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September 23, 2017

Should 5th Graders Be Studying the KKK?

Will difficult student conversations go awry and get muddled? All the time. But that's the precise reason why we ought to be holding them now, with our young citizens. One of the central purposes of public education is developing core understandings of democracy and hey---no time like the present for that.

April 18, 2017

We Need Women in Education Leadership Roles

Our statistics are striking. Over half the people in the United States are women. Over half. But the fact remains that half the population has little political voice nor is it enmeshed in a political structure that embodies the knowledge, skills, talents, and gifts of the feminine.

April 09, 2017

Misguided Things People Say About Public Schools

The unexamined national goal now seems to be a productive, compliant workforce, at the lowest cost, not an educated citizenry. Instead of building on our public education infrastructure, we talk about "failing schools," and bogus international testing data.

March 15, 2017

The Kids Are All Right

I am fortunate; I get to spend time in a range of public schools, as observer, presenter, consultant and, on occasion, substitute teacher. I know that the plural of anecdote is not data--but there are hundreds of thousands of vital examples of what needs highlighting and replicating in public education. Why aren't we focused, like a laser, on those?

March 01, 2017

4 Reasons the Arts Are the Most Important Academic Discipline

For arts teachers, this is the ongoing, contentious, core issue in their pedagogical practice: What is the value of what I do? How do I share my conviction that the arts are essential in the lives of children? Why does artistic expression typically carry less weight than other fields and specialties?

February 14, 2017

Famous School Choice Pundit vs. Ordinary Teacher

While I toiled away at what you termed the retail level, you, Checker Finn, studied the research, analyzed the data, and made pronouncements impacting education across the nation. It's interesting to think that you have, in many ways, shaped the work that I actually did. For decades.

January 03, 2017

What the Shortage of Substitute Teachers Says About Public Education

We ask more of babysitters, playground monitors and burger flippers than substitute teachers--more qualifications, more on-the-job training, more care in selecting and retaining the right person for the job. If you start with the bar for admission and reward extremely low, you're making a statement about the work, as well as the people willing to do it.

September 18, 2016

What Is the Purpose of School? Who Knows? Who Cares?

I can't help wondering what would happen if the question were phrased as a constructed response. What if we asked parents, childless millennials or retirees: What's the purpose of public education? Why do we collect taxes and build buildings and elect school boards and argue about phonics vs. whole language? What's the end game?

August 30, 2016

Colin Kaepernick and Every Marching Band Director in America

Every school music teacher in America has wrestled with the national anthem. Hard to sing (covering an octave and a fifth), written in an unfriendly key signature, lyrically confounding and attached to a disreputable tune, it nevertheless maintains a strange hold on public sentiment. We expect to hear it, for some hard to trace reason, every Friday night at football games, and a raft of other occasions. We expect citizens to show reverence for this music (although singing the words is considered optional, even embarrassing).

February 24, 2016

What's the Matter With Detroit Schools, Pt II: Charter Conversion 'Solution' Fails

So there's the micro-question: What does it take to keep something successful and amazing going--providing the same critical services, contributing to the value of the Detroit community and students' lives? Do you do whatever it takes, and deal with the consequences as they come? Then there are the macro-questions: When resources from a public system build something wonderfully useful, addressing a social need with persistence and imagination, what do you lose when you turn over control and management to a private company? What strings are attached when you supplement public monies with private funding?

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The opinions expressed in Teacher in a Strange Land 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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