Category Archives: Democracy

Donald Trump, Westworld, & the Future of American Democracy

Is the 2016 presidential election the beginning, or the end, of American civic life?

I say it’s both.

Pessimistically, one can say we are witnessing the end of civility, honesty, and empathy, and the beginning of the end of our two-centuries-long experiment in a quasi-functional representative democracy. Yet I believe what this election must provide, no matter who wins on Tuesday, is a wakeup call from our collective somnambulism, and a call to confront the Brave New World we have already begun to enter – a world in which we can disappear into virtual realities of our own imagining, and therefore one in which our ability to be more conscious (of ourselves, our surroundings, and the invisible systems that hold us prisoner) must become the lingua franca of a renewed civic order.

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Categories: Democracy, Leadership, News of the Weird, Organizational Change

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What is education for?

Always a good question to ask (and ask again), and I like the way environmental educator David Orr answers it for the 1990 graduating class of Arkansas College. See for yourself, and then ask yourself, how might we reimagine our own modern educational systems to engender this sort of awareness in every subsequent generation of young people?

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Categories: Democracy, Learning

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The Beautiful Struggle

I’ve yet to meet a grown-up who, at some point, hasn’t felt a bit like a hamster in the wheel – spinning mindlessly towards some opaque goal, and for some abstract, poorly understood reason.

Life can feel that way sometimes.

So you can imagine my surprise when, while visiting a small public high school in the Excelsior neighborhood of San Francisco, I encountered a group of boys working on an indeterminate project out of plywood and a handsaw.

“What are you guys doing?” I asked.

“We’re building a human-sized hamster wheel,” they replied.

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Categories: Assessment, Democracy, Equity, Leadership, Learning, Teacher Quality, Voice

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This is the end of education (& the future of learning)

Or, more specifically, this is a video about a conversation of those issues. It features yours truly, but also Jaime Casap, the head of education at Google, and a number of other great educators in both K-12 and higher ed. Check it out, and see what it ignites in your own thinking . . .

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Categories: Democracy, Design & Space, Leadership, Learning, Organizational Change

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Why We Need To Kill Our Darlings

Every writer knows what it means to “kill your darlings.”

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Categories: Democracy, Leadership

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The Difference Between Hannah Graham and Relisha Rudd

On March 1, eight-year-old D.C. resident Relisha Rudd disappeared. She was, according to news reports, homeless, hungry, and in the care of a man who likely killed her. The search for her body didn’t even begin until almost three weeks after she was last seen, and, after just one week and a dwindling number of tips, police effectively stopped looking.

On September 13, eighteen-year-old University of Virginia sophomore Hannah Graham disappeared. She was, according to Charlottesville police chief Timothy Longo, a “bright, intelligent, athletic, friendly, beautiful college student who’s been part of our community for the past two years.” Hours after she went missing, state emergency management officials launched a massive search effort that was fueled by more than 4,000 tips. A little more than a month later, her body was recovered.

What can possibly account for the dramatic differences in these two stories?

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Categories: Democracy

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In memory of Ted Sizer

Several years ago, as the director of the Forum for Education & Democracy, I was lucky enough to meet Ted Sizer. A lion in the field, Ted was warm, welcoming, and eager in both theory and practice to create space for a new person like me to join him in his life’s work.

Ted died five years ago today — too young, at 77. In 2011, I edited Faces of Learning: 50 Powerful Stories of Defining Moments in Education, to try and honor his work and the impact it had on my thinking. It was a book that stitched together 50 people’s stories of their most powerful learning experiences, and the final one to share was Ted’s.

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Categories: Democracy, Learning

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Has Oprah come to embody what’s wrong with modern American culture?

I’ve decided that if I were to pick one person who embodies the ersatz character of contemporary American cultural life, that person would be Oprah Winfrey.

Let me explain.

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Categories: Democracy, Leadership

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A School is Not a Pet. And Yet . . .

This weekend’s story in the New York Times about former NFL star Deion Sanders’ struggling charter school lays bare much of what’s wrong with the way Americans think about public education in general, and charter schools in particular.

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New Orleans is an all-charter city. Is that a good thing?

This week, the last five traditional neighborhood schools in New Orleans’ Recovery School district were closed – making it the country’s first district made up entirely of charter schools.

That’s a good thing, right?

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Categories: Democracy, Leadership, Learning

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