Today for the most part I am going to get out of the way and leave room in your minds for Marc Waxman’s powerful blog post about ceasing to believe in the nation’s dominant school reform narrative. It’s meaty stuff and should give pause to those of us who promote all or part of that narrative.
I know Marc agonized over the post. He outlined it for me over coffee several weeks ago, submitted a draft, pulled it apart and reworked it. I posted it late Tuesday afternoon, and by 10 p.m. it had been viewed by over 500 people. That’s a lot of evening action for a niche blog like ours.
One reason the post garnered so much attention so fast was that Elizabeth Green, proprietress of the excellent, Manhattan-based Gotham Schools website linked to it Monday evening. Within a couple of hours, the comments came flying in. Diane Ravitch even asked Elizabeth for Marc’s e-mail address.
One observation about the reactions to Marc’s post. He concluded his post with the following:
“My question for today is not what reforms we should or should not believe. It is simply this – what’s your vision of a good education? It’s time to have this conversation, however messy it may be.”
Instead of attempting to answer that difficult question commenters chose to go after their favorite targets – corporate takeover of schools, testing, yada, yada, yada. This prompted Marc to e-mail me:
“Interesting that pretty much no one answered the question – “what is your vision of a good education.” I was thinking about replying to each one of them really pushing that question. We can continue to point fingers, etc., but we really need to talk about what’s important to us and why….”
OK, I’ll bite. A good education ensures that children possess the skills they need to become reflective, critical thinkers who question assumptions and refuse to accept easy answers. Well-educated children can demonstrate that they have acquired the basic skills that are a necessary precondition for higher-order thinking.
By the way, in case you hadn’t noticed, Marc’s post is part of a steady evolution in the EdNews blog. In its early days three years ago, the blog was a snarkier affair. The writers used pseudonyms and many, though not all, wrote from a similar perspective.
I’ve worked at recruiting a crew of bloggers with more varied views on education issues. Today, you’ll find writers ranging from Ben DeGrow of the Independence Institute to Kevin Welner, a University of Colorado professor who, to put it mildly, sees the world differently from Ben. Some of you will try, but you’ll be hard pressed to pigeonhole this blog accurately.
As I’ve written recently, feelings are running high these days on many issues, education among them. Some people can’t help but descend into ad hominem attacks.
A brief example: I was called an unethical pissant on Mike Klonsky’s blog last week, because I had the temerity in this space to voice support for value-added modeling while acknowledging its imperfections. I’m sure the upcoming seminar, MEDIA BIAS: How Corporate Media Shapes the School Reform Debate (and what Progressives can do about it will take the EdNews name in vain as well. How did a “boutique Hyde Park liberal” from Obama’s (and Bill Ayers’) neighborhood get into a pissanting match with progressives? What has the world come to? What have I?
But I digress. My wish for this blog is that it remains a safe harbor for vigorous debate and disagreement without ever descending into invective.
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