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What's Next on 'Beyond the Rhetoric'?

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K-12 Schools: Beyond the Rhetoric began as an experiment—to see if two people on opposing sides of key issues could put their talking points aside and engage in substantive dialogue. With this aim in mind, Michelle Rhee and I agreed to blog together for ten weeks.

Michelle and I never believed we would change each other's minds. We simply disagree about too much. But we did hope to stake out some common ground in our conversations. And perhaps more significantly, we hoped to establish a model for dialogue about contentious issues.  

Disagreement is natural in education. In fact, it can be extremely productive—ideas are almost always stronger after undergoing rigorous questioning. But disagreement can go a bridge too far. As Michelle and I wrote in our first blog entry, the more we shout at each other from our separate corners, the further apart we grow. Disagreement can stop functioning as a fruitful tension and begin to undermine decision-making—leading parties to double-down on their preferred strategies and to ignore challenges and contradictory evidence. Winning begins to matter more than being right.

Our ten weeks is now up. And though the experiment wasn't perfect (at times it felt like the title of the blog should be changed), it was a good faith effort. In my estimation, it has been encouraging enough to warrant further exploration.

So K-12 Schools: Beyond the Rhetoric will take a brief break. But then it will return. I've agreed to stay on, hosting conversations with people I disagree with. And the hope continues to be that our discussions will move us past slick slogans and fighting words—to dig more deeply into issues, and perhaps even to find points of agreement.

As the blog gears up for a re-boot, consider who you'd like to see join me in dialogue. And if a brilliant idea strikes you, send me an email.

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