I've always figured Mike Smith was a bad guy based on the unsavory company he keeps -- venture philanthropists, the Obama administration -- but his post on Larry Cuban's blog is right on point:
The central idea here is that Massachusetts represents a proof point that suggests that other states do not need a radical makeover to become internationally competitive. They need to build a learning capacity, hold the course, and steadily improve. This is not easy. It is not sexy. It is not a magic bullet, so it will not attract those who want to simply write legislation or those who come as a superintendent or Secretary of Education for two years and then leave while claiming serious change. It is hard, serious, important work.
Rhode Island is a New England state with the educational performance of the deep South. We need to keep asking why our policy is running in the direction of Oklahoma and Alabama instead of Massachusetts.
And yes, this is a defensive message (compared to, say, trying to generate a compelling vision of the ultimate 21st century progressive networked unschool). It is ok to be on the defensive when the enemy's tanks are within sight of your capital.
Differences between Massachusetts and Alabama are easy to explain on historical grounds - between Massachusetts and Rhode Island - not.
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