Monthly Archives: September 2010

Education Nation & Finland

I’m playing catch up with all the programming NBC is producing this week as part of its Education Nation series, but I want to highly recommend one of those videos, an interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell and Finland’s Minister of Education, Pasi Sahlberg.

See for yourself on the video below, but here are a few highlights worth underscoring:

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Questions for the Next Schools Chancellor

Today, presumptive-next-mayor Vincent Gray will meet with presumptive-ex- chancellor Michelle Rhee to discuss the future of DC public schools.

In a way, this is a lose-lose meeting for both. As Rhee has made clear in her typically tin-eared style, she is skeptical Gray shares her commitment to a particular set of reforms. Meanwhile, Gray’s ultimate decision about Rhee is guaranteed to disappoint a significant percentage of his electorate – either those who voted for him to register their disapproval of Fenty’s and Rhee’s style of leadership, or those who voted against him to see her reign continue.

This puts Mr. Gray in a bit of a pickle, but he might as well use the opportunity to think about the essential questions he would want to ask any potential candidate to be the next Schools Chancellor. Here are five he might want to consider:

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Why Adrian Fenty Lost The City – and How Vincent Gray Can Win It Back

Now that the dust is beginning to settle from the DC mayoral race, it’s worth examining what outgoing mayor Adrian Fenty failed to understand about leadership and systems change, and what Vincent Gray will need to understand – and do – if he wants a different result.

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Election Day

It’s Election Day here in DC, and in my neighborhood of Columbia Heights, a diverse mix of citizens – old and young, wealthy and struggling, black and white and brown – have been casting their votes all morning in the basement of an old Baptist church. Inside, cheerful volunteers explain the ins and outs of the paper and electronic ballots. Outside, supporters of the prospective candidates line nearby streets to hand out leaflets and answer questions. As they do, two major construction projects – one a new restaurant in an abandoned storefront, the other a new apartment complex in an abandoned building across the street – fill the air with the sounds of power saws, hammers, and the voices of workmen.

Election Days are supposed to be about possibility, hopefulness, and the promise that comes from a system of accountability, transparency, and the will of the people. And yet in my neighborhood, amid the din of new development and community renewal, the primary feeling, paradoxically, is of disappointment and discontent. In DC this year, the election is less a contest between two candidates, and more a referendum on the leadership of mayor Adrian Fenty. And if the polls are at all accurate, it is also the beginning of the end for him and his high-profile schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee.

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The (DC) Odyssey

A decade ago this month, I taught The Odyssey to a 9th grade classroom for the last time. Today, I’m reminded of Homer’s central lessons – now nearly 3,000 years old – as I watch Adrian Fenty’s tenure as DC mayor speed towards a potentially spectacular, and tragic, end.

I mean ‘tragic’ the ways the Greeks did – as a form of art based on human suffering in which some people find pleasure, but all people find wisdom and insight. And although the election is still a week away, no doubt political scientists are already scrambling to understand why a young leader who, just four years ago, began a presumptively-lengthy reign of the nation’s capitol by winning every single precinct, may now soon be out of work.

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