About the Blog

I will post a new entry every few weeks. Some will be new writing and some will be past work that has relevance today. The writing will deal in some way with the themes that have been part of my teaching and writing life for decades:

•teaching and learning;
•educational opportunity;
•the importance of public education in a democracy;
•definitions of intelligence and the many manifestations of intelligence in school, work, and everyday life; and
•the creation of a robust and humane philosophy of education.

If I had to sum up the philosophical thread that runs through my work, it would be this: A deep belief in the ability of the common person, a commitment to educational, occupational, and cultural opportunity to develop that ability, and an affirmation of public institutions and the public sphere as vehicles for nurturing and expressing that ability.

My hope is that this blog will foster an online community that brings people together to continue the discussion.

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Celebrating Public Education in the Age of Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump


            My dear friend of many years, Deborah Meier, is coming to Los Angeles with the co-author of her new book, veteran teacher and co-founder of Artful Education, Emily Gasoi. Readers of this blog who are in education are familiar with Meier, but for those not in education, Meier is a pioneer in the development of small, innovative, and intellectually rich public schools, work for which she received a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Award” in 1987. Deborah and Emily will be talking about their new book These Schools Belong to You an Me (a riff on Woody Guthrie) at the UCLA Community School, a wonderful K-12 partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District located in Central Los Angeles. The school’s students are predominantly from Mexican, Central American, or Korean immigrant families. The event is on Feb. 20, 4-7 p.m. (Click here if you would like to attend.)
            As is the case with all of Deborah Meier’s books (see, for example, The Power of Their Ideas and In Schools We Trust), this new one with Emily Gasoi contains analysis and advice useful to teachers and administrators. There is, for example, a substantial treatment of accountability—both a critique of accountability based primarily on standardized tests as well as a discussion with examples of more authentic and multi-dimensional approaches to accountability. The book also contains on-the-ground accounts of working in schools that try to operate democratically, thus providing the reader with practical suggestions and hard-won wisdom about such work.
            But what I most value about These Schools Belong to You and Me—and I think is its greatest strength—is its articulate and passionate affirmation of public schools as foundational democratic institutions. One of the book’s chapters is titled “Falling for Public Education,” and in some ways the book is a loving celebration of the public school written by two people who together have spent over 70 years working in them. Meier and Gasoi know in their bones what the public school can mean to children who attend them, the teachers and administrators who work in them, and the communities that hold them. Their writing is certainly informed by scholarship—and they offer a valuable reading list at the end of the book—but the writing also emerges from deep experience.
            We need to check in on our defining institutions, evaluate them, size them up and, at time, raise them up—remind ourselves what they do for us, the kind of life they make possible. We surely need such evaluation now. Meier and Gasoi write at a time when some schools, public and private, urban and rural, predominantly low-income are not providing good educations for their students; when the dominant remedies for these schools (and for public schools in general) create awful problems of their own; and when the election of 2016 brought with it an existential threat to public education and other democratic institutions. Meier and Gasoi write from this time, naming the multiple threats to public schools, but also trying to articulate a way forward, a vision of the possible.


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