Dear Deb, I hope you won't hold my Texas origins against me. I have lived in NYC since 1960—save for a 3-year detour to Washington, D.C.—and my first book was a history of the New York City public schools. I have been writing about these schools for about half my life, so, yes, I have a strong and continuing interest in what happens here. We don't usually say, "As New York goes, so goes the nation," but this is one of those instances where it might be appropriate to do so. As you know, and our readers...

Dear Diane, I wrote the following after reading the NY Times piece you sent me last week. Meanwhile my earlier effort to lay out our differences has led to a lively response from you on progressive education and the rationale for standardized national tests. I'm already preparing my counter-arguments. But before I blast back on either one of these subjects where we appear in great disagreement, I thought it interesting to talk a moment about where we are intellectually and viscerally on such common ground—on the educational system in NYC. I find that interesting—since one naturally imagines...

Dear Deborah, Well, that was a useful car ride if you were able not only to produce this list but to remember it when you reached your destination. Sometimes I have great ideas in the middle of the night, but I never have great ideas while driving! You are right that we disagree about the role and meaning of progressive education. You refer to only one variety of progressivism, however, the one that you like, the Deweyan strand, the one that you believe produced greater concern for equity and democracy in education. I would argue that there were many varieties, ...

Dear Diane, As I was driving along making lists, I made one on our agreements and disagreements. I wonder if you would agree with me—or if you might put it a bit differently. Here's a try: 1. We disagree about the role and meaning of progressive education—both historically and today. You see it as having had a significant and negative impact on the schooling of America's kids, and I see it as having been largely ignored, but as representing important and useful ideas for what democracy and equity in education might look like. 2. We disagree about the...

Dear Deborah, Were the olden days better or worse? In some ways, they were better, in some ways worse. The answer to every question, I find, is: It depends. Certainly the schools were not the punching bag that they are now. Certainly as we both agree (I think) there was a reverence for the idea of the public school that seems to have seriously eroded. And, for better or worse, both principals and teachers were respected by parents and the general community more than they are today. In this last respect, education may be the victim of its success; half ...

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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