Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bridging Differences: A Dialogue Between Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch Education Week
Perhaps nothing but the debate on the war is as devisive as the debates over education; and that's too bad, because only the kids really loose in such contention. Last fall I was at a meeting of committed, creative, industrious leaders who labor tirelessly to each bring some creative new solution to the education mix. In the back scowled non-stop a union rep, a reporter, and a anti-reform college prof, all of whom could see nothing but evil in the designs of the participants.

This article wonderfully bridges some of the gaps between the opposing camps. Some out-takes:

Unlike Deborah, Diane has long supported an explicit, prescribed curriculum, one that would consume about half the school day, on which national examinations would be based. Diane believes in the value of a common, knowledge-based curriculum, such as the Core Knowledge curriculum, that ensures that all children study history, literature, mathematics, science, art, music, and foreign language; such a curriculum, she thinks, would support rather than undermine teachers’ work. Deborah, while strongly agreeing on the need for a broad liberal arts curriculum, doubts that anyone can ensure what children will really understand and usefully make sense of, even through the best imposed curriculum, especially if it is designed by people who are far from the actual school communities and classrooms.

Yet both of us are appalled by the relentless “test prep” activities

Deborah is a pioneer of the small-schools movement. Diane, while not an opponent of that movement, has questioned whether such schools have the capacity to offer a reasonable curriculum, including advanced classes.

We found that we were both dismayed by efforts in New York City to micromanage what teachers in most K-8 schools do at every moment in the day.

The establishment of a national curriculum and national testing has its dangers, Diane concedes, but the consequences of preserving the status quo may be even more dangerous for the nation’s future. On this point—opposition to preserving the status quo—both Diane and Deborah agree.
Reading this, you might get confused as to which is the conservative! Well, ff we didn't agree with both of them, we wouldn't be sacrificing our career to work at an alternative.

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