Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Response for Vicki

My first comment on Vicki's post on my talk at EduCon got bloggered, or something, so I'll try again:

Like any short (or long!) description of principles, the CES principles are open to interpretation and vulnerable to willful mis-interpretation. Local discussion and interpretation is key to the implementation of these principles, and there are plenty of related texts to give greater context to the authors' original intent. There is a clear point of view here, but room is intentionally left for local variation.

Regarding principle #1, "using one's mind well" is closely associated with the idea of "habits of mind," which a little googling leads me to believe that Sizer lifted from Mortimer Adler. Of course, exactly what habits of mind you value is also up for discussion, but personally I don't think you can do better than Ted Sizer and Deborah Meier's take. Overall, I'm strongly in favor of framing a school's mission as fundamentally intellectual, focused on the student in the present.

I think Gary's objection to the "student-as-worker" metaphor in #5 is somewhat different than Vicki's. It leaves open a Dickensian interpretation for Gary, who would probably prefer more of an emphasis on student agency and "play" in contrast to "work." Vicki's objection seems a bit more based on class-anxiety. She's trying to bring up managers, not mill hunkies. Either way, I can't think of a better term. "Student-as-player?" No. "Student-as-doer?" Eh. "Student-as-active-learner?" Too vague. I think if you look at the broader textual context it is pretty clear that "student-as-worker" does not mean "students-mutely-bent-over-their-worksheet-looms."

Regarding #10, the simplest answer is that Coalition schools have a broad range of interpretations of what "democratic practices" are, most of which Vicki would find amenable.

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