in ways that bolsters whatever they want to do. Either, the sky is falling, or things have never been better. Let me suggest that the statistics you offer are open to different interpretations, to be generous. I don't really know how anyone can say how students in Singapore or Sweden would perform IF they took a NAEP test, which they did not ...

Dear Diane, I've also been pondering how we could resolve some of our disagreements about national testing—without necessarily resolving our differences on curriculum! Thanks for trying to word it succinctly (less than 500 words!). My response is twice as long, alas. But I wanted to approach it in a way that helped me think through why your solution (a national curriculum with a low-stakes test) doesn't work for me. We're both distressed—to put it mildly—about the misleading misinformation we're fed about one or another school system's successes and failures. The following data, which I ran across recently,...

Dear Deb, I think we just found a very important area of agreement! You said in your last post, “The fewer direct consequences there are—rewards or punishments—associated with such data collection, the greater the likelihood that it will be honest. We need less of the Texas ‘miracle’ and Enron-style data, and more of the ‘academic’ type.” So maybe you are willing to agree with my plan for the reauthorization of NCLB. Yes, we should have national standards and national tests, but there should be no federal role in punishing or rewarding schools based on the results of the tests....

Dear Diane, Agreed. Most people's ideas—good and bad—are adapted by others in ways that would surprise the original author. Sometimes the "followers" have improved on the original, but it hurts when they have massacred it. Which is another way of agreeing with you that Dewey's ideas have not always led where he hoped they would. Ditto for Jean Piaget, from whom American educators borrowed the idea of cognitive "stages" and tried to figure out how to rush children onto the "next stage" faster. Sometimes the original idea is partially to blame—clearly containing the seeds of its own distortion....

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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