June 2007 Archives

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...


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...


Dear Deb, Your trip sounds wonderful, fascinating, and even worth the physical stress. I didn't mention it before, but after my trip to China in 1998, I became quite ill as a direct result of an 18-hour flight. Of course, stuff happens here, too. Last week, I was supposedly flying from Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, to NYC, which should have been a routine flight. The air-traffic-control system somehow went down, and it took me 15 hours of travel to actually make the trip. I would have preferred to go to China! Your remarks about how a controlled media produces confusing data ...


Dear Diane, A quick note—undoubtedly it won't end up being so quick—re. your words last month about my anarchistic, "do your own thing" thing views re. curriculum. It's a puzzle, I know, but no—that's not quite what I'm saying. Like colleges, most private schools design their own course of study—with schools providing more or less space for teachers to decide how and where they fit in. At Fieldston, teachers had favorite topics and approaches and thus "curriculum" differed over the years. CPESS—my old high school—had a 6-year (grades 7-12) curriculum that we...


Dear Diane, I'm home at last. I survived our three-week jaunt with great pleasure. Shanghai to Hangshou, to Guilin, to Xi'An to Beijing—combining "business" with pleasure with my son Nicholas Meier (also an educator) and my colleague Eleanor Duckworth of Harvard. The hardest part was the leg from San Francisco to Boston, which took nearly 15 hours and required flying first to LA! It was all amazing. I feel as though I have seen the future and it leaves me both troubled and curious. I spent time with wonderful, kind, gracious and interesting people. Including people from a wide...


Bridging Differences was on a brief hiatus while Deborah Meier traveled in China. Today, the blog returns with a new post from Diane Ravitch. Dear Deb, I hope you had a wonderful trip to China and that you are not too wiped out. I have been there a few times, first in 1987, most recently in 1998. I hear it has changed quite a lot since then. Lots of things happening in your absence, none to gladden your heart. The Center for Education Policy released a report on NCLB, concluding that it was overall having a positive effect on achievement. ...


The Bridging Differences blog resumes today! Diane Ravitch's first post-break entry will be published shortly....


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