Friday, March 30, 2007

Crashing No Teacher Left Behind

I crashed Deborah Meier's opening keynote honoring Ted Sizer at Brown's No Teacher Left Behind conference last weekend. It was good to see some old friends and show off Vivian. I got a little misty when Bil and Kurt both talked about how they live in Providence because of Ted Sizer, and I thought "I do too!" Jennifer attended the rest of the conference, which she seemed to enjoy, while I took care of Vivian.

I didn't get a chance to buttonhole Deborah and tell her I've been enjoying her new blog. I particularly liked yesterday's post, "Fighting to keep public schools public":

The reason I care so much about science education is that science is not only a tool for improving our technological capacities, but it's a way of thinking that is essential for all modern day citizens of the world. It's not dogma, even good dogma, although as too often taught today it is hard to distinguish it from dogma or a magic show.

What you and I like about it, I'm sure, is that it rests on is an approach to seeking the truth about a great many questions (but not all) that helps us live together despite very great differences on matters of great importance. And that "approach"—the habits of mind underlying its approach—holds value for all our academic disciplines, as well as those we live by daily. We tried to systematize them at the schools I was associated with in East Harlem and Boston. Those 'habits" are what we need to be arguing about, because "habits" take years to develop, and are hard to slough off. From my standpoint that's what we set aside those K-12 years for, because the ones I had in mind are the habits of democracy and won't just appear because we send kids to school. They are my "ends," by which I set my "means." Such "ends" do not have to be the same for us all, but they sure need to be publicly acceptable.

Ah, yes, that's the stuff. I'll take that over a torrent of Friedman-isms, exhortations about the "ethical use of information," warmed-over futurism, and weird conservative relativism any day.

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